Most Popular Animated Movies of the 1960s
Whether made for TV or the big screen, the animated movies of the 1960s are some of the most cherished animated productions in American cinema history. And because many of these films had a Christmas theme, millions of parents and children around the world today still watch these animated classics with their children during the holidays. In fact, the classic stop motion animated movie Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) airs on TV every year at Christmas, with more than 11 million people tuning in to watch in 2013 alone. This timeless classic aired again in 2020, marking its 51st year on television, and it is now a hit live-action musical running at The Chicago Theater.
Another classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) marked its 50th year on television that same year. And in 2000, the unforgettable animated TV movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) was released as a live-action film produced by Ron Howard and starring Jim Carrey. The film went on to win an Oscar for Best Makeup.
While 1960-1970 certainly was the decade for animated Christmas movies, it also gave birth to mega-classics such as 101 Dalmatians (1961) and The Jungle Book (1967)—both ranked among Disney’s most popular films ever, and both made into live-action films.
Let’s continue exploring the most popular films of the 1960s, along with more interesting bits of information about each.
101 Dalmatians (1961), Disney
Based on the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, 101 Dalmatians was made into a live action adventure comedy starring Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 1996. Just four years later, Glenn Close returned as Cruella in 102 Dalmatians (2000).
The Sword and the Stone (1963), Disney
This American animated musical fantasy film is loosely based on the T.H. White novel of the same name, which later became part of the author’s multi-book Arthurian fantasy The Once and Future King. As of 2020, a live-action remake was in the works. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bryan Cogman, writer-producer on the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, will be handling the script for the project.
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964 TV Movie), Rankin/Bass Productions
Although Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer is as American as apple pie, the animations were filmed in Japan and the entire soundtrack was recorded in a studio near Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario. This means, most of the singing and speaking cast were Canadian.
Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear (1964), Hanna-Barbera Productions
This animated musical comedy is based on Hanna-Barbera’s syndicated animated television show The Yogi Bear Show. It was the first theatrical feature produced by Hanna-Barbera, and the first feature-length theatrical animated film based on a television program.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (TV Movie 1965), Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez
CBS executives didn’t like the final product of this groundbreaking animated TV special, believing that it would be a complete flop. CBS programmers agreed. To the surprise of both camps, half the televisions in the U.S. tuned in to the first broadcast. A Charlie Brown Christmas went on to win an Emmy and a Peabody Award.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 TV Movie), Chuck Jones, Ben Washam
Fans of How the Grinch Stole Christmas can expect to see a new film in 2020. According to Mental Floss, Illumination Entertainment—the company that created Minions, Lorax and Horton Hears a Who—is putting together what Deadline described as a “newly imagined” 3D computer-animated take on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. “While few details have been revealed, the film will be helmed by animation veteran Pete Candeland and is scheduled to hit theaters on November 17, 2020.”-MentalFloss
The Jungle Book (1967), Disney
Still the world’s best-known movie version of Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories about a boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle, The Jungle Book was the last animated film to have its production personally supervised by Walt Disney, who succumbed to lung cancer in 1966. The Jungle Book was released the following year. -ScreenCrush
The Little Drummer Boy (1968 TV Short), Rankin/Bass Productions
For a short film, this stop motion animated Christmas special has a long broadcast history. Running for just 25 minutes and released on December 19, 1968, The Little Drummer Boy aired on NBC from 1968 to 1984, on CBS from 1985 to 1988, and on ABC from 1989 to 2006. The short still runs on ABC Family and Canadian channel Treehouse TV (since 2005).
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968 Short Film), Disney
This classic animated featurette won an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoons (1969). The film’s director, Wolfgang Reitherman, accepted the award on Walt Disney’s behalf.
Frosty the Snowman (1969 TV Movie), Rankin/Bass Productions
Frosty the Snowman was the first Rankin/Bass Christmas special to use traditional animation versus the stop motion method used in the duo’s other projects. Paul Coker, Jr., a long-time MAD Magazine illustrator, provided both the main character and background drawings. The animation was done by Mushi Studio, the Japanese company founded by Osamu Tezuka to produce Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion cartoons. -MentalFloss
Fun Fact: Did you know that Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and The Little Drummer Boy were popular Christmas songs before they became animated films? Frosty The Snowman was written by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson, and first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950. –The West Virginia Encyclopedia
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer was written by U.S. songwriter Johnny Marks based on the 1939 story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by the Montgomery Ward Company. The song was sung commercially by artist Harry Brannon on New York City radio in early November 1949, before Gene Autry’s recording hit No. 1 in the U.S. charts the week of Christmas 1949. -Wikipedia
According to Last.fm, The Little Drummer Boy (originally known as “Carol of the Drum”) was written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine K. Davis in 1941. “It was recorded in 1955 by The Trapp Family Singers and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale.” -Last.fm
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