With Thanksgiving over and the Christmas season now in full swing, I thought it only appropriate to dedicate a few blog posts to my favorite holiday films. And although my initial offering isn’t technically a holiday movie, it should be given that it takes place in a land where it is “always Winter, but never Christmas.”
If you were a child of the 70’s (such as myself), then you probably have a vague recollection of an animated version of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” that aired on CBS in the Spring of 1979 (a full version can be found here … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfm_qtMOz7E). Voiced by relative unknowns, the cartoon special was my introduction to C.S. Lewis’ classic tale of the Pevensie siblings and their journey through a magical wardrobe into the mystical land of Narnia. Now, nothing at all against the fabulous CGI-enhanced live-action version, but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for the animated version if only because it allows me to journey back to a time in my life that I recall with great fondness – when television programming was still original and children’s specials were exactly that – special – and much more of an event because VCRs and cable television were still only a novelty (meaning if you didn’t catch it on the night it aired, you were flat out of luck). Fortunately, I had a mother who was pretty diligent about making sure I never missed out, which is why my childhood memories are littered with animated characters ranging from Bilbo Baggins to Rikki Tikki Tavi to Frosty, Rudolph, a family of clock-making mice and the entire Peanuts gang, to name but a few.
And, speaking of Snoopy, the feisty little beagle with the wildly overactive imagination had a pretty strong – albeit little known- connection to Narnia. Bill Melendez, who not only provided the voice of Snoopy and Woodstock, but also animated, directed and/or produced all the classic Peanuts television specials and theatrical films, directed the 1979 version of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, which went on to win the very first Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
Of course, to some, the animation may seem very silly and simplistic, especially by today’s standards, and the story may be too mawkish, but for me, Mr. Melendez’ version will always be like a warm puppy — happiness, which just so happens to be my wish for each and every one of you throughout the holiday season and beyond.