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These 13 shorts begin with Rudolph and end with Christmas Night with the Little King, but be advised that at least half of them are only marginally-- if at all--about December 25. That said, early cartoon fans will enjoy Popeye as a private dick and Bugs Bunny conducting his eternal battle with Elmer Fudd, as well as such less-remembered characters as Little Audrey and the aforementioned Little King. Superman director Max Fleischer takes the helm of the Rudolph short in which, sans abominable snow monster and misfit friends, he is discovered after Santa crashes several times during his stormy flight and discovers Rudolph abed with shining nose. In "Santa's Surprise," children from around the world turn the tables on the guy with generous girth by following him up to the North Pole and--while he's sleeping off his Christmas Eve exertions--cleaning up his workshop and leaving him a present of his own. But the standout short is "Christmas Comes but Once a Year" (directed by Dave Fleischer), in which an inventor comes across broken-hearted children at an orphanage on Christmas Day and fashions gifts for them out of kitchen items. Never mind that the institution appears to be unstaffed--this short is both imaginative (washboards become sleds; dishes and a percolating coffeepot become a steam engine train set) and heartwarming.
Given the time frame of the 1950s and earlier, parents may want to note that the pre-politically correct penchant for firearms and violence is evident here, as well as some racial stereotyping. --Kimberly Heinrichs
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