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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Good Cartoons for a Joyful Christmas

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Good Cartoons for a Joyful Christmas

After my article about movies, I have already been warned: it is impossible to encompass in such a piece all those remarkable creations that deserve to be highlighted. That doesn’t stop me from asking you to do so in your comments (hoping that in the future I will also write about all the omitted creations). Inevitably, subjectivity plays an important role in determining the titles worth noting. However, to limit it, I will write about animated cartoons using a concrete criterion, resulting from the answer to the following question: which are those cartoons that both we – the parents – and our seven children have constantly revisited over the years?

In fact, the same criterion, unspoken, was used by me in composing the first article – the one about movies. I believe that, just as in the case of books that we re-read, re-watching indicates special qualities of certain cartoons. However, at the same time, I acknowledge that the “coloration” of such preferences is inevitably subjective.

That being said, let’s get to the facts. Here are seven animated cartoons that both I and my wife, along with our seven children, have watched over the years again and again. I’ll just specify one thing: the fact that I consider them suitable to be watched during the Christmas season does not mean that they have this holy celebration as their theme. Simply put, they can offer a relaxing and suitable entertainment for the quiet time spent with family during the holiday, in moments when we are not at church or at festive meals.

Redwall (TV series / 1999-2002)

At the top of our preferences has always been the adaptation – in 39 episodes – of the comic book series of the same name, Redwall, created by the British author James Brian Jacques (1939 – 2011). Set in the context of the glorious Middle Ages, his characters illustrate both the classic virtues of the Christian knights from the treatise of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153) In Praise of the New Knighthood (De laude novae militiae) and those of members of monastic orders.


The main character is an orphan mouse, Matthias, adopted by Redwall Abbey. Wishing to become like Martin the Warrior, the heroic founder of the Abbey, the young mouse has the opportunity to exercise his skills fighting the one-eyed rat, Cluny the Scourge, and his companions. The episodes unfold many adventures and battles between the forces of good and evil.

The music, the beautiful mice and their attire, the medieval designs – all these elements contribute to making this cartoon outstanding for both the young and the old.

The Hobbit (1977)

I acknowledge that both we and our children have always had serious reservations about film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. I will set aside for now the reasons for such a critical reservation. However, there is an exception: the animated adaptation of The Hobbit by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. The first thing that placed it among our favorites is its clever and tight script. In essence, throughout the 90 minutes, you will revisit all the main episodes you already know from Professor Tolkien’s story, published in 1937. Additionally, it uses lyrics adapted from the original novel.hobbit

The cartoon stands out through its vivid soundtrack, wonderful voice acting, and excellent character and creature design. That is why I consider it an excellent introduction for children to Tolkien’s universe and legendarium. The entire family will enjoy its beautiful animation and its adventure plot full of surprise, fun, and excellent musical accompaniment.

Jack and the Beanstalk (1974)

As I’m sure you already know, the famous English story has numerous adaptations. Just like with Charles Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol, I expect preferences to be divided among various adaptations. As for me, ever since 45 years ago when I first saw this animation by Japanese director Gisaburô Sugii, I have been impressed by the extraordinary atmosphere it manages to create, at least in certain moments. The remarkable music has a special contribution to this.beanstalk

The film is sprinkled with songs performed by the protagonists, well woven into the plot. Crosby the dog is a hero, and his song where he praises heroism, courage, and doing what’s right is one of the memorable moments of the film. Jack is lazy and selfish, but the journey on the beanstalk will change him, and in the end, he will learn the difference between right and wrong. The film is a little-known masterpiece of the anime genre – a charming plea for courage, altruism, and, last but not least, for believing in miracles.

The Secret of Kells (2009)

This cartoon is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I repeat: a-m-a-z-i-n-g! You will watch and not know: is it for children or for adults? One thing is certain, it will appeal to everyone, both the little ones (though they might be scared by the invasion of the bloody northern invaders) and the grown-ups.

This wonderful animated film (realized by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey) tells the story of the preservation and transmission of the Sacred Books of the Christian Tradition – Holy Bible. Inspired by the Latin illuminated manuscript of the Gospel known as the Book of Kells (or Book of Columba), it is one of the best-animated history lessons ever created. The context is that of 9th-century Ireland after Christ when the expansion of the Vikings threatened the region. Despite the vicissitudes of history, a young boy named Brendan, who lived in the Abbey of Kells under the authority of his uncle, Abbot Cellach, learned how to illuminate the words of the Holy Bible with light.kells

Summarized without being fully revealed, that is how the story from The Secret of Kells sounds. But the depths of this long animated movie are incredible. Major themes like fidelity, sacred call (or sacred, religious vocation), love, as well as the meeting between the “seeds of wisdom” from the ancient world and Christianity, are presented in this masterpiece. At the same time, the historical context is so vividly presented that the spectator can only be lastingly impressed. In short, this cartoon is both a beautiful artistic creation and an excellent opportunity to recapitulate the history of our Christian civilization.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

This is one of the best adventures ever seen on a screen, with Steven Spielberg at his best. The word “action,” taken in its purest sense, defines its content, and this can be highly appreciated, especially by teenagers. That is how this cartoon can be shortly described.tintin2

In our family, all those books, movies, and cartoons with treasures are highly appreciated. Our God and King, Jesus Christ, knows the interest of people of all times for treasures: He used the image of the discovery of a treasure as a metaphor to describe the search for the Kingdom of God.

Georges Prosper Remi (aka Hergé), the Belgian creator of the character named TinTin, also understood the value of a treasure. That is why nowadays his comics are a real treasure for us. Inspired by them, this 3D animation fully proves that digital characters can vividly depict a great story. You will feel it.

Father and Daughter (2000)

Michaël Dudok de Wit knows how to convey the deepest thoughts in the simplest way. The ingredients used by his undeniable genius are images and sounds. This short film can be considered – without any exaggeration – a veritable animated jewel (which, by the way, received in 2001 an Oscar prize for the best short animated film). What we firmly assert is that in the works of Michaël Dudok de Wit, the art of creating cartoons has reached the highest peaks.father daughter

An important point is the language used to express his message: that of images. Without any dialogue, Father and Daughter seems to be a cartoon that speaks through images about life, aging, and, above all, the inevitable passage of time. But, like any authentic work of art, it is open to multiple interpretations. One of them can be the theological one.

Father and Daughter can be understood as a depiction of the history of the search for God – represented by the father – by the human soul – represented by the daughter. For, as Saint Teresa of Ávila would teach us, God hides only to make us seek Him even more intensely. This is precisely what the daughter from Michaël Dudok de Wit’s animated movie does: as the years go by, she seeks her father more and more insistently until, in the twilight of her life, she finds Him. Watch and enjoy!

Once Upon a Time there Lived a Dog (1982)

When a dog gets too old to bark at the burglars, he becomes useless for his masters. Such is the dog from this cartoon. Consequently, he is banished from his home and runs into the forest where he meets an old wolf. Even if they were enemies, they agree to set up the kidnapping of the little child of his former family so that the dog may save him and be received back on the farm. The plan works well, and the wolf returns alone to the forest. But when the weather gets colder, and the snow covers the lands, and the wolf gets hungry, the dog helps him in return. How? I’ll let you discover what happened with a wolf in the house. I assure you that you will laugh

The humor, the wonderful Eastern folk songs, and the excellent quality of the animations transform this short cartoon (realized by the Russian creator Eduard Nazarov) into a masterpiece. In 1983, Once Upon a Time, There Lived a Dog won both the first place at the International Film Festival in Odense and a special prize at the French festival in Annecy.

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Last modified on Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Robert Lazu Kmita | Remnant Columnist, Romania

A Catholic father of seven and a grandfather of two, Robert Lazu Kmita is a writer with a PhD in Philosophy. His first novel, The Island without Seasons, was published by Os Justi Press in 2023.