'Twas the Night Before Christmas is a 1974 animated Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and based on the famous 1823 poem that opens with this line. The special first originally aired on CBS on December 8, 1974 where it aired annually until 1994, when The Family Channel (now Freeform) took over its syndication rights.
Although the opening credits mention "told and sung by Joel Grey", it is really narrated by George Gobel, as there is more emphasis on the point of view of Father Mouse, with Moore's poem read by Grey as a secondary plot.
The program is set in the fictional town of Junctionville, New York around the turn of the 20th century. Santa Claus is offended by an anonymous letter printed in the town's newspaper (and signed "all of us") claiming that he doesn't exist. In response, Santa returns the entire town's letters to them unopened. Upon reading the anonymous letter printed in the newspaper, Father Mouse — a mouse assistant to the human clockmaker Joshua Trundle — immediately suspects that his brainy son Albert is its author. Albert confirms his suspicions, repeating the letter verbatim to him.
Father Mouse and the Trundle Family devise a plan to appease Santa by building a singing clock tower for him, built with a special recording to play a song to coax him not to bypass Junctionville on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Albert enters the clock to explore it without permission, and inadvertently causes it to malfunction in front of the whole town, seriously damaging Trundle's professional reputation. Furthermore, the Mayor, publicly embarrassed at the clock tower's failure, refuses to give Joshua access to it for repairs.
Confessing his mistake, Albert volunteers to repair it himself and Father Mouse tells Joshua of the situation before waiting at his bed with worry on Christmas Eve. Although Albert does not complete his task until about one minute after the midnight deadline, the clock does play its song within earshot of Santa which convinces him to turn around and come to town after all.
- George Gobel as Father Mouse (primary narrator)
- Joel Grey as Joshua Trundle (secondary narrator)
- Tammy Grimes as Albert
- John McGiver as the Mayor of Junctionville
- Bob McFadden (credited as Robert McFadden)
- Allen Swift
- Patricia Bright (credited as Pat Bright)
- Christine Winter
- Scott Firestone
- The Wee Winter Singers as the Chorus
- Written by Jerome Coopersmith
- Based on the Poem by Clement Clarke Moore (credited as Clement Moore)
- Music: Maury Laws
- Lyrics: Jules Bass
- Produced and Directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass
- Associate Producer: Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin
- Editorial Supervision: Irwin Goldress, Vincent Juliano
- Design: Paul Coker, Jr.
- Sound: Don Hahn, Tom Brennand, John Curcio, Tom Clack
- Animation Production - Topcraft, Japan
- Storyboarding: Takashi Hisaoka
- Animation Direction: Tokiji Kaburaki, Kazuyuki Kobayashi, Hidemi Kubo
- Key Animation: Katsumi Aoshima, Hiroshi Oikawa
- Animation: Toru Hara, Tsuguyuki Kubo
- Layout Artist: Yoshinori Kanemori
- Background Designs: Minoru Nishida
- Background Artist: Kazusuke Yoshihara
- Technical Direction: Kôichi Sasaki, Katsuhisa Yamada
- Musical Director: Maury Laws
There are three musical numbers in the program.
- Give Your Heart a Try - Father Mouse (George Gobel)
- Even a Miracle Needs a Hand - Joshua Trundle (Joel Grey), Albert (Tammy Grimes)
- Christmas Chimes are Calling (Santa, Santa) - Chorus
Like many of Rankin-Bass' other animated TV specials, this special was animated in Japan by the animation studio Topcraft, which was rolled into Studio Ghibli in 1985.
Home media releases
The special was originally first issued on VHS by ABC Video Enterprises and Golden Book Video in 1987. Then as courtesy of Warner Home Video, the special was re-released on VHS in 1990, and on DVD in 2004, paired with the 1976 special Frosty's Winter Wonderland. A Blu-ray was released on October 5, 2011. It is also available on iTunes for purchase.
- Christmas Specials Wiki: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Rankin/Bass)
- 'Twas the Night Before Christmas at TV.com