Animated television specials are among the most cherished holiday traditions of yuletide revelers young and old. Mention "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965), "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964) or "Frosty the Snowman" (1969) and people light up like Charlie Brown's tree (after the kids gave it a little love), Rudolph's nose, or the hot sun that melted poor Frosty.
You can thank "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" -- the first animated Christmas special -- for that holiday gooeyness. It premiered 50 years ago this month.
"Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" originally aired on December 18, 1962, on NBC at 7:30 p.m. For the first time since 1967, the special will air on a major network -- once again on NBC -- Saturday, December 22 at 8 p.m. ET.
While the major networks have aired the aforementioned holiday staples, including "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" (1966) every year since their airdates, "Magoo" hasn't aired outside of syndication for 44 years. Now that "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" has hit he half-century mark, this often overlooked, underappreciated, somewhat obscure Christmas special is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.
CNN spoke to animator Darrell Van Citters, author of "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special," about how "Magoo" paved the way for Christmas specials yet to come.
"Because this was such a huge success," said Van Citters, "it inspired other people to follow in its footsteps, especially 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,' which was the next one."
Van Citters couldn't pinpoint why "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" fell by the wayside, but he did note that the character began to dwindle in the years following the Christmas special.
"'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' had a book attached to it," said Van Citters, "'Charlie Brown' had all of those books, all of those specials. These were constantly in the forefront of peoples' minds during the holidays. And 'Rudolph,' well, who doesn't know that song? Between all of these other specials getting all of this promotion, and Mr. Magoo kind of fading, it really got lost for a long time."
As far as adaptations of Charles Dickens' 1843 tale "A Christmas Carol" go, many have tried, many have failed, and -- arguably -- a handful have succeeded. Most people would count "Magoo" among the successful renditions.
"I think this is one of the stronger versions because it's quite loyal to the original," said Van Citters. "They are reciting lines from the book, and on an emotional level I think it's one of the strongest -- even over live-action -- because the songs really emphasize the emotional aspect of it. They know exactly where to go to tell their story."