Disney’s Christmas Classics (Part 1)

For a long time, it was an annual tradition for Disney to run a month-long comic serial in the papers at Christmas, featuring many of their beloved characters helping Santa. I was afraid that most of these would be lost to time, but recently, Disney released an amazing collection of almost all of them in hardcover form. I have this collection and it’s very good! I’ll include an Amazon link at the end of these posts where I look through the many Disney Christmas stories found in this book.

Peter Pan’s Christmas Story (1960)

Because Captain Hook hates everything fun and jolly, he naturally despises Christmas. One year, however, he comes up with a plan to essentially commit a terrorist act on the North Pole. See, Santa never gets any gifts himself, so using Smee, Hook will send a “present that will end all presents” to Santa Claus.

Like in the Peter Pan movie, it’s a bomb in a delicately-wrapped box. Tinkerbell overhears the evil plot (Peter sent her to spy on Hook) and reports back to her boss/boyfriend/whatever-Pan’s-title-of-the-day-is.

Smee is blasted out of the ship’s cannon toward the North Pole. He realizes too late that he has no way of getting back. Maybe Hook is killing two birds with one stone by getting his incompetent sidekick out of the way?

Oddly enough, the Seven Dwarfs appear to live up at the Pole, complete with a replica cottage! Perhaps it’s a vacation home?

Smee sneaks in and rather cleverly disguises himself as an eighth dwarf. Amusingly, the Dwarfs don’t really notice that there’s another one of them, although Grumpy does remark that it feels more crowded than normal.

After the Dwarfs fall asleep, Smee sneaks the bomb over to Santa as “Bashful,” although I’m going to have to fault Santa a little bit by admitting he can’t tell the dwarfs apart. Santa, man, c’mon. That’s not something you admit out loud, especially to one of the dwarfs!

Smee hightails it out of there as Santa looks his gift over in delight, having never received one before. Peter Pan and Tink get there right in time to stop Santa from opening it. They toss it out the window, landing it right by Smee, blasting him all the way back to Neverland.

So did everyone have a Merry Christmas? Well, Hook got away with no comeuppance, Smee will most likely be severely punished for failing, and Santa still hasn’t received a real gift ever.

But everyone else is happy, I guess! 🙂

Amazon link for the book: https://www.amazon.com/Disneys-Christmas-Classics-Frank-Reilly/dp/1684050065

“Pinocchio’s Christmas Party” (1939)

In February 1940, Disney released their second feature-length film, Pinocchio. Shortly before that, the Snellenburgs Department Store in Philadelphia PA released a promotional comic for their Christmas “Toytown” event featuring the Pinocchio characters. And it is weird.

I don’t normally plan on posting full comics for legal reasons, but seeing how old, obscure, and most likely unofficial this is, I think I can post the full thing. It deserves to be seen.

It needs to be seen.

Despite the image of Pinocchio sitting dismally in a cage, the blurb promises everything is bright and jolly!

Apparently, the story takes place after the movie when Pinocchio has turned into a real boy, although all the figures of Pinocchio featured in the pictures are of him still as a puppet. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any merch of Pinocchio as a real boy. Go figure.

Pinocchio is in a bratty mood and is complaining that he won’t get any presents for Christmas, never mind the fact that Gepetto is a doting father and that he lives in a toy shop.

Gepetto shuts Pinocchio up with a gift that can’t be opened until Christmas, and Pinocchio is then ominously warned by the Blue Fairy that if he does open it beforehand, whatever is inside will vanish and something “very, very dreadful will happen!”

Now, anyone who knows the tiniest bit about folklore knows that you never mess with fairies. They mean business. But Pinocchio apparently does not know this little detail, because…

Pandora-nocchio can only think about what might be in the box. All that matters is the box.

As punishment for going against the Blue Fairy, Pinocchio is branded with a Scarlet A in the form of a long nose. I thought that only happened when he lied as a puppet. Even as a real boy he has to deal with the nose shtick? That’s rough. I figured he’d be exempt from it by this point.

Pinocchio has waited all his life to see a toy shop, despite living in one. Maybe he’s just not content with Gepetto’s handmade stuff. No, he needs whatever Snellenburgs’ Toytown has and he needs it now. Too bad Jiminy Cricket uncharacteristically makes fun of his enormous schnoz. Maybe Pinocchio should take a note from the original version of the story where the cricket gets smashed with a hammer.

Stromboli, like in the book, is portrayed as not only a puppetmaster, but a fire-eater as well. Also, despite imprisoning Pinocchio in a cage, he’s at least going to actually pay him this time. I guess that’s…slightly better?

That night, Pinocchio escapes with five pennies, instead of the four that Stromboli promised him. Maybe it’s a holiday bonus. He runs into Foulfellow and Gideon who scam him out of his coins, much like in the original book where they promise he can grow a money tree and then dig up his earnings instead when he isn’t looking.

Pinocchio then runs into Lampwick (he’s human again!) and the “jolly coachman” who enjoys turning kids into donkeys. They’ve stolen a “fine coach” (what, did the coachman lose his?) and are having a great time. Pinocchio appears to secretly plan to stab them both in the back for the greater good.

They reach the ferry, which is an enormous whale. It’s quite friendly, unlike the ferocious Monstro. It doesn’t stop them from being accidentally swallowed, though. Pinocchio must be having some major deja vu at this point.

Somehow, everyone is reunited in the hiccuping whale’s belly.

And Pinocchio saves everyone by basically doing exactly what he did in the movie the first time!

Everyone gets go to the TOY SHOP now! Even the Coachman, who is on totally good terms with Pinocchio at this point!

Ah, so this is Pinocchio’s Christmas Party that we were promised. I do have to admit, I dig the vintage Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck toys they have there.

So everyone gets a Merry Christmas, even the whale who didn’t try to vengefully kill Pinocchio, unlike Monstro.

So that about wraps up Pinocchio’s Christmas Party. It was strange, in a charmingly off-putting sort of way. Obviously, since the movie hadn’t come out yet, the people writing this had to make a few educated guesses based on the original book and the film’s press material. Overall, it makes for some fun, obscure, and wonderfully weird blog fodder.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in “The Milky Way” (1955)

It was 1955 and Walt Disney’s Disneyland anthology TV series had been on for a year, sponsored by the American Dairy Association.

What better way to celebrate this partnership than by producing a promotional comic about how great milk is?

Disney printed several promotional comics around this time, featuring characters like Snow White and Peter Pan talking about how great various refrigerators and washer/dryers were. Another American Dairy-based comic exists featuring Brer Rabbit.

Today, though, we’re focusing on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For this blog, I want to celebrate not only the great Disney comics out there, but also the rather strange ones that have fallen through the cracks over the years.

We open on Snow White and her husband, Prince Charming (the only time I think he’s ever been given an official name, although fans like to call him Ferdinand), who has been summoned away to a neighboring kingdom. I guess it’s one of those time when “living happily ever after” really means “dealing with politics.” No wonder the story ended with the kiss.

As soon as Charming leaves, Snow White is summoned to the Seven Dwarfs’ house via a message from a little cardinal. She journeys out to the Dwarfs, who inform her that the Wicked Queen is apparently alive and after her. The message from the neighboring king was a fake and she wanted to get Snow White alone.

The problem is, why not just tell Prince Charming before he left? The bird shows up while the Prince is only a few yards away. I suppose it was a “too late” moment, but I personally think the Dwarfs are jealous of Charming’s relationship with Snow White. Many fanfiction writers appear to agree.

The most intriguing part is that they use the Queen’s real name, Grimhilde. She has only been called that in production materials and comics, but never (to my knowledge) on any screen appearance. Also, Thumper from Bambi is in this, which is kind of neat, since I love those old Disney comic crossovers where everyone was just neighbors with each other.

The Dwarfs celebrate Snow White’s return and hope that Grimhilde never finds out where she’s hiding, although if I were the Queen, I’d check the cottage first thing. If Snow White really wanted to throw her off, she should have hidden with Pinocchio or something.

Grumpy refuses to drink his milk, so Snow White talks about how wonderful it is and that it might make him sleep better. Also, adults apparently need three glasses a day? I love me some milk, but even I’m behind on that one. Maybe things have changed since ’55.

Thumper makes a physical appearance, warning them that Grimhilde is now searching the forest for Snow White, to which I called two paragraphs above.

Snow White leaves the Dwarfs house and rides to the fortune teller, Madame Zo (who only appears in this comic), to see if Grimhilde has left any guards at Castle Charming.

Madame Zo is grumpy (the mood, not dwarf) because she can’t seem to lose any weight without feeling weak. Snow White suggests a diet that includes three glasses of milk a day. I don’t know enough about milk to dispute that, so maybe that’s the secret to weight loss? Milk? Sure, let’s go with milk.

Madame Zo is so elated by the prospect of dairy products that she runs off to buy some, entirely forgetting about Snow White’s plight. See what you’ve done milk? See what you’ve done? Are you happy now?

Grimhilde spots Snow White and orders her men to shoot her with arrows. Well, that’s a more direct way than the ol’ poison apple bit, I’ll give her that. She clearly learns from her mistakes.

Snow White rushes back to the Dwarfs’ cottage to find that Grumpy, through the almighty power of milk, has fallen asleep with a smile on his face! Perhaps as long as he drinks his milk, his name shall no longer be “Grumpy,” but rather, “Content.”

This peace is not last, of course, because Grimhile easily tracks Snow White down and is about to attack the cottage, when Charming swoops in and makes quick work of the guards, prompting a retreat.

Charming drinks his milk, you see.

Interestingly, the Prince was going to have a similar scene in the 1937 Snow White movie where he would be imprisoned by the Queen and left to drown in her flooding dungeon and need to fight his way out with the help of Snow White’s animal friends. It was cut because the animators weren’t comfortable with the action sequences involving realistic humans yet. A similar scene finally made it into Sleeping Beauty, nearly 30 years later.

According to Charming, Madame Zo’s raven informed him of what was going on, so Madame Zo didn’t fail Snow White, which means that milk didn’t fail Snow White, either. Sorry, milk. I was too hasty there.

So what have we learned from all this?

Milk, Dopey. Milk.

Welcome!

Disney comics are incredibly fun to read. They’re moderately popular here in the US, but I’ve heard that overseas they’re even more beloved. There are so many adventures featuring Donald and Mickey that will probably never be translated into English, which is a shame.

Regardless, I think it would be fun to look into some old Disney funnies and find the best of the bunch, or at least the most interesting. Other features of the blog will be a look at early drafts of screenplays that differ from the final product.

I get the feeling that most people don’t read these intro posts, so I’ll cut it short. Happy trails!