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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

December 8, 1976

Hello, everybody!  Welcome to Day #8 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!  And, guess what?  It's also time to take a look back through time in a segment we like to call the Tuesday Timeline!

And I'll be really honest with you.  Today's subject was extremely easy to write about!  And unlike a lot of other Tuesday Timeline entries that I have done in the past, I've taken a few screenshots of today's special subject!

(So, right off the bat, you know that it is either a television special or a holiday movie!)

But before we take a look at what I've chosen for today's topic, we should have a look at what else happened in the world on December 8.

1765 - Cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney (d. 1825) is born

1813 - Beethoven's Seventh Symphony premieres

1907 - King Gustav V accedes to the Swedish throne

1914 - A British Royal Navy squadron defeats an inferior squadron of the Imperial German High Seas fleet in the Battle of the Falkland Islands

1922 - Northern Ireland ceases being a part of the Irish Free State

1925 - Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. (d. 1990) is born in Harlem, New York

1933 - Actor Flip Wilson (d. 1998) is born in Jersey City, New Jersey

1936 - Actor David Carradine (d. 2009) is born in Hollywood, California

1941 - One day after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt declares December 7 a date that will live in infamy, following America's declaration of war against Japan

1943 - Jim Morrison (d. 1971) - the lead singer of The Doors - is born in Melbourne, Florida

1950 - Singer Dan Hartman (d. 1994) is born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

1953 - President Eisenhower delivers his "Atoms for Peace" speech

1962 - Workers at four different newspapers in the New York City area go out on strike; the strike lasts almost four months

1980 - John Lennon is shot outside of The Dakota in New York City and dies of his injuries at just 40 years old

1982 - Country singer Marty Robbins dies at the age of 57

1987 - A mass shooting takes place at Melbourne's Australia Post building, leaving eight people dead; the gunman later takes his own life

1991 - The leaders of Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine sign an agreement officially dissolving the Soviet Union and establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States

1997 - Bob Bell - the original actor who portrayed Bozo the Clown - dies at the age of 75

2004 - "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott is shot and killed on stage in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 38

2008 - Actor Robert Prosky passes away at the age of 77

2009 - 127 people are killed and another 448 are injured following a series of bombings in Baghdad, Iraq

And for celebrity birthdays, I hope you've gotten comfortable, because we have a lot of them today!  Celebrating a birthday today are Duke Cunningham, Bobby Elliott, Bertie Higgins, John Rubinstein, Gregg Allman, Ray Shulman, Rick Baker, Kim Basinger, Roy Firestone, Norman Finkelstein, Warren Cuccurullo, Phil Collen, Ann Coulter, Wendell Pierce, Greg Howe, James Blundell, Teri Hatcher, David Harewood, Sinead O'Connor, Steve Van Wormer, Kevin Harvick, Dominic Monaghan, Elsa Benitez, Ian Somerhalder, Ingrid Michaelson, Chrisette Michele, Nicki Minaj, Katie StephensAnnaSophia Robb, and Tylen Jacob Williams.

Okay, I think I've kept all of you in suspense long enough.  It's time to see what year we're going back in time to this week.

Ah...December 8, 1976.  A day that...I was not around for.  And it's a real shame too because I missed out on some good old-fashioned Christmas fun.

And on this date, where was the place to go for Christmas celebrations?

Well, it was on ABC.  That particular night, two very special television programs aired.  One was the very first television special put on by the singing duo "The Carpenters"...and while the show was well received by viewers, I opted not to discuss it here because it was more a celebration of the Carpenters and less a celebration of Christmas.

But the program that aired before mixed two of my favourite things together into one hour long show!

Disney and Christmas.

Yes, on December 8, 1976, ABC aired "Christmas In Disneyland", and it truly was an all-star extravaganza of talent and magic.

Of course, all of your favourite Disney characters made an appearance on the show.  You had Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, The Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, and so many more Disney favourites. 

But you also had former Honeymooners star Art Carney who played the dual role of Dr. Wunderbar and a crusty old grandfather who is stuck with looking after his two grandchildren (Brad Savage and Terri Lynn Wood) at Disneyland for the Christmas holiday.  You had country singer Glen Campbell who lent his voice to several singing numbers in the show.  And playing the dual role of Snow White and Disneyland tour guide was Ms. Wheat Thins herself, Sandy Duncan, who I swear was like the happiest person on earth.

I suppose it's a good thing this show was filmed in one of the happiest places on earth, huh?

So, here's the gist of the special.  And yes, I've watched it on my iPad and capped some screenshots of the special to help tell the story.  You see, Gramps absolutely hates Christmas.  He hates Christmas to the point that he completely eschews the belief that Christmas magic is real.  His grandchildren do everything in their power to get him to believe in Christmas, and even tour guide Sandy Duncan does whatever it takes to get him to believe, but Gramps is almost as curmudgeonly as Scrooge McDuck (who doesn't make an appearance until "Mickey's Christmas Carol" is released seven years later.

But Sandy Duncan has a plan.  She apparently knows of a contest in which the person who hates Christmas the most has the chance to win a very special prize.  And naturally, our materialistic grandpa is quick to jump at the chance to get anything that is marked free.

So the adventure begins with Gramps, Sandy, and the kids meeting Dr. Wunderbar who goes over the rules of the contest.  Of course, the rules of the contest show that if he can make it through the day without checking off any of the items on a secret list (that list is a list of things one should NOT do on Christmas), and he'll be watching how well Gramps does through a special video monitor (which back in '76 was cutting edge).  If he can resist changing from a non-believer to a believer before the clock strikes midnight, he'll walk away a very rich man.

But what's really funny is that despite the fact that Gramps insists on not having any Christmas spirit in him, he sure finds himself in a lot of situations that make him show it in spades.

For instance, Sandy the tour guide attempts to make Gramps warm towards Christmas by shrinking down to the size of the Small World exhibit where she breaks into song.

When the bears in the Country Band Jamboree need assistance (as told by Glen Campbell), Gramps reluctantly gives them a hand. 

The same deal with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  When the productivity slows down with the elves for making toys for Christmas, the kids suggest using Bashful, Doc, Dopey, and all the other dwarves to help with the toy building.

But it's not until we get to the middle of the show that we learn the real reason why Gramps is so anti-Christmas.  He apparently has gone through his whole life not receiving any kind of Christmas present whatsoever, which of course the children feel terrible about.  And it sort of leads to a musical performance in which Gramps sort of compares himself to the Big Bad Wolf, as nobody ever gave him anything for Christmas either.

So, what happens when Mickey Mouse overhears Gramps telling his story?  And when Gramps makes a ridiculous wish (hint:  it has something to do with the fact that Disneyland is in California, and he wants a particular kind of weather to take place there), will it come true?  And will all of the good karma that he built up along his journey come back to reward him more than all the money in the world?

Well, I have a special treat for you.  If you click HERE and HERE, the whole special is available to watch online - at least for now.  Seriously, I know it was recorded back in 1976, and the video quality is not the greatest...but if you watch this, I bet you'll like it.  I know I did.

Seriously, even though this special is almost forty years old, it looks spectacular and wonderful and really gives us a look at what Disneyland looked like in the 1970s.  The amount of detail shown in each scene is worth its weight in gold, and the final few scenes are just like something out of a holiday card.

Truly recommend this wonderful Christmas tale.

And, well...since I'm periodically giving out gift suggestions for Christmas this year, why not pick up a copy of the Minions movie on DVD and Blu-Ray?  It comes out today, so if you are looking for last minute gift ideas, certainly this film works!  I don't know if it'll be as big as "Frozen" was last Christmas, but it's sure to be very popular indeed!

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