For this week of Rankin/Bass Christmas special reviews, we’re focusing on stop motion specials from the early ‘80’s that prove Rankin/Bass’ obsession with making everything into a Christmas special, even if it shouldn’t be….or didn’t need to be. Today, I’ll be reviewing The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold (1981), and next time, we’ll be discussing a Christmas-themed retelling of Pinocchio with…um, the aptly named Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980).
To start, I don’t quite understand the generally negative reactions towards this special. Sure, the biggest sin committed by The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold is the fact that it should not have been a Christmas special. Rather, it would have made a lot more sense to make it into a St. Patrick’s Day special. Heck, St. Patrick himself even appears in it at one point! Aside from associating this film with the incorrect holiday, however, I actually didn’t think it was bad.
The special starts with sailor Dinty Doyle, who ends up on the island of the leprechauns. He digs up a pine tree on the beach, releasing the banshee, Mag the Hag, in the process, who had been trapped there by St. Patrick. She’s after the gold of the leprechaun Blarney Kilakilarney (yeah, I think that name’s absurd, too), but is unable to take it for herself. Rather, it can only be given to her freely, leading her to resort to all sorts of trickery, including shapeshifting. Though, as convincing as her disguises would otherwise have been, she’s always given away by her perpetual stream of tears. To be honest, I can’t remember if they ever explained what would happen if the banshee actually got her hands on the gold, but I do know that she’ll turn to sea foam if she doesn’t get it by Christmas. (Nice try, Rankin/Bass, but this still ain’t no Christmas movie!)
I actually enjoyed this special, and if you can get past the fact that it’s not a Christmas movie as advertised, then you might want to give it a try if you ever get the chance. It was a pretty cute, little special, with fun music and charming characters, plus the leprechaun theme was a nice change of pace considering so much of Rankin/Bass’ work revolves around snowy landscapes and Santa Claus. Next time, we’ll be reviewing a special that does a better job at working in the Christmas theme…but not so great a job in other areas, the aforementioned Pinocchio’s Christmas from 1980.
Previous Rankin/Bass Reviews (and other similar holiday specials)
- Cricket on the Hearth (1967)
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)
- The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
- The First Easter Rabbit (1976)
- Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976)
- Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
- The Easter Bunny is Comin’ to Town (1977)
- Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
- The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)
- Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979)
- A Miser Brothers’ Christmas (2008)