Western Animation / 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Not even a mouse...
A 1974 animated Christmas Special from Rankin/Bass Productions starts when the town of Junctionville has all of its letters returned from Santa Claus — because a letter proclaiming Santa and his reindeer are fakes has appeared in the local paper and offended the jolly old elf. Father Mouse (George Gobel) investigates, and realizes his know-it-all son Albert (Tammy Grimes) has written the letter. Meanwhile, clockmaker Joshua Trundle (Joel Gray) tries to makes a singing clock in hopes of bringing Santa back. Things go from bad to worse when the clock publicly malfunctions — but in the end, with the help of a Heel–Face Turn on Albert's part, a happy Christmas ensues. Unlike most R/B productions, this featured 2D animation, rather than the usual Stop Motion puppet animation (called "Animagic").

The special contains the following tropes:

  • Authority in Name Only: The Mayor has shades of this.
  • Christmas Special
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The driving problem behind the plot is that Albert doesn't believe in Santa. His father tries to musically persuade him to believe in pretty much every legendary character affiliated with a holiday.
  • Clock Tower: Where Trundle wishes to install his singing clock.
  • Depending on the Artist: Despite Rankin-Bass having done normal versions of Santa since Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this version is vastly different, eschewing the usual full-facial beard for something more akin to an Amish beard and being short and stocky.
    • Another case is Trundle's daughter whose outfit switches between pink and yellow a few times before settling on yellow.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Really, Albert's fascination with the model should have been a warning to Father Mouse to keep him away from the real clock.
  • Easily Forgiven: It could be argued that Santa never intended to hold a grudge against Junctionville after all. He's convinced to visit the town when he hears the clock playing the song... and he just so happens to have gifts for the town residents in his sleigh. Maybe he just wanted them to sweat a little.
    • Averted with Albert. When he tearfully apologizes, his father tells him "It's not enough to be sorry. You have to correct the thing you did." This inspires Albert to fix the clock (not because he believes in Santa, but because he's learned that he can make mistakes.)
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Character example — Father Mouse's name seems to be... Father Mouse. Even Trundle calls him that. He's a mouse who fathered children.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Santa's existence is a demonstrable fact in this special. He makes no effort to hide himself when making deliveries, can receive and return mail, and even has official operators representing him at the North Pole that you can call up at any time. Doesn't stop Albert from disbelieving.
    • Might also count as Arbitrary Skepticism. You live in a world of sentient talking mice, but think Santa Claus is ridiculous?
    • Albert also claims that "grown-ups never believe in Santa". Hard to see where he got that idea, since literally every grown-up in the special professes belief — even the pompous mayor who authorizes a massive public works project just to please the jolly old elf.
  • From Bad to Worse: After the clock malfunctions, no one wants to give Trundle any work. Not only is Santa not bringing gifts for his family, but he can't pay his bills or put food on the table. This also affects Albert's family, as the mice typically feed off scraps from Trundle's table.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Albert is ultimately able to fix the clock using a toolkit, a book, and his determination.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: ABC Family removed the "Give Your Heart a Try" number for having the word "gay" in it when it re-aired the special.
    • And then they brought it back in...
  • Heel–Face Turn: Albert.
  • Heel Realization: Albert doesn't seem to regret his actions until he sees the family he wronged singing a song about the need to keep their hopes up, do what they can, and trust Santa to do the rest.
  • How We Got Here: The bulk of the story is told in flashback by Father Mouse in the three minutes before midnight.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Somewhat similar to the famous "War Room" example.
    The Mayor: A citizen? They're not allowed in here, this is public property!
  • Ill Girl: Several, and boys too. Father Mouse takes Albert to a hospital full of depressed children to show him the consequences of his letter about Santa.
  • Insufferable Genius: Albert, prior to his Character Development.
  • Just in Time: Subverted in that Albert doesn't get the clock working until about a minute after the Midnight deadline, but Santa still hears the music and is convinced to visit the town.
  • The Kirk: Arguably, Trundle, who is in touch with his emotions but approaches the problem from a logical standpoint to try and fix things.
  • Letters to the Editor: The plot is kickstarted by one.
  • MacGuffin: The clock.
  • Manly Tears: Father Mouse sheds a few during the finale.
  • The McCoy: Father Mouse, who tries to teach his older son to "give [his] heart a try."
  • Measuring the Marigolds: In "Give Your Heart a Try," Albert is admonished to stop "asking why" so much and just enjoy life.
  • Mouse World: Which, unusually for the trope, freely interacts with the human one.
  • Must Make Amends: Albert, once he decides to fix the clock.
  • Narrator: Father Mouse
  • No Name Given: Most of the cast, including Trundle's two children and Father Mouse's non-Albert children.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The implication seems to be that most of the humans have a rodent equivalent who does the same job right alongside them. Trundle has Father Mouse helping in the clock shop; the postman has a mail mouse who rides on his shoulder to deliver mail to the other mice.
  • Not So Above It All: Albert starts dancing near the end of "Give Your Heart A Try". When he realizes he's getting into the spirit, he stops, and gives an unimpressed look to the camera.
  • Santa Claus: Convincing him to come is the object of the story.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The Mayor strives for this, but usually ends up stumbling over his words. Conversely, Albert's penchant for long words is what makes Father Mouse realize who wrote the letter that so offended Santa.
  • Single Tear: Joshua Trundle sheds one when he blows out his candle at midnight.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Albert, who has several indicators of being a TV Genius, is one of the only characters in the special who wears glasses.
  • The Spock: Albert, for a large portion of the special.
  • Stepford Smiler: Joshua Trundle becomes this on Christmas Eve, leading his children in a happy song about keeping faith and doing what you can... even though he knows there's nothing he can do and probably nothing to believe in.
  • Sublime Rhyme: Trundle reads the Clement Clark Moore poem out loud, thus also resulting in a Title Drop.
  • Straw Vulcan: Albert, who repeatedly rejects the concept of thinking with his heart.
  • Techno Babble: Albert spouts off several clock-related scientific terms, which his father doesn't begin to understand and refers to as "algebry."
  • Token Minority: In this case, an entire Token Minority family. Among all of the white families, there is one black family.
  • To Make a Long Story Short: The mayor frequently makes long speeches on the subject at hand before giving up and making his actual point in two or three words. It's suggested that he can start well but never knows how to end his florid sentences and ham-fistedly resorts to Layman's Terms.
    You may build your clock, Mr. Trundle, and may the enchanting tones of its melody soar to the pinnacle of the celestial heights, where— ooh, aw, heck, get started!
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Each human family appears to have one son and one daughter, who look like little clones of their parents. The parents in each family also bear uncomfortable resemblance to their spouses.
  • Vague Age: Albert is young but he could be anywhere from a young child to a teenager.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: All the mail is addressed to the residents of "Junctionville, U.S.A."
  • Yes, Virginia: There is a Santa Claus — and he apparently believes strongly in Disproportionate Retribution.
    • Well, the special says that the offending letter was written by Albert and his friends, who then signed the letter "All of Us." The implication is that Santa interpreted "All of Us" as not meaning "Albert and his Know-It-All Friends" but "The entire population of Junctionville, U.S.A."
      • If only Santa had some means of distinguishing who was naughty and who was nice, he could probably have cleared that up.
      • And yet only Albert is ever called to account. His friends are only mentioned as having written and posted the letter with him. They never come up again. It's all dumped on Albert and Albert alone, and only he ever is shown to have to atone, while his mentioned but unseen buddies are pretty much allowed to go unpunished.
      • Albert's the only one who messed with the clock. He had a lot more guilt on his shoulders than his friends, whoever they are, although they are unquestionably Karma Houdinis here.