The plot is an adaptation of the birth of Jesus, from the POV of the animals who were in the stable he was born in. The only twist, as the title gives away, is that the animals have somehow been given the gift of speech. However, the animals soon become at odds with each other, developing the worst flaws of humanity—vanity and racism, just as the donkey belonging to Mary comes along, asking for room to stay in.
This special is seldom aired on TV these days, and is very esoteric in contrast to the specials produced by other companies such as Rankin-Bass. It has also never seen an official VHS or DVD rerelease, although it is believed by several to have fallen into the Public Domain. Regardless, It is an enjoyable, if brief, Christmas Special that certainly warrants watching, especially for Culhane's excellent direction.
Two versions of the film are posted on Youtube; one is a heavily abridged version in two parts, which can be seen here, and here. Another version, which is an unabridged cut of the film, can be found on multiple parts on the same site.
- Bittersweet Ending: The animals finally become at peace with each other and allow space for Mary to give birth to Jesus, but the animals lose their gift of speech before they can spread the news of his birth.
- Christmas Special: One of the rare type that has nothing at all to do with Santa Claus or snow.
- Eastern Animation
- Fantastic Racism: Against the pigs (who were arguably the least offensive animals in the special).
- HeelFace Turn: Every single animal (except the few that weren't heels to begin with) does this at the climax.
- A House Divided: The driving conflict of the story.
- Messy Pig: Granted, the two pigs lived in a pigsty because they had no choice; if they tried to enter the stable, the other animals drove them back out.
- No Name Given: The animals are never given names.
- Only Sane Man: The dog, as well as the ox.
- Public Domain Animation: Is believed by some to be this.
- Star of Bethlehem: Its light is apparently what grants the animals the power of human speech.
- Talking Animal: It's in the title of the special, after all.
- The Unseen: We don't get a glimpse of Jesus himself, and Mary and Joseph are only briefly seen from the sky. No other humans are even seen in the special.