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Western Animation / Angela's Christmas

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Angela's Christmas is a 2017 Irish-Canadian animated film directed and written by Damien O'Connor, co-written by Will Collins, and distributed by Netflix. The film is an adaptation of the children's book, Angela and the Baby Jesus, written by Frank McCourt, who was best known for writing the 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela's Ashes.

The story is set in Limerick, Ireland, in 1914 on a dark, snowy Christmas Eve. During a visit to the local church with her family, the Sheehans, Angela (Lucy O'Connell) notices a naked baby Jesus statue and feels sorry for it. Taking the opportunity on a cold, dark night, Angela proceeds to steal the statue and look after it as a material figure, thinking that by doing so, she may be able to provide everyone in Limerick, her family included a great Christmas Day later on.

The film was nominated for 3 Daytime Emmy Awards in 2019, namely, Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for Ruth Negga, who plays Angela's mother, Outstanding Writing for an Animated Program, and Outstanding Sound Mixing for an Animated Program. It also received nominations in the 2018 Emilie Awards for Best Sound Design in a TV/Broadcast Production and a 2018 Irish Film and Television Award for Best Short Animation.

A sequel was released in 2020, titled Angela's Christmas Wish, which takes place a year after the events of the first film. It centers on Angela anticipating Christmas Eve and, upon hearing of her mother making plans for a surprise regarding the festivity. Taking a note from this, Angela and Pat decide to enact their own Christmas surprise, which is to go to Australia and reunite with their father, who had left them two years ago. Their plans eventually lead them to encounter a girl named Dorothy, who promises to help Angela and Pat find their father whilst also asking her father that, if the Sheehans are successful, her father can provide veterinarian help for Mr. McGinty, as one of his cows is due to give birth on Christmas Eve.

Angela's Christmas and its Sequel Provides the Following Tropes:

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Angela is the third child in the family, predating her older brothers, Tom and Pat, and being older than Aggie, who is an infant. She displays a good level of maturity, manners, and compassion at a very tender age and these characteristics are how she was able to befriend two different strangers whilst trying to steal the Baby Jesus.
  • Adaptational Expansion: The first film was based on a book that was about the recollections of a Christmas story the author's mother often used to tell him about. The second film is a wholly new story that was constructed from scratch as Frank McCourt passed away without making any other stories that his mother, Angela, had told him about. (Notably, in Angela's Ashes, it's clear that Angela never met her father.)
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Inverted; Pat is an "Annoying Older Sibling" to Angela where he introduces himself trying to tease and assert his superiority over her. Angela simply finds Pat's attempts to be irritating and often tries to tell him to knock it off. Even so, the two do care for one another.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In Dorothy's house, Angela and Pat declare to Dorothy's father that they intend to go to Australia by train. He scoffs it off, but when the kids continue to insist, Dorothy's father decides to tell them exactly why a train from Limerick to Australia is just not possible.
    Dorothy's Father: And the train will? What's it going to do when it gets to the water?
    Pat: (frowns in disappointment upon realizing the father's point)
    Dorothy's Father: Precisely.
  • Ascended Extra: Pat in the first film is mainly there to annoy Angela and remains absent in the second act. In the third act, he stands up for his little sister. In the second film, Pat is given a bigger role and serves as Angela's main sibling companion throughout the narrative.
  • Babies Ever After: One of Mr. McGinty's cows is due to give birth on Christmas Eve, but is facing health troubles in doing so, and thus a veterinarian is required for the task. In the end, thanks to some help from Angela and her family and friends, help is provided, allowing the cow to safely give birth in the ending.
  • Big Damn Reunion: The second film's climactic moment is when the Sheehan family are finally reunited with the father who surprises them by wishing an unsuspecting Angela with a "happy Christmas".
  • Blue Is Heroic: Whenever she isn't wearing her trenchcoat, Angela is commonly dressed in a bright blue attire, which partly goes along with the story's theme and setting in Christmas as well as her selfless and endearing nature, who only reacts with good and well-meaning intentions.
  • Cheerful Child: The central child characters in the stories are usually depicted as optimistic, happy-go, and playful little kids who are very much motivated by a desire to pursue their thoughts and imaginations. This is especially apparent with Angela and her interactions with the Baby Jesus.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Whilst trying to escape the church, Angela bumps into a guard. She ends up being afraid that he will spot the Baby Jesus, though the guard feels empathetic for the child and even gives her a shilling. Later on, when Angela and her family are caught by Father Creagh, the same guard arrives to arrest them, but upon seeing Angela and hearing about her reasons for stealing the Baby Jesus, he relents and states that it would not be right to take Angela away from her family, which allows her and her family to leave free.
  • Christmas Miracle:
    • Angela believes that taking care of the Baby Jesus would bring in good luck and happiness for her family. This eventually pays off as she is saved from being arrested by a guard who befriended her and everyone else is happily announcing Christmas in their own sort of way. That, and an elderly couple claiming that the Baby Jesus spoke to them, unaware that it was Angela who made the noises to distract them whilst stealing the Baby Jesus.
    • The second film features the return of Angela's father as the Sheehan family's own miracle, especially after Angela and Pat tried to board a ship to Australia and fail to do so, despite
  • Christmas Special: The two films are Christmas-themed short films licensed and distributed by Netflix for children.
  • Companion Cube: Angela steals a baby Jesus statue from her local church and, given her belief in Christianity, she treats the statue almost as if its sentient and wants to comfort it as much as she can, all in the hopes that she can make Jesus happy and for the others to have a good Christmas. While she doesn't own it in the second film, Angela does take her time in the church talking to the Baby Jesus about her thoughts, feelings, and her plans for Christmas.
  • Determinator: Very little can actually deter Angela from wanting to look after and care for the Baby Jesus, even when Pat finds out about the statue, her mother having to reprimand both of her children as well as being encountered by other denizens of Limerick.
  • Digging to China: Angela and Pat consider trying to dig through Limerick in the hopes that they could carve a hole deep enough to reach Australia and even attempt in in their own house's backyard as well as Mrs. Blake's. Realizing that it could take way too longnote  to dig a hole, they opt to think about taking a train to Australia, which also doesn't work out as well.
  • Disappeared Dad: In the first film, Angela's father is referenced and mentioned during the flashback scene involving Angela's birth, but is never actually shown. It's said that he was sent to prison for trying to steal a lump of coal which he wanted to use to warm up his house, and Pat despondently states that he misses him. It's left ambiguous whether if Angela's father is still in prison or he has since passed away. The sequel confirms that Angela's father is indeed alive, and working in Australia, as well as returning near the end in a very heartwarming reunion.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: The first film ends with snow falling on Christmas Day, an indication that a Christmas Miracle occurred to Angela's family. The second film features Limerick covered in snow throughout most of its runtime.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When Angela and her family are caught by Father Creagh, he is ready to have the little girl arrested with the aid of a guard. However, said guard actually met Angela earlier on in the film and gave her a shilling, and upon noticing who she was, he relents, stating that while stealing the Baby Jesus is a crime, the same can be said for taking a child away from her family, a sentiment which Father Creagh agrees on.
  • Fiery Redhead: The redheaded Angela is unwavering in her attempts to take the Baby Jesus and will do whatever it takes to comfort it and make the statue happy, in her perspective at least. Even before visiting the church, Angela displayed traits such as being blunt and direct, as well as snapping back at Pat whenever their bickering escalated.
  • Flashback: The third act of the first film starts with a flashback about Angela's birth and what had happened on that day that made her mother upset as well as her sons taking it upon themselves to cheer her up as well as meet their then-newborn sister. The second film begins with a flashback showcasing the last time Angela saw her father before he boarded a ship to go to Australia.
  • For Happiness: Angela's main motivation for taking care of the Baby Jesus statue stems from the fact that because she is looking after a figure of her religion's central figure, she believes that by doing so, she will be providing joy, comfort, and happiness for those that she cares about and for the population of Limerick.
  • Girlish Pigtails: The naive, yet precocious Angela always has her hair tied down to a pair of lowered pigtails.
  • Good Parents: Angela's mother tends to be strict and assertive, but ultimately, what matters is that she is an attentive, tender, and well-intentioned mother who always wants the best for her kids.
  • Heel Realization: Father Creagh has one when the church guard tells him that arresting Angela would mean separating the girl from her family, and on Christmas at that. As a result, Father Creagh concedes and allows Angela and her family to walk free, though not before giving back her trenchcoat's missing button and allowing Angela to kiss the Baby Jesus.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Angela has bright blue eyes, which reflects on her innocent and precocious character and personality. The same also applies to Dorothy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Pat acts jerkish around Angela and feels that she needs to be punished by their mother for bringing the stolen Baby Jesus. However, when caught by Father Creagh, Pat forgoes his antagonism towards his little sister and tries to convince Father Creagh that he take him instead of Angela, showcasing that for all his bickering, he does care for his little sister.
    • Dorothy's father seems to be indifferent about Angela and Pat to the extent where he would bluntly tell them that going to Australia via a train is, in his words, absurd. That said, he does show concern for his daughter, upholds his deal with Angela regarding getting Mr. McGinty's cow tended to a veterinarian, and admits that he would be wanting Dorothy's support in his life.
  • Kick the Dog: Father Creagh attempts to have Angela arrested for stealing the Baby Jesus as well as damaging the statue's forehead. However, this is Subverted when the following guard explains that it would not be alright to take Angela away from her family, which causes Father Creagh to realize that he was taking things too far and decides to let her and her family go.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Angela's Song by Dolores O'Riordan is the main theme of the song, sung by the titular character whilst laying in bed with the Baby Jesus.
    • A Place in Your Heart, which is sung by Angela and Pat, with vocals provided by their voice actors, Lucy O'Connell and Brendan Mullins is about their desires to see their father again, which is what drives the plot of the second film. The song also receives a reprisal in the credits, this time sang by Allie Sherlock.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: Angela manages to successfully steal the Baby Jesus with some difficulty. That said, this is a subversion in that Angela doesn't really have any intent on keeping the Baby Jesus for herself or a desire to be a thief and only wants to keep the status for one night before returning it to the church.
  • Narrator: A narrator introduces the story and setting, as well as telling the audience that the narrator himself is Angela's son.
  • Make a Wish: The Sheehan family group together on the night of Christmas Eve to make their wishing prayers as a way to placate Angela and Pat after their failed attempt to go to Australia to see their father. It turns out that the children all wished to see their father again, which is exactly what happens shortly after.
  • Manly Tears Some of the men in the Limerick bar are so enamored by Angela and Pat's singing that they resort to crying their eyes out about how beautiful their voices were, and express enough sympathy to give out some of their shillings to their children.
  • Nice Girl:
    • Angela constantly showcases herself to be a sweet and compassionate girl who has good intentions and seeks to get along with everyone she encounters. Best displayed when she gives a single shilling to a homeless man playing the accordion whilst running away from what she thinks is a sentient shadow of tree branches.
    Accordian Man: Even I can see that you have a good heart, me darlin'.
    • Much like Angela herself, Dorothy is also a good-natured and compassionate girl who is willing to befriend and socialize with Angela and Pat just moments after they accidentally bump into each other.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: On the day Angela was born, her father was absent from the family household, intending to collect pieces of coal that he could use for the house's fireplace to keep it warm. He was arrested and sent to prison for attempting to steal coal, regardless of his well-meaning intent.
    • Later on, when Angela and her family are about to return the Baby Jesus to its original shrine where it was stolen from, Father Creagh suddenly shows up and figures out that Angela was behind the theft all along. He was ready to arrest and imprison Angela, were it not for a security guard she befriended earlier, who convinces Father Creagh that no child should be taken away from their family, which is what placates and lets Angela and her family go, alongside realizing that her intent for stealing the statue was not out of petty theft, in addition to wanting to return it back after wanting to simply keep it warm.
  • Oh, Crap!: Angela has some during her experience in taking the Baby Jesus home with her, including stumbling across a church guard, an accordion player, stumbling into a bar, and being found out by Pat. Whilst returning the Baby Jesus, she is suddenly spotted by Father Creagh, who would have arrested her had it not been for the church guard.
  • Parental Abandonment: Angela's father was forced to leave behind his family in order to go to Australia to provide a job for himself as well as earn as much money as he could to financially back up his family back in Limerick. He does eventually come back in the second film though.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Aggie in the second film is usually always seen with a big smile on her face, not too bothered by what the rest of her family are going through. And like the rest of her family, she is eager to approach her father optimistically.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • In response to returning the Baby Jesus and realizing the error of his ways, Father Creagh gives back a fallen button belonging to Angela's trenchcoat and allows her to kiss the Baby Jesus's forehead before departing.
    • Despite being annoyed by the kids and forcefully restraining Angela, Pat, and Dorothy from boarding a ship to Australia, the dock guard doesn't really antagonize them any further and even goes as far as to hand Angela back her father's broken photo frame, which fell off from Angela's trenchcoat in the midst of being chased.
  • Plucky Girl: Angela is a headstrong and committed girl who will do whatever she takes to provide everyone she knows a joyous and happy Christmas, regardless of the hardships she has to endure.
  • Single Tear: The common occupants of Limerick's bar are initially apathetic to Angela's singing, but once Pat joins along, their singing is tender enough for one of the men to elicit a small tear to roll down his eyes. Later on, the men are touched by the siblings to the point where some of them burst into Manly Tears and hand Angela and Pat some of their shillings, which they wanted to use to go to Australia.
  • Slice of Life: Atypical of animated works centering on Christmas, Angela's Christmas and its sequel opt for a more ordinary and simplistic setting, with the focus simply being Angela and her experience with the titular holiday, all without the involvement of a magical convention in the story, including Santa Claus.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: Angela often has conversations and remarks with the Baby Jesus when she steals the statue and tries to take it to her house. She treats the Baby Jesus as if it's a real person and gets upset whenever something goes wrong, such as when a part of the statue's forehead is damaged when Angela tried to throw the Baby Jesus into her backyard and ends up landing on Mrs. Blake's. Even after returning the statue to the church, this interaction persists when in the sequel, which takes place a year after, Angela has a conversation with the Baby Jesus about how she's planning a Christmas surprise for her mother.
  • Wham Line: A very heartfelt one is delivered once the Sheehan children make their Christmas wishes.
    Angela's Father: Happy Christmas, Angela.
  • Youthful Freckles: Angela has bright peachy freckles around the bridge of her nose, emphasizing her youth.

"Well, he smiled the way he always did... and held out his arms to the world. He was as warm and cozy as any baby that night. All with a little help from Angela, of course. All with a little help from my mother."