Olive, the Other Reindeer [1999]

Simpsons creator Matt Groening helped create this delightful animated adaptation of the popular Christmas book. Originally shown on the Fox channel in 1999, Olive deals with a upstanding dreamer of a pooch (voiced expressively by Drew Barrymore) who hears Santa's angst when Blitzen breaks a leg just before the holiday, messing up Santa's delivery schedule. Olive hears Santa's quote about "all of the other reindeer" as "Olive, the other reindeer," and she is convinced she must go to the North Pole to help. Using equal parts traditional Christmas themes (unselfishness, the importance of being good instead of naughty) and Simpsons-esque humor (wordplay, contemporary cultural references), the 45-minute short is a refreshingly fun holiday pleaser. Purists may chafe at the action pieces and a scene in a rough 'n' tumble bar, but the filmmakers keep the spirit--and the unique look--of J. Otto Seibold's and Vivian Walsh's book. With some snappy songs (including one performed by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe) and great zingers (one reindeer calls Rudolph an urban legend), it's a fine holiday time for ages 5 and older. --Doug Thomas

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