In this series, Know Disney?, blogger Kendall Foreman introduces readers to aspects of the Walt Disney Company, its films, history, and parks that are possibly heretofore unknown to the reader.
Each year, as Thanksgiving Day passes and the Christmas season officially commences, Disney-loving families gather around their televisions to enjoy viewing both new and classic Disney Christmas films, specials and cartoons such as Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and The Santa Clause to name just a few. When Jim Henson’s Muppets joined the Disney family, the list of holiday season programs expanded to include notable classics such as Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, The Christmas Toy, A Muppet Family Christmas and many others. Through its many annual presentations, Disney has helped to make the Christmas holiday season merry and bright for audiences young and old for decades.
With so many available options, it would be easy to overlook a Christmas short film released as a companion to the holiday theatrical re-release of Pinocchio in 1978. Based on a children’s book with the same title by author, Charles Tazewell, The Small One tells the story of a boy who lives a modest life outside of Nazareth with his father and their four donkeys. The oldest of the donkeys is named Small One, and is the boy’s beloved friend. Due to Small One’s slight stature and age, he is no longer able to work hard enough to cover the cost of keeping him. His contributions are considered too small and insignificant. As a result, the young boy is forced into selling his much-loved pal. While the lad is deeply saddened, he promises his friend that he will find a gentle master for him. The rest of the short film tells the story of the boy’s quest to keep his promise to Small One, and a very important chance meeting.
The Small One was directed by former Disney animator, Don Bluth, who contributed his artistic talents to Disney animated classics such as The Fox and the Hound, Pete’s Dragon, The Rescuers, Robin Hood, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh among others. Disney fans with a keen ear will recognize the voice of the young boy as that of Sean Marshall who played Pete in Pete’s Dragon. While The Small One is only twenty-six minutes long, its animation is equal to that of a full-length feature film. It includes two very memorable songs, and scenes sure to produce laughter and perhaps even some tears.
The Small One should not be considered too small or insignificant to be included in any Disney fan’s list of Christmas film traditions. Those wanting to enjoy The Small One again or for the first time can find it on either of the following DVDs: Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films- Volume 7- Mickey’s Christmas Carol or Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites-Volume 9-Classic Holiday Stories.
What Disney films, cartoons and/or television specials have you included in your Christmas traditions?
Kendall began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7) Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)