Tuesday Take: ‘Olive, the Other Reindeer’ has almost every Christmas special fighting for third


Again, as the headline indicates. This Tuesday Take is riffing on the fact that the information depicted below argues the clear choice for the second-best televised animated Christmas special ever. Because as soon as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted in 1965, anything that happened to be a Christmas special before or after that day was fighting for a very distant second.

(BONUS HOT TAKE: Know a friend who doesn’t think that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the best Christmas special ever? Guess what? You’re no longer their friend. Them’s the rules.)

Anyhow. Back to the task at hand. This is a post to champion the obvious choice for the No. 2 on everyone’s list of greatest animated Christmas specials. I expect that after this post goes viral, that BuzzFeed will run a listicle of “276 times that we were all …”

“Olive, the Other Reindeer”

You see. This wonderful special debuted in 1999 when Fox seemingly held a monopoly of great one-off specials and six-week wonders. It has since aired on Nickelodeon (2001) and Cartoon Network (2002-14). Aside from being the most important listing on Drew Barrymore’s IMDB page (she voiced Olive, in case you were wondering), “Olive, the Other Reindeer” is based off a book written by Vivian Walsh and is a CGI-animated special produced by The Curiosity Company.

The Curiosity Company. Why should you know this name? It’s the production company founded by Matt Groening.

Yes. That Matt Groening. The man that gave us “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” was the person who founded the company that gave the world “Olive, the Other Reindeer.”

That fact right there immediately vaults this effort to top-five status as an animated Christmas special. The aesthetic of the special, which Wikipedia describes as “paperlike character art in 3-D environments.” So, with the release of “Paper Mario” – the best non-wrestling title on the Nintendo 64 – almost two years after “Olive, the Other Reindeer” first aired, it’s safe to say that this special ushered in the revolutionary game.

OK. Maybe not, but you cannot tell me that it had zero influence on “Paper Mario.”

It just hit me that that you probably just caught that “Olive, the Other Reindeer” sounds an awful lot like “all of the other reindeer,” from the jaunty Christmas jingle “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” You’re welcome.

Without spoiling the special for the unfortunate souls who have not witnessed it yet, I will divulge the following:

  • There is a con-artist penguin.
  • There are songs, including one featuring swing-revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, making this as 1990s as you can get.
  • There’s also a tune performed by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, making this as timeless as you can get.
  • Olive isn’t a reindeer.

Wait. That last one was a huge spoiler.

See, Olive is a spunky little Jack Russell terrier with tremendous can-do spirit. It helps a bunch, because every Christmas special needs a character to fight adversity and save the day for everyone.

Does Olive save the day? 

Well, you may not be able to find it on television this holiday. You might not be able to find it on streaming services.

But YouTube heroically has your back.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch for yourself.


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