In 1954, Walt Disney began his weekly anthology series, “Walt Disney’s Disneyland”, on the ABC network. Over the course of the first several years, Walt, who hosted the show himself, laid out his plans for the Disneyland theme park (culminating in a live television special, “Dateline: Disneyland”, hosted by Art Linkletter), showed the public glimpses into the making of the latest Disney features, as well as introduced the world to Davy Crockett.
By 1958, the show moved from its Wednesday timeslot to Fridays, and was retitled “Walt Disney Presents”. This continued the pioneering trend set by the “Disneyland” incarnation, doing such productions as looking towards the future of space travel, continuing to develop stories about western heroes, presenting one of the first stereo broadcasts in the form of a promotional episode for Sleeping Beauty (which was done by broadcasting the audio via radio stations), and episodes which mixed animated characters with live-action footage.
However, perhaps the most played episode of this incarnation came in the form of a Christmas special, first shown that December of 1958…
December 19, 1958
Walt Disney Studios
“From All of Us to All of You” opens with a dimly lit room, before Tinkerbell appears and illuminates the room, lighting the fireplace and candles, as well as turning on the lamps and the lights on the Christmas tree in the room. She then makes Walt Disney appear on the mantle of the fireplace, no taller than the size of a cricket because, as he puts it, “Christmas is bigger than all of us”. He wishes the viewer a merry Christmas from everyone at the Disney company, before handing the show off to Jiminy Cricket and Mickey Mouse (though Mickey doesn’t speak in this special, he only plays piano).
Jiminy and Mickey kick off the official start the show with a musical number, being the titular “From All of Us to All of You”. After the song, Jiminy tells the audience that, while Santa visits them every year, this year they’ll be turning the tables by visiting him. With a whirlwind of snow, Jiminy and the viewer are whisked away to the North Pole.
This leads into “Santa’s Workshop”, a 1932 Silly Symphony short presented here in its entirety (though it was later edited to remove politically incorrect imagery common with old theatrical cartoons). Through the short, the viewer sees Santa making his final preparations before his annual Christmas flight, checking over his list while the elves make the toys and load them onto Santa’s sleigh.
Back to the show, Jiminy introduces Chip & Dale, to let them show the audience how they prepare for Christmas. After deciding a verbal explanation wouldn’t work, as the audience can barely understand them, they decide instead to show them by climbing into a postcard of a snowy forest. Inside, the two chipmunks cut down a small branch atop a tall tree and take it inside their home, decorating the branch as their Christmas tree with ornaments and snow from outside. They hang up their stockings and get ready to fall asleep, ready for Santa to arrive.
While the introduction was brand new animation, this transitions into the 1949 Chip & Dale short “Toy Tinkers” (directed by animator Jack Hannah, who also directed this special). Chip is awoken by Donald Duck cutting down his own tree for Christmas, and as Donald leaves, Chip wakes up Dale to follow him to Donald’s house. While Donald hangs up ornaments on the tree, the chipmunks spot a pile of chestnuts on the floor, and decide to sneak in and take them. Donald is alerted to their presence as he hears the sounds of the toy trucks they’re using to load up the chestnuts.
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What follows is a series of attempts by Donald to retrieve the chestnuts and kick Chip & Dale out of his home. First he tries to scoop all the nuts into a bowl while Dale is stopped at his toy train’s crossing, but Dale comes back and grabs the bowl away. Next, Donald comes down the chimney dressed as Santa, giving Dale a small nut and Chip a big nut, causing the two to fight for the larger one. While distracted, Donald reveals the big nut has a gun inside it, which he uses to escort them to a toy police truck, and as it drives out he sticks his foot in front of it, causing it to crash.
After this, the struggle turns into an all-out war with Donald using a pop gun and the chipmunks using a toy cannon, both sides firing candy and nuts at each other. In the midst of this, Dale sets up a two-way phone, which through the power of toon logic is able to send the cannon fire through the phone right into Donald’s face. After three times of this, Donald raises the white flag, with Chip and Dale marching out the door as several toys follow, carrying out the chestnuts and candy.
Following a reprise of the song from earlier, Jiminy introduces the next segment, a collection of Christmas cards from various Disney characters titled “Memorable Moments”. As one would expect, this leads into a series of clips from classic Disney films: the “You Can Fly” sequence from Peter Pan, Thumper helping Bambi on the ice, Pinocchio singing “I’ve Got No Strings”, the dinner scene from Lady & the Tramp, the mice from Cinderella making a dress for her, and Snow White dancing with the dwarves.
Mickey plays a slow melody, and then Jiminy closes out the special by singing “When You Wish Upon a Star”, surrounded by various Disney characters.
“From All of Us to All of You” was first broadcasted on December 19, 1958, with its first airing being sponsored by Canada Dry, General Mills, and Crest. The summary given here covered how the special was in its initial broadcast, but the special was constantly updated on subsequent broadcasts throughout the 60’s and 70’s after it moved to NBC along with Walt Disney’s program. Primarily, these changes consisted of removing Walt Disney’s scene and “Santa’s Workshop”, in favor of adding previews for the latest Disney animated films, such as “Sword in the Stone” and “The Jungle Book”. In 1983, the 1941 Goofy short “The Art of Skiing” was added to the runtime. 1983 also brought an extended 90 minute version which aired on the then-new Disney Channel, this version later being released on VHS as “Jiminy Cricket’s Christmas”. After the 80’s, however, the special has rarely ever been shown in the US.
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But, surprisingly, this is far from the case in Nordic countries, where it has become a major holiday staple.
In Denmark, it is broadcast on DR1 every Christmas Eve at 4PM, narrated by Danish actor Ove Sprogøe (who also voices Jiminy Cricket), with the film clips using audio from the Danish language dubs while the shorts are in English with Danish subtitles. This version uses the shorts “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” from 1952 and “Donald’s Snow Fight” from 1942.
Finland broadcasts it as “Jiminy Cricket’s Christmas Greeting” every Christmas Eve on MTV3, with English audio and Finnish subtitles. Here, the shorts are “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” from 1952, “The Clock Watcher” from 1945, and topped off with Don Bluth’s “The Small One” from 1978.
In Norway, it goes under “Donald Duck and Friends”, airing every Christmas Eve afternoon on NRK1. Norwegians get a larger selection of shorts, retaining “Santa’s Workshop” from the American version along with “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” from the other Nordic versions, as well as adding “Clown of the Jungle” from 1947, “Mickey’s Trailer” from 1938, and “Ferdinand the Bull” from 1938.
Sweden’s version is “Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas”, titled as such due to Donald being Disney’s most popular character there; In fact, the special is widely just referred to as “Kalle Anka” (“Donald Duck”), airing every Christmas Eve at 3pm on SVT1 (which, when the special premiered, was the only channel in the country). It is virtually identical to the Norwegian version in terms of content, but features Swedish TV host Bengt Feldreich, who has been retained as the narrator since its first broadcast there in 1959. The host segments are often done live each year, particularly by Swedish TV personality Arne Weise, who acted as the special’s live host every year from 1972 to 2002.
Sweden is where “From All of Us to All of You” has, by far, seen the most success. Each year, with anywhere between 3.2 million and 4.3 million viewers (in a country with a population around 10 million), it ranks among the highest rated programs of the year in Sweden. In fact, in 2014 with 3.7 million viewers, it was the highest rated Swedish program of the entire year, and in 1997 it was watched by over half the population. The viewers also take the tradition very seriously, opposing any changes to the format, such as when the 1982 broadcast replaced “Ferdinand the Bull” with “The Ugly Duckling”, which was reversed the following year and never altered again, or when Weise had planned to pre-record his segments in 1992 to spend Christmas Eve with his family (he ended up going on live as normal). The public’s love of “Kalle Anka” even prevented the head of children’s programming at SVT, who felt it didn’t fit with the growing anti-commercialism sentiment of Sweden, from discontinuing in in the 1970’s. It has become a Christmas tradition there as strong as any other.
What started out as a special Christmas presentation of the “Walt Disney Presents” program has taken on a life of its own there, and while its time in the spotlight of its home country has faded, it will always hold a place in the hearts of many overseas.