Disney’s Hannukah Treets

Posted on December 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm

8 Disney Hanukkah Specials to Stream This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here… and while there is no shortage of holly, jolly films and shows to stream on Disney+, we thought we’d highlight some of the Hanukkah specials that are also available right now! Whether you’re getting ready for a winter-break streaming marathon or just looking for something to watch to learn more about the holiday itself, we’ve listed eight things to watch—one for each night of Hanukkah.

1. The Ghost and Molly McGee – “Festival of Lights” (Season 1, Episode 10)

In this adventure, the entire McGee family and Scratch the ghost visit Libby Stein-Torres and her family for the final night of Hanukkah. When a sudden blackout occurs across the town of Brighton, Libby’s mom boots up their bookstore’s generator, but she only has enough gas for one hour. Inexplicably, the generator keeps running for eight hour—during which Libby and her family teach the McGee’s, and later the entire town (who come gather at the bookstore for warmth)—about their Hanukkah traditions!

2. “Puppy for Hanukkah”

In 2020, Hamilton star Daveed Diggs partnered with Disney to create a new Hanukkah anthem — “Puppy for Hanukkah.” Written by Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, “Puppy for Hanukkah” tells the story of a little Jewish boy wishing for a puppy each night of Hanukkah before finally receiving one on the last night of the holiday. The song also explains some of his Hanukkah traditions, with Diggs reciting a Hanukkah blessing in Hebrew mid-rap. You can enjoy this Hanukkah bop by streaming the adorable music video for “Puppy for Hanukkah” on Disney+!

3. Firebuds – “Hanukkah Hullabaloo” (Season 1, Episode 13)

One of Disney Channel’s newest holiday specials is this episode of Firebuds, where Bo wonders why his mother doesn’t put up Hanukkah decorations like his father does for Christmas. To share how special Hanukkah is with his community, Bo goes overboard with decorations for Hanukkah, including a gigantic dreidel balloon that flies off in the wind and causes mild destruction across town. In the end, Bo learns that Hanukkah is special for reasons other than flashing lights and balloons—and that people choose different ways to celebrate the holidays.

4. Even Stevens – “Heck of a Hanukkah” (Season 1, Episode 15)

In this episode of the Disney Channel classic Even Stevens, troublemaker Louis Stevens can’t wait to open presents and searches for the Hanukkah gifts his parents have hidden somewhere in the house. When he ultimately finds them and ruins the family gift exchange for everyone, he ends up grounded for the entirety of Hanukkah. In an homage to 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, the ghost of Louis’ great-great-great-great-grandmother, Bubbe Rose, appears to show him what his family would be like if he had never been born.

5. Full Court Miracle

Based on the true story of the University of Virginia Cavaliers basketball star Lamont Carr, this 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie follows a Jewish basketball team in Philadelphia who need a new coach. Set during Hanukkah, this group of high school athletes find college student Lamont Carr and convince him to be their basketball coach. When the power goes out during the team’s final championship game, they make an agreement with their opponents that whoever has the most points when the generator runs out will win. In a true Hanukkah twist, the generator goes out and our heroes are losing, but the power miraculously comes back on and allows them to score the winning basket.

6. Puppy Dog Pals – “Latke Kerfuffle” (Season 1, Episode 20)

In this episode of Disney Junior’s Puppy Dog Pals, Bingo and Rolly go on a mission to help their owner, Bob, make latkes for their neighbor Chloe’s Hanukkah party! While on the hunt for eggs and potatoes, the pups sing a song about the “festival of lights” and how delicious latkes are. Bob makes enough latkes for everyone at Chloe’s party and Bingo and Rolly even get to attend, participating in the lighting of the Chanukiah when they spot the first star in the night sky.

7. Pepper Ann – “A Kosher Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 11)

Pepper Ann is another Disney character who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and in this holiday episode she mistakenly believes that her parents want her to choose only one holiday to celebrate. She begins to make a list of what she loves most about each holiday to help her decide. In the end, she tells her parents that she loves Hanukkah and Christmas, and that choosing between them would be like choosing between her parents themselves! Of course, it was all a misunderstanding, and her parents were never asking her to choose between the two holidays. Together with her family, Pepper Ann has a great holiday season celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas.

8. Elena of Avalor – “Festival of Lights” (Season 3, Episode 18)

When Princess Rebecca of Galonia and her grandmother shipwreck on the shores of Avalor, it is up to Elena and her family to give them the best Hanukkah celebration possible! Rebecca and her family teach Elena all about Hanukkah, as well as some and Yiddish words like “nosh” (to have a snack) and “mitzvah” (a good deed). When Rebecca gets caught up in making their Hanukkah party absolutely perfect, it’s her bubbe (grandmother) who reminds her that Hanukkah is about carrying on even through the toughest challenges and making the most of what you have.

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More Christmas Movies You Might Have Missed

Posted on December 14, 2022 at 8:11 am

Copyright Netflix 2019
By all means, watch the classics! One of the sweetest family traditions is sharing favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” “Home Alone,” and my favorite, “A Christmas Carol” (I watch the MCM, Alistair Sim, and Mr. Magoo versions every year, usually the Muppets version, too.) And then there are the TV classics like “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”

I’ve already posted lists of lesser-known but wonderful Christmas movies. And yes, “Die Hard” is definitely a Christmas movie. Case closed.

But there should always be room for something new, and I love these:

Jingle Jangle (Netflix)

“Colorful” is not a colorful enough word to describe a fantasy movie musical so maximalist that even the title is overstuffed. The many pleasures of this overflowing Christmas stocking of a film are sure to make it a family favorite, and most likely a family tradition. Originally conceived as a musical play, it retains the liveliness of an in-person production. The exceptionally talented and appealing and nearly all-Black cast, including Phylicia Rashad, Forest Whitaker, and Keegan-Michael Key give the film a fresh perspective. The snowball scene is one of my favorites.

Klaus

This is a Santa Claus origin story, based on the books by Grant Morrison. A spoiled, selfish young man is sent to a remote village to act as postman, not to return until he has delivered 6000 letters. Striking animation, top voice talent, and a charming interpretation of the way many of our favorite traditions began make this a gem.

Dear Santa” (streaming now on Peacock and other services)

I love this documentary about the wonderful volunteers and USPS “elves” who answer kids’ letters to Santa. Schoolchildren and adults, including former beneficiaries of the program work around the clock. You won’t find a better example of giving being better than receiving than this charming and heartwarming film.

Holiday Rush (Netflix)

Romany Malco plays Rush, a popular DJ and a single dad of four. When he loses his job just before Christmas, his family has to leave their comfortable home and move back in to his old neighborhood with his aunt, played by the magnificent Darlene Love. This is a warm-hearted story about love and families and what really matters.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Fans of this site know that “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite holiday story. This is the story of how that book came to be written, with Dan Stevens just perfect as the brilliant but harried Charles Dickens. The book, one of the most popular of all time, really did change the way people saw Christmas, with more focus on helping others, and this story of love, reconciliation, and the power of storytelling is a treasure.

And, okay, yes, they aren’t classics and they don’t make much sense or vary much from the formula, but I like Hallmark Christmas movies, and the ones on other services, too. Some of my favorites are:

“Write Before Christmas”

A recently dumped young woman sends five Hallmark greeting cards to people who have been important to her and they change the lives of the recipients and hers, too).

“The Christmas House”

The Hallmark Channel’s first movie with a gay couple — the brother of the main character and his husband — is more layered and sympathetic than the more high-profile “Happiest Season.” In this story of parents famous for their Christmas decorations insisting both of their sons come home to help.

“The Mistletoe Promise” A woman who owns a travel company with her ex-husband meets a man who is as reluctant to celebrate Christmas as she is. They join forces to support each other through the gauntlet of office-based holiday events.

“The Princess Switch”

A Chicago baker and a European princess who happen to look identical, both charmingly played by Vanessa Hudgens, pull a switch and each finds love. The sequel adds a third look-alike!

“The Mistletoe Promise”

A travel agent and a lawyer have different reasons for dreading Christmas, so make a pact to be each other’s plus one through the holidays.

Oh, and coal in the stocking of everyone connected with “Holidate!”

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Often Overlooked Christmas Movies for Families to Enjoy

Posted on December 14, 2022 at 8:07 am

I love the Christmas classic movies and watch as many as I can every year.  But there are many great Christmas films that don’t get mentioned as often and I like to remind families that these are worth making time for as well.

1.  The Nativity Story  This sincere and respectful story is a good way to remember that Christmas is about more than presents and parties.  “Whale Rider’s” Keisha Castle-Hughes has a shy but dignified and resolute air and she glows believably as the very young woman who is selected as the mother of Jesus. And “Drive’s” Oliver Isaac effectively conveys tenderness, doubt, courage, and transcendence as Joseph.

2. A Christmas Memory Truman Capote’s bittersweet memory of his childhood Christmas making fruitcakes with his elderly cousin, the only relative who cared about him is beautifully filmed with the magnificent Geraldine Page and Capote himself reading the narration.

3. Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas The California Raisins guys put together this Christmas special, with the highlight the funniest-ever performance of “Carol of the Bells.”

4. Come to the Stable Loretta Young and Celeste Holm are French nuns trying to raise money to build a hospital.  Their faith and goodness transforms those they meet.

5. Little Women “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” is the first line of this classic novel based on the loving if sometimes tumultuous family of author Louisa May Alcott.  The movie opens with an important Christmas lesson about the joy of giving.

6. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Based on the classic book, this stars Loretta Swit as the mother of six rambunctious kids who insist on playing roles in the church pageant.

7. This Christmas I love this movie about a family with five adult children who return home to celebrate Christmas with their mother and youngest brother.  The outstanding cast includes Regina King, Idris Elba, Loretta Devine, and Chris Brown.  Be sure to watch through the credits to see a great dance number.

8. Desk Set Before Google, companies had human beings to track down information. Katherine Hepburn plays the head of the all-female research department for a television network and Spencer Tracy is the engineer who is installing the company’s first computer, which takes up a whole wall and uses punch cards and vacuum tubes. Sparks fly — and not just in the equipment.

9. Die Hard Bruce Willis plays a cop visiting his estranged wife at her office Christmas party when the building is taken over by bad guys led by Alan Rickman in this action-movie classic, and yes, it is a Christmas movie.

10. The Polar Express Tom Hanks stars in this animated story based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg about a magical train ride to the North Pole.

11. Home Alone This comedy smash hit stars Macauley Culkin as a little boy who is accidentally left home when his family goes away for the holidays and has to take care of himself and guard the house from a couple of inept thieves.  The slapstick is over the top but the message of Christmas is surprisingly touching.

12. Annie The story of the plucky orphan from the comic pages became one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all time and one of its highlights is Christmas with Daddy Warbucks.

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Family Movies for Thanksgiving

Posted on November 22, 2022 at 7:55 am

Copyright 1973 United Features Syndicate

There are some great Thanksgiving movies for adults. And here are some for the whole family to share.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving This is the one with the famous episode about Charlie Brown trying to kick the football Lucy keeps snatching away from him. And Peppermint Patty invites herself to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving and he is too kind-hearted to tell her that he won’t be there because his family is going to his grandmother’s. When the Peanuts gang comes over for a feast prepared by Charlie Brown himself, Patty gets angry at being served toast and jelly beans. But when she realizes how hard her friend tried to be hospitable, she learns what gratitude really means.

Dora’s Thanksgiving Parade Dora the Explorer has to save the day when the parade float gets lost.

Squanto and the First Thanksgiving , Native American actor Graham Greene and musician Paul McCandless tell the story of Squanto’s extraordinary generosity and leadership in reaching out to the Pilgrims after he had been sold into slavery by earlier European arrivals in the New World.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Jacqueline Bisset stars in this warm-hearted tale, based on a short story by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women).

My favorite Thanksgiving movies are “What’s Cooking?” with four families preparing for the holiday and “Pieces of April,” about a family, including a terminally ill mother, driving to an estranged daughter for Thanksgiving. Both are funny, touching, and wise. Wishing all of you a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for being together, even the crazy parts.

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Halloween Movies for Families 2022

Posted on October 17, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Happy Halloween!

Halloween gives kids a thrilling opportunity to act out their dreams and pretend to be characters with great power. But it can also be scary and even overwhelming for the littlest trick-or-treaters. An introduction to the holiday with videos from trusted friends can help make them feel comfortable and excited about even the spookier aspects of the holiday.

Kids ages 3-5 will enjoy Barney’s Halloween Partywith a visit to the pumpkin farm, some ideas for Halloween party games and for making Halloween decorations at home, and some safety tips for trick-or-treating at night. They will also get a kick out of Richard Scarry’s The First Halloween Ever, which is Scarry, but not at all scary!

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest has the beloved little monkey investigating the Legend of “No Noggin.” Disney characters celebrate Halloween in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Mickey’s Treat.

Witches in Stitches is about witches who find it very funny when they turn their sister into a jack o’lantern. And speaking of jack o’lanterns, Spookley the Square Pumpkin, is sort of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer of pumpkins. The round pumpkins make fun of him for being different until a big storm comes and his unusual shape turns out to have some benefits.

Kids from 7-11 will enjoy , A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting. It has gorgeously imagined settings, a great cast, and an exciting story that hits the exact sweet spot between funny-scary and scary-funny. Which means it is exciting and fun. “Muppets Haunted Mansion” combines all the Muppet favorites with one of the most popular attractions at the Disney theme parks.

Don’t forget the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the silly fun of What’s New Scooby-Doo: Halloween Boos and Clues. Try The Worst Witch movie and series, about a young witch in training who keeps getting everything wrong. School-age kids will also enjoy The Halloween Tree, an animated version of a story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury about four kids who are trying to save the life of their friend. Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock on the original “Star Trek”) provides the voice of the mysterious resident of a haunted house, who explains the origins of Halloween and challenges them to think about how they can help their sick friend. The loyalty and courage of the kids is very touching.

Debbie Reynolds plays a witch who takes her grandchildren on a Halloween adventure in the Disney Channel classic in Halloweentown.  Recent favorites include The House with a Clock in Its Walls, The Curse of Bridge Hollow, and Goosebumps.

Older children will appreciate The Witches, based on the popular book by Roald Dahl ((the original with Anjelica Huston, not the remake with Anne Hathaway) and Hocus Pocusand the new sequel, with children and teens battling three witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. And of course there is the deliciously ghoulish live-action double feature Addams Family and Addams Family Values based on the cartoons by Charles Addams. Episodes of the classic old television show are online and  there are now two animated films for younger kids. The second is better than the first.  The new Munsters from Rob Zombie is not good, but the original TV series episodes are still fun.

Beetlejuice is a classic, now even a Broadway musical. I’m fond of Beautiful Creatures, based on the best-selling YA novels about a witchy family in the American South.

ParaNorman and Monster House  are two wonderful movies that should become a  family Halloween tradition. Frankenweenie,  Igor, and the Hotel Transylvania series are also a lot of fun.

The Nightmare Before Christmas has gorgeous music from Danny Elfman and stunningly imaginative visuals from Tim Burton and Henry Selick in a story about a Halloween character who wonders what it would be like to be part of a happy holiday like Christmas. Selick’s Coraline, based on the book by Neil Gaiman, is wildly imaginative and I am looking forward to the Halloween release of his latest, “Wendell & Wild,” co-written with Jordan Peele, who lends his voice to the film with his longtime colleague Keegan-Michael Key.

And don’t forget old classics like The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. (horror/comedy treats) and the omnibus ghost story films Dead of Night and The House that Dripped Blood.

Looking for a romantic comedy for Halloween? Try Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, and Jack Lemmon in “Bell Book and Candle.”

Or Frederic March and Veronica Lake in “I Married a Witch.”

 

Happy Halloween!

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Holidays Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families
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