If you’re looking for family-friendly Christmas-themed animal movies other than “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” consider spending the holidays with a magical matchmaking Golden Lab, a serendipitous stray cat, two curious bear cubs, a lost reindeer, a wish-making calf and a dog named Christmas.
There are a lot of movies about creatures wanting to meet Santa or be a reindeer (or save Christmas), but here are the ones Moviepaws recommends:
“The Nine Lives of Christmas” (2014)
This charming Hallmark Channel movie is a cut above the usual holiday fare. It stars Brandon Routh as fireman Zachary, who finds a stray cat he can’t seem to get rid of. He meets a veterinary student Merilee (Kimberley Sustad) who not only offers great tips on cat care, but is clearly much better for him than his snobby girlfriend, who wants him to get rid of the cat. It’s a nice, unforced romance that — like Zach’s cat — is a keeper. Will win over even the most cynical cat-lover.
“Get Santa” (2014)
Steve Anderson (Rafe Spall), who’s newly released from prison, is determined to stay on the straight and narrow so he can spend time with his son. Helping a stranded Saint Nick (Jim Broadbent) get out of prison, fix his sleigh and find his reindeer is not part of his plans, but now it’s up to them to help save Christmas. (Yes, it’s very similar to “Christmas Chronicles,” but this predates that movie by four years.) A fresh, funny take on a familiar story helped by a terrific cast. If you don’t mind that some of the laughs rely on reindeer farts and poop, this is a fun family movie with Dasher the reindeer playing a key role.
“A Dog Named Christmas” (2009)
In this moving Hallmark holiday movie, developmentally delayed 20-year-old Todd (Noel Fisher) adopts a dog from a local shelter — but just for the holidays, as his stern father (Bruce Greenwood) insists. On December 26, the dog, which Todd names Christmas, is supposed to go back to the shelter. Of course, Todd and Christmas have already bonded. It takes the entire movie for dad to relent, but it’s a very sweet moment when he does. There’s also a little dog nativity scene when a pregnant dachshund needs a place to give birth on Christmas Eve.
“A Golden Christmas” (2009)
While less dog-centric and heart-warming than “A Dog Named Christmas,” a Golden Retriever is key to this Christmas romance in which childhood friends realize that they’re meant to be together as adults. Jessica (Andrea Roth) comes home for the holidays for the first time since her husband died. She’s devastated to learn that her parents have sold their house to a local woodworker Michael (Nicholas Brendon). She does everything in her power to sabotage the sale, all the while wondering what happened to the boy she played with one summer that she knew only as “Han.” (She was “Leia.”) The stray dog, who showed up out of the blue at Michael’s, does her best to nudge the two together.
“Olive the Other Reindeer” (1999)
A Jack Russell terrier named Olive (voiced by Drew Barrymore) mishears “all of the other reindeer” as “Olive, the other reindeer,” and heads to the North Pole to report to Santa. This animated tale is based on the children’s book by Vivian Walsh and illustrated by J. Otto Seibold.
“Annabelle’s Wish” (1997)
Legend has it that on Christmas Eve, Santa grants the animals the ability to talk and also grants them one wish. Annabelle the calf wishes to be one of Santa’s team. But when she befriends the farmer’s kind son Billy, who cannot talk, she changes her wish to let Billy speak. The animation is not top-notch and the villains — a money-grubbing aunt and some local bullies — are more than usually cartoonish, but it’s still a sweet movie that little kids will love.
“Santa and the Three Bears” (1970)
Two adorable bear cubs learn about Christmas and Santa Claus from the friendly park ranger — bears and people can talk to each other just fine in this vintage cartoon — and decide to delay their hibernation to try to meet Santa. The third bear is their mother (voiced by “Flintstones” actress Jean Vander Pyl). If you love cute little bears and the 1970s style of animation, this is a must.