It's the most wonderful time of the year, with many stories inspired by imagination. Here are a few imaginative – and possibly magical – characters to share with your family this Christmas.
The Velveteen Rabbit (2023, Apple TV+)
“Imagine how love makes us real.” That’s the tagline for the newest version of the classic tale, The Velveteen Rabbit.
The story was first published in 1921, and since then, the beloved tale has been made into countless shows, audio presentations, and more. It’s the story of William, a 7-year-old boy who moves to a new town and a new house with his parents.
For his first Christmas in his new surroundings, he's given a stuffed velveteen rabbit. Not having any friends in this strange new place, William relies on Rabbit for his snuggles at bedtime and especially as a companion.
The new AppleTV+ version is a live-action film, but, whenever William and Rabbit go on adventures, the scenes are animated, showing the wonders of the young boy’s imagination.
They dig tunnels, escape a wolf, and enjoy all kinds of escapades … until William gets sick.
After he recovers, everything he wore or came in contact with while contagious has to be burned. That includes little Rabbit.
But magically, through the power of love, when Christmas comes around a year later, William gets an amazing surprise.
Harold and the Purple Crayon (2001, Prime Video)
In 1955, Crockett Johnson wrote a children’s book about a 4-year-old boy with an incredible imagination. This little fellow could go anywhere with the help of his purple crayon.
Harold was so popular that he inspired several more books, as well as a TV series. Not only did kids enjoy reading and watching Harold, but adults were also amused by the exploration and antics of this little guy.
Think about your own childhood and the adventures you would conjure up in your own mind. Were all these adventures only in Harold’s imagination, or was his purple crayon really magic? That’s something everyone must decide for him or herself.
With the new feature film about Harold and the Purple Crayon, tentatively scheduled for August 2024, audiences will once again be taken into the creative world of this little tyke.
Here’s the series’ theme song:
Mary Poppins (1964, Disney+ and Prime Video)
Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) not only looked after the British Banks children, she also helps them explore their own creativity, as well as bring some magic and fun to their somewhat dreary lives.
Along with chimney sweep Bert (Dick Van Dyke), the foursome traveled via a chalk drawing on the sidewalk into a magical and colorful world where they enjoy a carousel ride and the joys of a little country fair before returning to the reality of London.
They have a jolly holiday, indeed. Again, is this magic or imagination? In this case, it is probably magic. After all, we are talking about Mary Poppins.
In an article at Thomism.org, Mary Poppins is compared to the Virgin Mary in many aspects.
Though Our Lady perhaps didn't perform miracles during her earthly life, she most certainly did after her assumption into heaven. Poppins, too, performs miracles left and right. In fact, all the supernatural events that happen seem to be connected to her (an allusion perhaps to Our Lady being the ‘Mediatrix of All Blessings’).
A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002, Disney+) and The Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (2011, Disney+ and YouTube)
While we all know our stuffed animals don’t talk (although many of us do think they do), Christopher Robin explored many adventures with his plush pals in the stories by A.A. Milne – and mainly a silly old bear named Pooh.
Christopher’s adventures with his play pals are as real to him as anything. Children use their imaginations to be creative with inanimate objects like dolls and stuffed animals, and Christopher Robin is one of the best examples.
Of course, perhaps his imagination has nothing to do with his adventures. Perhaps, well, perhaps Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and the gang really did talk. Nah. That’s stretching it a bit – by my own imagination!
When discussing the connection between Christopher Robin and his beloved plush pals, an article in GodTube reminds us what the young boy said to his bear:
“You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you. I'll always be with you. I'll always be with you!
“We all have those days when we feel lost and alone, whether our loved ones are with us or far away. Just as Christopher Robin believes in Pooh, God believes in us. He gives us the strength to get through every day and would not give us something that we are not strong enough to handle.”
Along with the original books, Disney has been producing Winnie the Pooh animation for decades. It’s blessedly free of the “woke” content found in many Disney productions.
Since Christmas is coming, here’s a bit from the 2002 animated film A Very Merry Pooh Year.
If you don’t want to shell out for Disney+, the series The Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, launched in 2011, is available on YouTube. They’re also all gathered here.
Here’s one, in which the pals set out for the North Pole:
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1957 and 1965)
In 1965, the story of Cinderella was turned into a TV musical, starring Lesley Ann Warren in one of her first roles. It was a remake of a live version from 1957, starring Julie Andrews.
In this musical version, created by Broadway titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Cinderella – the mistreated stepdaughter who married a prince – sits alone in the corner of her tiny room and dreams she was other places.
In the lyrics of “In My Own Little Corner,” Cinderella uses her imagination to take her away from the strife of her life.
After all, with a stepmother and stepsisters like hers, anything to help alleviate the dire situation in which she lived was welcome. Don’t we all do the same thing as Cinderella?
And, in a neat bit of history, here’s Julie Andrews herself introducing the 1957 version – actually a rehearsal of the broadcast captured by kinescope (using a camera to record what’s happening on a TV monitor).
Making the Bible Come Alive
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that “imagination is more important than knowledge”. Don’t we all use our imaginations when we read a book? And that includes the Bible.
While reading, our imaginations display the stories in our minds, and we relate more closely to the people and places by visualizing them. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, even developed Ignatian Meditation, that encouraged readers to mentally transport themselves inside a Bible story.
Family Theater Productions explored it in an episode of the YouTube series Catholic Central:
That, simply put, is imagination. And quite frankly, our imaginations are God-given.
Image: Velveteen Rabbit (voiced by Alex Lawther) in "The Velveteen Rabbit," now streaming on Apple TV+.