Saturday, 22 December 2018

The First Christmas Cartoon

What was the first animated Christmas cartoon? I’m not an expert on the subject, so about the best I can do is guess.

Selig released Doc Yak’s Christmas on December 26, 1913, in which he met up with Jolly Old St. Nick. It must have been a success for on Christmas Day the next year, the studio released Doc Yak and Santa Claus.

The Doc Yak series began on July 8, 1913 and petered out within a couple of years. The cartoons no longer exist. However, a publicity shot from the Santa Claus cartoon (right) was made available for publications, and I’ve spotted it in a couple of places.

Motography magazine of December 26, 1914 even reviewed the latter short. Doc Yak was generally a split reeler, that is it was on the same reel as another short. This time, though, it took up the full 1,000 feet of film.
Doc Yak and Santa Claus — Selig — December 25. — One of the most interesting, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable Christmas offerings that the Selig Company has ever released, is this full reel cartoon comedy by Sidney Smith. Doc Yak, the famous cartoon creation of the illustrator is seen writing a letter to Santa Claus, and later receiving the gift which Santa Claus brings him. In addition to all of the humor and originality for which the Selig Doc Yak pictures are famous, a Christmas touch is given this one, by adding a realistic snow storm scene during the greater part of its length. All exhibitors will, undoubtedly, mark this release A-1 on their booking sheets. N.G.C.
The Motion Picture News of the same date liked the cartoon, too.
"Doc Yak and Santa Claus." (Selig. Fri., December 25). — Sidney Smith, the Chicago Tribune's cartoonist, devotes a whole reel to the ridiculously funny escapades of Doc Yak and Santa Claus. Doc has an interesting scrap with Jack-in-the-Box which Santa and his reindeer have brought him by the approved chimney route. Very clever and exceptionally well done.
The Chicago Tribune’s Kitty Kelly also reviewed it in her December 24, 1914 Filmland column.
Doc Yak .... Himself
Santa Claus ... Himself
The Fairy ... Herself
For holiday amusement Sydney Smith and the Selig people have prepared a whole reel full of funny Doc Yakisms, appropriate to the occasion. There is Doc Yak, himself, having a fairy and a Santa Claus and a regular Christmas of the most exciting kind, and there is Santa Claus himself, and the cute little house he lives in and the shop where he keeps his supplies and his flying team of fleet reindeers, and there is likewise a fairy that appears and disappears and an animated jack-in-the-box and other Christmasy things galore.
Snow has been cleverly devised to descend and there is a charming silhouette reindeer effect in addition to the mirth-provoking facial agility of Doc Yak and his associates. There is the requisite “punch” that acts Doc Yak into the midst of a dramatic climax.
It is altogether a very fascinating thing, and funny as only an animated cartoon—one of the funniest things there is—and a Sydney Smith cartoon—one of the other funniest things there is—in conjunction—which means a double degree of funniness—could be.
Since we can’t link to non-existent animated cartoons, instead we’ll post the Doc Yak comic that appeared in the Tribune at Christmastime in 1914 (December 20th). Also below are Everett Lowry’s Mr. Bones, Penny Ross’ Mamma’s Angel Child and Rudolph Dirks’ Hans and Fritz from the same paper.


  1. Mr. Bones is also (though later) the name of a DC Comics character whose transparent (or invisible) flesh made him look like a skeleton (he also has a skin that contaminates, on contact, with a cyanide poison).

  2. Hans Christian Brando23 December 2018 at 08:08

    "The cartoons no longer exist." Sentences don't get much sadder than that.

    1. I hate to think how many silent cartoons are gone, considering some studios were releasing them once a week.

  3. Easy question to answer, Yowp. Most of them.