What is the spirit of Christmas? It's a question that theologians, philosophers and society in general has been grappling with for centuries. In the last few decades, creative execs at ad agencies have been added to that list as they have grappled to come up with the perfect Christmas advert.
It's a tricky balancing act to pull off. Adverts are usually meant to sell us something and yet commercialization sits uneasily with the traditional concept of what Christmas stands for. So Christmas ads have evolved over the years and become more sophisticated to the point now where they often simply sell us a feeling or an idea rather than a product.
The last two years have made the equation even trickier in terms of messaging. Covid has kept families apart and Christmas goodwill has been strained to a level that the Grinch himself would have been proud of. Should adverts ignore Covid or help bring us together?
But certainly nothing seems to harm the popularity of Christmas adverts (especially in the UK for some reason). Millions are still spent on creating lavish films as brands try to outdo each other and vie for the crown of 'Most talk-ed about ad'.
There is no doubt that there have been some brilliant Christmas adverts over the years and a lot of them use animation, as it's an important way to help create some special festive magic. Here we look at some of the best animated adverts for 2021. Which one is your favourite?
A Christmas Carrot
Aldi delivers a feelgood feast with their offering this year which brings back Kevin the Carrot. There's a smorgasbord of bad puns on display in the (very) loose adaptation of Charles Chicken's Christmas Carol in which Ebanana Scrooge gets his just desserts. Marcus Radishford (voiced by Marcus Rashford himself) makes a cameo and there's lashings of fun with the message "For you to be happy, you need to be kind".
Disney turns to the power of Pixar for their epic Christmas ad which is really more of a short story than a commercial. It tells the tale of a Stepdad who initially struggles to win over the approval of his new family over the christmas season… but inevitably wins hearts by the end. With lots of Disney characters sprinkled in the mix throughout, it's a lovely tale of the importance of family and acceptance. Pixar's skill in making characters come to life is as good as ever.
Barbour use everyone's favourite bear Paddington for their Christmas story. Paddington and Christmas seem to go perfectly together with familiar themes of family and acceptance. This is a warm, nostalgic film which pays respect to the original animated series from the 70s.
Perhaps this is the biggest tearjerker of them all this year and a big favourite. This story reminds us of the importance of holding onto the magic of childhood. We follow Mathilda, whose imaginary friend Iggy helps her navigate the difficulties of childhood. As Mathilda grows up, Iggy loses his importance in her life but Mathilda finally realizes the mistake she has made and it all ends well.
Tiptoe and the Flying Machine
Tiptoe is a blue reindeer who wants to join Santa's Sleigh team but there's one problem… she's scared of flying. With the help of her friends she overcomes her fears and achieves her goal by understanding the courage she needed was always in herself. Heartwarming and cute and perfect for anyone terrified of the prospect of flying somewhere this Christmas.
Percy Pig comes to life and takes a guided tour of a M&S store late at night. Voiced by Tom Holland and with an animated Dawn French as a Christmas Fairy, Percy discovers all the delicious goodies M&S have available for us this year. He doesn't get to see the Pigs in Blankets though...
Rebuild the World.
Lego unleash the power of the imagination with a wild and wonderful romp that includes dragons, space rockets and Stormtroopers. It's a slick story that remind us of the importance of playing together to overcome challenges and thinking outside the box to make our lives more colourful and wonderful. Amen to that.
And finally, we couldn't resist including a Czech animated Christmas ad in the list. Dedoles, Czechia's finest purveyor of colourful socks and underwear must always have a busy time at Christmas as who doesn't like having colourful socks and underwear under their tree? This year they offer us some cute hamsters stealing food from a family fridge and having a great time. Merry Christmas everyone!