The Christmas Dream or in Czech, Vánoční sen, is a Czechoslovakian animated stop-motion short film from 1945 created by Karel Zeman and Bořivoj Zeman, also known as the Zeman Brothers.
This wonderful short film was Karel Zeman’s first experiment in combining live-action footage with stop-motion animation, a process he continued to explore in his later feature films, beginning with Journey to the Beginning of Time (Cesta do pravěku, 1955), The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (Vynález zkázy, 1958) and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil, 1961).
Hermína Týrlová, the pioneering animator, also reportedly participated in the production.
The film received wonderful reception when it was released. In their history of Eastern European films, Mira Liehm and Antonín J. Liehm called A Christmas Dream “a classic of its genre.”
Scott MacGillivray, in a review of the Castle Films version, wrote that “the Zemans’ stop-motion effects are truly extraordinary.”
Le Parisien called the film “magical” and rated it four stars out of a possible four.
The plot is simple and yet perfect for the Christmas season.
Under the family Christmas tree, a young girl finds she has been given a collection of new toys. Happily taking them in her arms, she tosses aside her old rag doll.
That night, the girl dreams that the rag doll, abandoned on the floor, comes silently to life to entertain her. The rag doll dances across a piano and skates across a table.
The new toys, also coming to life, join the antics. The rag doll, turning on an electric fan, is blown about and nearly knocks over a vase as it attempts to avoid falling off the table. The girl, getting out of bed, saves the vase and takes the doll in her arms.
The girl wakes up to find her rag doll still on the floor.
The film was screened at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix International for best short fiction film.
Several versions of this film exist on YouTube. The original Czech soundtrack was purely instrumental with no dialog or sound effects and certainly no Santa Claus.
Unfortunately, the embedding is prohibited on the original Czech version, so you have to click here to view it.
We definitely prefer the ORIGINAL Czech version which is 10 minutes and 30 seconds and shows the original credits to the US version which is only 8 minutes and does not credit the creators of the film at all.
When MGM distributed the film to American theatres, they even replaced the charming score with an overwrought Hollywood concoction, inserted an American-style Santa Claus into the footage and gave the doll a pip squeaky voice. This Americanized version you can watch below.
Here are the original credits, to honor the creators of this lovely Christmas time treasure.
Do you have any old Czech Christmas favorites? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!