Christmas Comes But Once a Year

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Christmas Comes But Once a Year
Directed byDave Fleischer
Produced byMax Fleischer
StarringMae Questel (Orphans-uncredited)
Jack Mercer (Grampy-uncredited)
Music bySammy Timberg
Bob Rothberg
Tot Seymour
Animation bySeymour Kneitel
William Henning
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
December 4, 1936
Running time
8 mins

Christmas Comes But Once a Year is a 1936 animated short produced by Fleischer Studios and released on December 4, 1936 by Paramount Pictures. It is part of the Color Classics series.


Christmas Comes But Once a Year - The Film

The short begins in an orphanage, where the orphans are all asleep in the dormitory, awaiting Christmas morning. Just then, the clock chimes, a puppy in the place of the cuckoo jumps out, then slides down a ramp and licks on one of the orphans. The first orphan to wake shouts to the others, "Merry Christmas, everybody!" They all jump out of bed and make their way to the hall, singing and dancing to the title song where they grab the toys from their stockings, and get ready to play with them. However, they discover the terrible truth that the toys are old, worn and already broken when they completely fall apart when played with. The children are traumatized and burst into tears over losing them and having no other Christmas presents.

Meanwhile, Professor Grampy is out riding through the snow in his outboard motor-driven sleigh, singing the title song to himself. He soon hears crying as he's passing the orphanage, so he parks the sleigh, runs to the door and peeps through the window to see the orphans wailing and tearfully heading back to their bedroom. Grampy feels distressed for them and starts to think of a way to give the orphans a better Christmas. He puts on his "thinking cap" and shortly, the lightbulb on the cap blinks, meaning he has an idea. He sneaks in through the kitchen window and starts making new toys out of household appliances, furniture, and other kitchen paraphernalia (a washboard, a roller shade, the works of an old alarm clock, etc.)

While the orphans are still crying in the dormitory, Grampy dresses up as Santa Claus (with bent stovepipes as the boots, a red table cloth as the jacket, a pillow for the weight, a strop as the belt, a picture frame as the buckle and a red purse as the hat), grabs a dinner bell, and surprises the orphans by ringing the bell and shouting, "Merry Christmas, everybody!" The orphans brighten up instantly, stop crying, and all rush out excitedly to play with their new toys.

Grampy completes the scene by making a Christmas tree out of green umbrellas. He places it on top of a phonograph turntable, decorates it, gathers all the orphans together and they all sing the title song one last time. As they sing, a giant 1936 Christmas Seal stamp appears on the screen, showing Santa Claus and a "Holiday Greetings" message.


The orphans were all animated based on a template of one of them, whose toy soldier falls through the sock. The short was directed by Dave Fleischer, it starred Jack Mercer as the voice of Grampy; it was Grampy's only appearance in which Betty Boop did not appear.

Along with many of the other Color Classics, Christmas Comes But Once a Year is today in the public domain. On various video copies of the film, it is released with Hector's Hectic Life,[1] and a few other productions by Famous Studios, including Snow Foolin'.[2] Certain prints also contain Jack Frost,[3] a 1934 cartoon produced by Ub Iwerks and released through Celebrity Productions.

The film's title song would be slightly rewritten the following year for the New Years-themed Popeye the Sailor cartoon "Let's Celebrake" where it was sung by Popeye and Bluto at the beginning.


Christmas comes but once a year
Now it's here, now it's here
Bringing lots of joy and cheer
Tra la la la la

You and me and he and she
And we are glad because
Why because, because, because
There is a Santa Claus

Christmas comes but once a year
Now it's here, now it's here
Bringing lots of joy and cheer
Tra la la la la


  1. ^ "Hector's Hectic Life (1948)".
  2. ^ "Snow Foolin' (1949)".
  3. ^ "Jack Frost (1934)".

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