Cartoon critters are back in style this Christmas.
New animation has been scarce in the annual holiday TV harvest for the past few years, but this season there are a few fresh goodies. That furry crew from the days of cold launches things tonight with "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" (8 p.m. today, Fox, Channel 18).
There's always some trouble with this snow-business herd, and Manny the mammoth gets his tusks full of it when Sid wrecks his favorite decoration - the scraggly Christmas boulder. Then Manny's teen daughter wanders off to find Santa and he must go in pursuit.
By the end, they have set up the origins of Christmas trees, Santa's elves, the naughty-and-nice list and flying reindeer.
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Ray Romano, who voices Manny, said in a teleconference interview that the story is a bit far-fetched, but so was the pairing of mammoths and dinosaurs, which missed each other in real life by many millions of years.
As for Romano's personal favorite in the world of Christmas cartoons, it's "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
He's also a fan of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which is my No. 1, but he finds the Peanuts gang delights eternally.
"It's very nostalgic for me to see it, and it's still on now. It still holds up. My kids watched it when they were at that age and pretty soon my grandkids are going to watch it. Oh God, I'm old."
CBS delivers two new shows Friday. "Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas" (8 p.m., Channel 3) is the story of the bumbling pair from Hallmark greeting card fame who wind up as unintentional stowaways aboard the sleigh and get sideways in the time-travel physics Santa uses to make his deadline.
They get it straightened out in time for the next feature, "The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf's Story" (8:30 p.m., Channel 3). This one has a familiar message about the meaning of the holiday delivered through the adventure of elf Chippey, who is dispatched to teach a little boy what the season is all about.
Best of Friday night's offerings is probably "Jingle All the Way" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel), with its engaging soft-focus animation. It's the story of a homeless Husky pup trying to adopt a family while dodging the dog-catcher's net.
It's time to set your DVRs. Here are the highlights of the holidays:
"A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (8 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving feast is imperiled by the caterers, Snoopy and Woodstock, who make toast and popcorn as the main dish. With a bonus cartoon, "This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers."
"Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" (8 p.m. today, Fox, Channel 18): Christmas quest amid the glaciers.
"Happiness Is A Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown" (8:30 p.m., Fox, Channel 18): Peanuts gang tries to break Linus of the blanket habit.
"Radio City Holiday" (9 p.m., HGTV): Designer Thom Filicia transforms Radio City Music Hall's Grand Lobby and Grand Lounge into a holiday wonderland.
"Holiday Inc." (10 p.m., HGTV): Behind the scenes at decorating New York landmarks, including Macy's.
"Jingle All the Way" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): Sweet story of Jingle, a Husky pup, struggling to get a boy to adopt him.
"Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas" (8 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Pink kitty Hoops and green bunny Yoyo stow away on Santa's sleigh.
"Cool Tools: Holiday Blowout 2011" (8 p.m., DIY): Gifts for tool junkies.
"The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf's Story" (8:30 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Based on the children's book, elf Chippey is sent to help a boy find the magic of Christmas.
"Debbie Macomber's Trading Christmas" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): A widow flies to Boston to surprise her daughter at Christmas, only to find she's flown off with a new boyfriend. But mom finds a romance of her own.
"Holiday Block Party" (8 p.m., HGTV): Designers Antonio Ballatore, Meg Caswell and Tracey Porter team up to decorate.
"Holiday Engagement" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): Dumped by her fiancé and afraid of disappointing her overbearing mother, a woman hires an actor to pretend to be her boyfriend during the holidays. Stars Bonnie Somerville, Shelley Long, Jason Bridges and Haylie Duff.
"Desperately Seeking Santa" (8 p.m., ABC Family): Mall executive falls for Santa.
"Challenge: Christmas Classics" (8 p.m., Food Network): Cake designers bake with holiday themes.
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (8 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): Dr. Seuss's classic children's book narrated by Boris Karloff.
"Shrek the Halls" (8:30 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): Everyone tries to cheer up a grumpy Shrek at the holiday.
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (8 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Burl Ives narrates the story of the oddball reindeer.
"Christmas in Rockefeller Center" (8 p.m., NBC, Channel 36): Features Michael Bublé, Tony Bennett, Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Faith Hill, Carole King, Javier Colon and The Radio City Rockettes.
"Mickey's Christmas Carol" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Mickey plays Bob Cratchit, Uncle Scrooge plays Ebenezer.
"Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too" (6:30 p.m., ABC Family): Pooh and Piglet rush to get Christopher Robin's letter to Santa.
"The Santa Clause" (7 p.m., ABC Family): Tim Allen stars as a single dad drafted into Santahood.
"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (8 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): In this 1970 Rankin-Bass animation, Fred Astaire narrates the story of Kris Kringle (voiced by Mickey Rooney.)
"CMA Country Christmas" (9 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland hosts a special that features music from Lauren Alaina, Amy Grant, Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Scotty McCreery, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Brian Setzer, Sugarland and Keith Urban. Vince Gill sings with Miss Piggy.
"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (8 p.m., ABC Family): Jim Carey's live-action adaptation.
"It's a Wonderful Life" (8 p.m., NBC, Channel 36): Angel shows a suicidal man, played by Jimmy Stewart, why life matters in this 1946 classic.
"A Princess for Christmas" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): A woman winds up in a European castle with her orphaned niece and nephew for the holidays. Stars Sir Roger Moore, Katie McGrath.
"The Nightmare Before Christmas" (midnight, ABC Family): Jack Skellington, Halloweentown's Pumpkin King, becomes fascinated with something called "Christmas."
"Heart of Christmas" (7 p.m., GMC): Based on the story of an Illinois town that had an early Christmas for a boy battling leukemia.
"Rudolph's Shiny New Year" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Rudolph must find the runaway Baby New Year.
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys" (7 p.m., ABC Family): Evil Toy Taker steals Santa's toys.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" (8 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): Peanuts gang celebrates the holiday with a scraggly tree.
"25 Most Heartwarming Holiday TV Moments" (8 p.m., TV Guide Channel): Scenes from specials.
"Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice" (8:30 p.m., ABC, Channel 9): Kid hacks into North Pole computer.
"The Polar Express" (8:30 p.m., ABC Family): Tom Hanks narrates the children's classic story.
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Joel Grey narrates Clement Moore's poem.
"A Michael Bublé Christmas" (8 p.m., NBC, Channel 36): Michael Bublé sings holiday songs.
"Home Alone 2" (8:30 p.m., ABC Family): Lost child finds crooks are planning a toy store heist.
"A Very Pink Christmas" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Pink Panther gets in competition with Big Nose to sell trees.
"Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale" (8 p.m., ABC Family): Mouse family finds shelter on Christmas Eve.
"Jack Frost" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Jack Frost becomes human.
"Frosty's Winter Wonderland" (7 p.m., ABC Family): Jack Frost tries to ruin Frosty's wedding.
"Cranberry Christmas" (7:30 p.m., ABC Family): Mr. Whiskers fights Cyrus Grape for local skating bog.
"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (8 p.m., ABC Family): Fred Astaire narrates the story of Kris Kringle, voiced by Mickey Rooney.
"Year Without a Santa Claus" (9 p.m., ABC Family): Santa says he won't do it; Mrs. Claus steps in.
"A Miser Brothers' Christmas" (10 p.m., ABC Family): Santa throws out his back, which threatens Christmas.
"Frosty the Snowman" (8 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Magic hat enlivens a snowman, narrated by Jimmy Durante.
"Frosty Returns" (8:30 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): And he's back! Jonathan Winters narrates; John Goodman is voice of Frosty.
"Yes, Virginia" (9 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Famous editorial comes to life in animated special with voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Alfred Molina.
"Snow" (7:30 a.m., ABC Family): Tom Cavanagh plays Santa's son, who is taking over the business.
"Snow 2: Brain Freeze" (9:30 a.m., ABC Family): Santa's son forgets who he is just before Christmas.
"Jack Frost" (4 p.m., ABC Family): Michael Keaton plays a man too busy for his son who dies and is reincarnated as a snowman.
"Annie Claus Is Coming to Town" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): Santa's daughter takes off for Los Angeles at Christmas to find romance and befriends a struggling toy-shop owner.
"Snowmageddon" (9 p.m., Syfy): Mystical snow globe makes bad things happen when shaken.
"Flight Before Christmas" (9 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Animated story of reindeer tryouts.
"Snow Globe" (Noon, ABC Family): Snow globe transports girl to an idyllic Christmas.
"Santa Baby" (2 p.m., ABC Family): Jenny McCarthy plays a driven executive whose father is Santa.
"Holiday in Handcuffs" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez in tale of a woman who kidnaps a man for Christmas so she'll have a boyfriend to show her parents.
"Chuckmas" (8 p.m., Cooking Channel): Chef Chuck Hughes hosts Christmas dinner for his family of amateur critics.
"White House Christmas" (8 p.m., HGTV): Designer Genevieve Gorder examines the mansion's holiday decor.
"12 Dates of Christmas" (8 p.m., ABC Family): Amy Smart and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in the story of a woman who relives a Christmas Eve date, "Groundhog Day" style.
"A Flintstone Christmas: (6 p.m., ABC Family): Fred steps in as Santa.
"Hollywood Christmas Parade" (6 p.m., Hallmark Channel): Marie Osmond hosts the Southern California parade.
"Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special" (6:30 p.m., ABC Family): Po faces a conflict as host of the Winter Feast.
"The Christmas Pageant" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): Hot-tempered Broadway director gets fired, winds up running a small-town Christmas pageant. Stars Melissa Gilbert.
"Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with David Archuleta and Michael York" (8 p.m., PBS, Channel 58): Holiday favorites, including "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World."
"George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" (8 p.m., PBS, Channel 58): New York City Ballet live.
"A Chipmunk Christmas" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Alvin gives his harmonica to a sick boy.
"Miracle on 34th Street" (8 p.m., AMC): A court must decide if a Macy's Santa is the real deal.
"Mickey's Christmas Special" (6 p.m., ABC Family): Disney tales.
"Christmas in Washington" (8 p.m., TNT): Hosted by Conan O'Brien, a concert featuring Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and The Band Perry.
"Christmas Returns to Canaan" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): In this sequel to 2009's "Christmas in Canaan," a father falls for his son's doctor. Stars Billy Ray Cyrus.
"Story of Santa Claus" (9 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Musical special featuring voices of Edward Asner, Betty White and Tim Curry.
"Christmas Magic" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): A rookie angel helps a struggling restaurateur.
"Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation" (6 p.m., ABC Family Channel): Phineas and Ferb build a rest stop for Santa.
"SNL: A Very Gilly Christmas" (9 p.m., NBC, Channel 36): Holiday sketches from "Saturday Night Live."
"Deck the Halls" (9 p.m., TNT): Mary Higgins Clark mystery brings detectives together at the holiday.
"A Home for the Holidays" (8 p.m., CBS, Channel 3): Musical performances and adoption stories.
"All Out American Christmas" (1 p.m., HGTV): Survey of lavishly decorated neighborhoods across the country, including Invershiel Court in Mint Hill.
"Olive, the Other Reindeer" (8 p.m., CW, Channel 46): A dog steps in when a reindeer is hurt.
"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (9 p.m., CW, Channel 46): A child sets out to find his grandmother and show that Santa exists.
"A Christmas Story" (8 p.m., TBS): 24-hour marathon of the Jean Shepherd story about Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB gun.
"Mass at St. Peter's" (11:30 p.m., NBC, Channel 36): Christmas Eve Mass from Rome.