The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, on ABC
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Caution: partial spoilers.
This came out in 1981, but I don't think I'd ever heard of it until 2016, when I bought a DVD set of ten Christmas specials, including this one. And, um... I'd say there's a pretty good reason I'd never heard of it. Because it is just weird. And it feels more like a St. Patrick's Day special than a Christmas one.
Anyway, there's this Irish sailing ship, the Belle of Erin, and... I guess the captain spots a pine tree growing on a nearby mysterious island. Since it's Christmas Eve, he orders a cabin boy named Dinty Doyle to go dig up the tree and bring it back to use as a Christmas tree. While Dinty's doing that, he sees some leprechauns watching him. They don't want him to dig up the tree, but they don't tell him that until it's too late. When the tree is removed from the ground, a banshee is set loose. She starts a storm, which I guess blows Dinty's ship away. But soon the storm ends, and he sees a rainbow, which leads him to a cave full of gold. There he meets a leprechaun named Blarney Kilakilarney. Actually, before any of this happened, at the very start of the special Blarney came out of a house which I guess was on the Irish mainland, and started telling viewers this story that we're now watching, which I guess had happened years earlier. But when Dinty meets him in the story, Blarney starts telling him a story of something that had happened even earlier than that, all about a banshee called Old Mag the Hag. According to Blarney, banshees can never stop crying, and if they don't get gold by Christmas morning each year, they'll turn into tears, themselves, forever. And the gold has to be freely given, or it doesn't work. So of course the banshees have to try to trick people into giving them gold, which they do by magically transforming themselves. In the end, Blarney and the lord of the leprechauns (apparently St. Patrick) tricked Old Mag, and buried her under a magical pine tree.
The whole time Blarney is telling Dinty all this, we also see Old Mag waiting for Blarney to drink some tea she had put a potion into, to make him want to give away his gold. And it's only when Blarney gets to the end of his story that Dinty mentions he had unwittingly released a banshee shortly before meeting Blarney, and that it must be the same one from the story. This really upset Blarney, which was jarring to me, because until then I hadn't realized he was unaware of what Dinty had done. But... I guess it made sense. He was sealed away in his cave, until Dinty discovered it. Actually, part of his story was how he had been separated from his wife and the rest of the clan ever since the incident with Old Mag however long ago that was. But I don't really want to get into all that. In fact... I don't want to reveal any of what happens after Blarney's story ends, and Mag makes her moves.
I suppose I should say this is a musical, but I thought the songs were all forgettable, except "Christmas in Killarney," which kind of can't help but stand out because it was already a well-known song long before this special was made. I also want to say I kind of thought it was unfair that Old Mag was presented as a villain just because she was doing what she had to do in order to remain alive. Seems to me like the leprechauns (and Dinty) are pretty horrible for being all too happy to just let her die rather than give her any gold. What the hell, man? Oh, and I don't think there was an end to the original framing device of Blarney in the present, which is odd, but it's by far the least odd thing about the special. Seriously, the whole thing was just... weird. (And not even a particularly fun or trippy kind of weird.)
stop-motion specials: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer *
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town *
The Year Without a Santa Claus *
Rudolph's Shiny New Year *
Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey * Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July * Pinocchio's Christmas * The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold * The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
animated specials: Frosty the Snowman * 'Twas the Night Before Christmas * Frosty's Winter Wonderland * The Hobbit * The Stingiest Man in Town
TV series: The New Adventures of Pinocchio * Tales of the Wizard of Oz * ThunderCats * SilverHawks
Movies: Mad Monster Party? * The Flight of Dragons * The Last Unicorn