Ziggy’s Gift originally aired on December 1, 1982. It is an ’80s holiday TV special which I remember very well, but has sadly seemed to have gone by the wayside for many others. Hopefully you remember it too and might give it another chance (or watch it for the first time) after reading this.
Ziggy was created by Tom Wilson and first appeared in the 1968 book collection When You’re Not Around (published by American Greetings). The newspaper comic strip began in June 1971 and, in 1987, was taken over by his son, Tom Wilson II. In the comics, the character Ziggy tends to deal with the endless stream of misfortunes which befall him on a daily basis. It never really stood out to me when I was a kid, but the fact that Ziggy does not wear pants seems at least as a tad bit disturbing now. Poor guy doesn’t get any hair, shoes or pants. At least in the Christmas special he gets to wear some boots when walking around in the snow. The little guy usually doesn’t have any friends either except for his pets.
Ziggy’s Gift was directed by Richard Williams (who went on to become the animation director for 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit). It was animated by Eric Goldberg (who went on to become a lead animator for Disney films like 1992’s Aladdin all the way to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph and 2016’s Moana) and Tom Sito (who went on to be named as one of the “100 Most Important People in Animation”). With that incredible talent involved, it is not surprising that Ziggy’s Gift is a comparative artistic masterpiece. To this effect, the special consists of more than 30,000 drawings which were done directly onto cels, not photocopied like most other animated films. The special deservingly won an Emmy in 1983 for Outstanding Animated Program. The special contains music by Harry Nilsson including the song “Give, Love, Joy”.
In his first and only television special, Ziggy gets a job to be a street Santa on Christmas Eve from a crooked boss, but the magic of the season allows the lovable loser to do more good than anyone expects demonstrating the true spirit of giving and goodwill. With a Charlie Chaplin-like charm, although Ziggy speaks in the comic strip, he does not speak at all in this special. I read in a review a great description of the special: “It’s heartwarming without being sappy, witty without being jaded, and laugh-out-loud funny without being crude.” Right here you can watch the entire special Ziggy’s Gift…
Ziggy’s Gift originally aired on ABC in 1982 and was part of the holiday line-up for at least a few years after that. As an interesting side note, the special was actually sponsored by Atari (the same year they brought the E.T. video game to market). It really is a shame that Ziggy’s Gift stopped being shown annually and has more or less been forgotten by the more recent generation (though it is available to purchase on DVD). I still watch it every year and it is one of my favorite Christmas specials. And it is just a coincidence that it came from the awesome decade of the ’80s.