‘Tis the season! It’s magic, love, warmth, and remembering what’s important. We light fires, dress trees, exchange gifts, sing songs, and eat way too many yummy things. And we revel in storytelling. Sometimes in songs or books, sometimes in movies or shows, and sometimes in ads and videos. Christmas voice over ads and holiday specials are something a little different, a bit more exceptional. It wraps up all those feelings and gives them a holiday spin.
In my humble opinion, Narration makes the Christmas movie special or ad what it is. It’s nostalgia and escapism, the modern take on the long-time tradition of storytelling. Can anything beat the gentle turning of the page as a warm voice tucks us into a tale, introducing a new and magical world? I should think not.
Five Great Christmas Voice Over Ads, Specials, and Movies
Every year I like to look back on some of the best and most impactful holiday voice overs. It’s a new Christmas tradition. Not only because it’s fun to dip into some nostalgia but also to keep up to date with trends. After all ‘You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” Here’s a look into how the voice over in popular Christmas ads, TV specials, and movies delighted and filled us with holiday cheer. From Percy the Pig to the Grinch, these are some of the greatest voices who stole the show at Christmas!
#1. Aldi’s Christmas Launch Ad
Last year’s Kevin the Carrot and his take on a Christmas Carol racked up an impressive five million views. So for the sixth year running, Aldi brought back Kevin the Carrot (if briefly) for our Christmas enjoyment. Marcus Rashford stars as the radish, Marcus Radishford wordplay, we love it. As a laudable mashup, he has teamed up with Aldi to provide over 1.8 million meals to children over Christmas, which is why this Christmas message gets much deserved top billing on this list.
While the fruit and veg characters are endearing, the voice over narration is the winner for me. The tale is told through the kindly voice over of Santa, Jim Broadbent, interjecting the sound of an open book and a well-told story, delivering something more than just another ad. The definitive winner of the Christmas ad competition, the music, animation, voice over and message are all on point.
#2. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Okay, there are a lot of iterations of this Dr. Seuss-inspired masterpiece, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Recently Pharrell Williams took on the role of the narrator while Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch. We all have our personal favorites so I won’t challenge anyone’s worldview by listing my own. (It’s the 1966 version, obvie!)
The Grinch has it all. A classic snow-topped vista, a cynic with a heart two sizes too small, sympathy and morals, fairy lights, and tinsel. It’s excellent Christmas fodder. You can watch the animation or live-action, read the book or listen to it depending on preference. If you don’t like one, you are sure to like another. The Grinch will live on, likely with many more sequels, prequels, and reboots to come.
Here’s a Christmas Grinch line-up to while away a lazy day:
- 1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas was narrated by the great Boris Karloff. He famously elicited sympathy and horror with his 1930’s role as the of Frankenstein monster. The 1966 Grinch was largely dismissed and criticized when first released. Today it has a 100% rating on rotten tomatoes (what a fête!)
- 2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas, narrated by Anthony Hopkins, this modern reboot went on to be the second highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time. The highest is Home Alone. It boasts a pretty lackluster rotten tomatoes review of 49% but is still a holiday favorite among many.
- 2018 The Grinch is narrated by Pharrell Williams, in a divergence from the trend of casting noted horror icons in the role of narrator. The latest iteration of the classic has a slightly higher rating of 59%. Time will only tell if this movie will be added to the Christmas repertoire.
M&S Percy Pig Ad (or Advert as They Say in the UK)
I’ll admit, I didn’t fully register that Marks & Spencer’s Percy pig was supposed to be a stuffed toy. I thought we were dealing with a Charlotte web situation. Can you blame me? Percy’s voiced by Tom Holland, Spider-Man. For all I knew this was going to be in-universe canon. Okay, joking aside, Percy Pig is an iconic mascot for M&S, even described as a national treasure (in the UK). Including him in their Christmas ads combines all that is wonderful about the season into one neat little package.
M&S even offers up Percy Pig merch, from baubles to cushions, or your very own Percy Pig soft toy. This excited, and newly alive pig, runs through the store accompanied by a ‘tiny fairy lady,’ discovering all the delicious food and the joys of Christmas. He’s “never seen anything so beautiful in all [his] 23 seconds of life.” That’ll do pig, that’ll do.
#4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Envisioned initially as a holiday special, The Nightmare Before Christmas is such a Christmas (and Halloween) classic that the season isn’t complete without an annual viewing. Interestingly the narrator of the famous movie is a subject of some contention. Patrick Stewart had voiced the original longer, opening, and closing narration. It was later replaced by Ed Ivory. The film’s composer, Danny Elfman, kept Stewart’s original recording in the soundtrack because he liked it.
The voice work seems to have been an ongoing issue. Danny Elfman’s voice work was deemed below standard, and Chris Sarandon came in to re-record some scenes. We may never know whether this was a sign of more significant problems or the filmmaker’s understanding of the importance of good voice work. I hope the latter, although it was reported that it did result in some hurt feelings between Burton and Elfman. And Elfman declined to score Burton’s next movie. They did work together again, so all’s well that ends well.
#5. The Princess Bride
Now, the Princess Bride might not be some people’s idea of a classic holiday movie, but it, is in fact, a Christmas Movie. Some movies are hidden gems, and this is one of them. Besides, who needs an excuse to re-watch The Princess Bride? Exactly.
The grandson is given the S. Morgenstern-penned book for Christmas, and there are all the typical Christmas trappings. There’s snow outside the window, the twinkling of lights, and even a Santa in the background. And then there are all the Christmas feels that come with grandpa reading a story. The experience of passing down tradition, whether it’s reading the Princess Bride or watching it as a family, nothing bonds the generations like sharing a beloved story.
#6. Bridget Jones Diary
So I got to the end of this post and realized that there isn’t one female narrator represented in this list. There isn’t even really a lead female voice over artist. That is not good. So I racked my brains and came up with nothing. But if Steven E de Souza can confirm that Die Hard is a Christmas movie that opens the floodgates, doesn’t it? So I reached even further and decided that Bridget Jones Diary would. It’s another hidden Christmas Gem.
It has snow, ‘jumpers’ (aka ‘sweaters’ this side of the pond) with reindeers on them, and hard lessons well learned. It is narrated by Renée Zellweger who does a ‘bang up’ British accent. Perfectly delivering dry, self-deprecating humor, she lets us crawl into her head during a season that can be lonely, and little be hard.
There’s Room for More Christmas Voice Over
It’s a bit disheartening that my one female narrator movie is essentially a romance, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in case you didn’t know. Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying there aren’t any other more traditional Christmas ads or movies narrated by women. I just can’t think of any, and neither can google, so there certainly aren’t enough. Maybe next year.