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Ranking Each Streaming Service’s Yule Log

Ben Bowman

As the holidays draw near, there’s little more comforting than a roaring fire. Thankfully, most streaming services offer some kind of fireplace video to help strike a cozy mood. While there are wacky fireplace options to be had, we prefer the classics. Read on to see which fireplace is most worth your time, depending on your particular needs. Grab a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, turn out the lights, and let these excellent options lull you to sleep.

Disney+

Arendelle Castle Yule Log

Animated fire doesn’t have quite the kick of the real thing, even if it does sound appropriate. The fire takes up a disappointing amount of the frame, which is dwarfed by the size of the hearth. It’s nearly as preposterous as the one from “Citizen Kane.” It’s a good thing the people of Arendelle are used to the cold because this fire won’t do much to warm them up. Periodically, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven appear, which ruins the intended relaxing vibe of a fireplace. Grade: D

Arendelle Castle Yule Log - Cut Paper Edition

This one is beautiful, if a little eery. Paper cutout silhouettes of Anna, Elsa, Sven, Kristoff, and Olaf warm themselves by a purple-hued flame. Snow gently falls in the background. Some unfortunate high-pitched windchimes interrupt the sound of the fire. We give it points for the aesthetic attempt, but the barely moving purple flame leaves us colder than Elsa’s handshake. Grade: C

HBO Max

Calcifer Yule Log

Calcifer is a Fire Demon from “Howl's Moving Castle.” This yule log is filmed at a downward angle, so its eyes look up at you in an almost pleading way. It’s a bit unnerving, but it is lovely. The art of the fireplace itself is top-notch, as you would expect from the great Hayao Miyazaki. The sound of the fire is deep and authentic. Unfortunately, the sound changes as the camera angle switches, so this may be a difficult one to fall asleep to. Grade: C+

Rick and Morty: Yule Log

The fan-favorite animated characters sit comfortably in recliners while flipping channels on a TV above a fireplace. The impressive mise-en-scène features floor-to-ceiling windows flanking the fireplace as snow falls outside. Two well-trimmed trees frame the edges of the screen. A menorah sits on a mantle adorned with a garland. The fire sounds appropriately crackly with a decent “roar.” You will hear some ambient noise from the TV, which does reduce some of the relaxation factor. Periodically, a character clears his throat or belches, which is definitely a choice. At 34 minutes, this is a short log, as logs go. Grade: B

Impractical Jokers Yule Log

The sound of this fire is tinny and artificial - it sounds more like rain. There is a large portrait of a cast member being burned in a fireplace. The fire itself appears real, even if the logs do not. Maybe fans of the show will get a kick out of it, but it seems very low-effort, even for a digital fireplace. Grade: F

Netflix

Fireplace For Your Home (3 episodes)

Directed by the legendary George Ford (king of the fireplace genre), these classics put you right up close with a real fire. The fire takes up the entire screen and you watch real wood turn to cinder before your eyes.

1. Crackling Yule Log Fireplace

Ford’s one-hour masterpiece puts you up close, making the fire the true star of the show. Some have criticized the outdated choice to accompany the fireplace with chintzy keyboard instrumentals of Christmas favorites, but fans have rallied to Ford’s defense, calling the songs “well-meaning, if poorly executed.” Grade: B+

2. Crackling Fireplace

Episode 2 in the series is a searing, real-life portrait of fire in its natural habitat. Once again, the camera is incredibly close. But this time, Ford eschews the musical accompaniment for a brutal, raw fireplace experience. Keep your eyes on Log #1, which shocked audiences around the world with its sustained popping and crackling. This cinéma vérité fireplace experience sets the bar for all other fireplace films. The only way to top this is to get an actual log and light it on fire yourself. Grade: A+

3. Crackling Fireplace with Music

Episode 3 is universally reviled as a quick cash-in from the breakout success of “Crackling Fireplace.” A cloying Kenny G-like soprano saxophone pours musical syrup over an otherwise flawless meal. Hollywood insiders report “Crackling Fireplace with Music” was initially slapped with an NC-17 until the studio forced Ford to cut 47 minutes of explicit content. This shameless remake and its try-hard soundtrack are considered non-canon by most Ford-heads, and its bitter disappointment haunted Ford for the rest of his life. Grade: F

Fireplace For Your Home: Birchwood Edition

This film takes the unusual step of starting with just a flicker of flame, a daring and controversial move that has been rarely duplicated since. Although this film reports to have been directed by George Ford, and shares many characteristics of the Ford style, the low-flame opening has been called “too avant-garde” to represent a true Ford effort, and the flames roar much hotter than Ford would ever allow. This is more likely the work of George Ford’s longtime apprentice, a man known to fireplace aficionados only as “Ford’s longtime apprentice.” Still, we applaud the hour-long runtime, the lack of grotesque musical accompaniment, and the unusual wood choice. It’s also available in 4K. Grade: A-

Fireplace For Your Home: Classic Edition

This fire, shot on the set of Ford’s earlier triumphs (a fireplace), features several stout logs, all of roughly the same dimension. Because of this unusual configuration of equals, without noticeable kindling, this fire has been called the “12 Angry Men” of fireplace films. Directed in 2015 by a man claiming to be George Ford, viewers are treated to an unpredictable, robust inferno. Again, lacking musical accompaniment, this fire is a joy to behold. Critics have noted that the bottom left log takes far too long to engulf, and its flame performance was frequently called “top-heavy” in reviews. It certainly feels like Ford, though we can never be sure. Grade: A

The Witcher: Fireplace

Netflix never lets a good opportunity go to waste, and fireplace season is a great time to promote one of your marquee series. Peer into a creepy cauldron as flames dance and ominous music plays. If you own any pelts or “Lord of the Rings”-era costume pieces, you would be advised to don them before sitting down to brood over this well-crafted blaze. Thanks to the cinematic score, it’s the perfect thing to watch with a friend from your LARP guild as you grimly plot how many Hot Pockets you will have for dinner. As a fireplace, it’s only average. As a backdrop for rolling 20-sided dice, it’s perfect. Grade: B

ESPN+

Jacksonville Jaguars Coverage

It’s not often you see an entire NFL franchise burn so hard for so long, but the Jags are masters at the craft. Whenever ESPN+ covers the team, it’s an ever-changing roaring bonfire. From the hiring of Urban Meyer to… everything Urban Meyer did, we’ve been treated to months of spectacular combustion on a national stage. Will it end in a blaze of glory or a mere fizzle? A big clue will come when the team faces the near-equally putrid Jets this Sunday on CBS. Grade: B+

Peacock

‘The Croods: A New Age’ Yule Log

An enormous computer-animated tiger purrs as it sleeps way too close to a fire. While that animation is quite good, the fire itself is lacking. Its a clear simulation, and does not include real flames. The soundtrack does include outdoor night sounds of crickets and tree frogs, which is a nice switch. Near the edge of the screen, a large Christmas tree takes up one-third of the screen. Kids may get a kick out of it, but hardcore fireplace fans will want to look elsewhere. Grade: C

Paramount+

Paramount Mountain Holiday Campfire

Paramount+ chose not to put its fire on its service, so it’s technically disqualified here. But it did produce this fire for YouTube consumption. We love its soundtrack with outdoor mountain sounds and bird calls. You’re liable to fall asleep peacefully even if you listen with your eyes closed. The Paramount mountain sits just off-center on the other side of a mostly-unseen lake. We deduct points because the sun never sets over the course of its hour-long runtime, nor do the sticks in the fire break down. A true missed opportunity, but a unique entry nonetheless. Grade: C+

Final Rankings

  1. Crackling Fireplace (Netflix)
  2. Fireplace For Your Home: Classic Edition (Netflix)
  3. Fireplace For Your Home: Birchwood Edition (Netflix)
  4. Crackling Yule Log Fireplace (Netflix)
  5. Jaguars Coverage (ESPN+)
  6. The Witcher: Fireplace (Netflix)
  7. Rick and Morty: Yule Log (HBO Max)
  8. Calcifer Yule Log (HBO Max)
  9. Paramount Mountain Holiday Campfire (Paramount+ via YouTube)
  10. Arendelle Castle Yule Log - Cut Paper Edition (Disney+)
  11. The Croods: A New Age Yule Log (Peacock)
  12. Arendelle Castle Yule Log (Disney+)
  13. Crackling Fireplace with Music (Netflix)
  14. Impractical Jokers Yule Log (HBO Max)

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