Christmas traditions come and go.

Some, like plum pudding and hideous sweaters, are gladly forgotten. Others, even the most beloved, simple fade away though time and technology.

For Chicagoland and northern Indiana, a group of adored children’s Christmas characters have been sadly swept away by today’s traditions, but hopefully will make a return…with the help of YouTube and broadband Internet.

Several times each Christmas season starting in the 1950s, the Chicago television station WGN broadcast a popular trio of stop-motion animal cartoons: “Hardrock, Coco and Joe”, “Suzy Snowflake” and “Frosty the Snowman”. These cartoons were often hosted by the long-running WGN character Bozo the Clown.

“Hardrock, Coco and Joe – The Three Little Dwarves” 

The three dwarves Hardrock, Coco and Joe also worked as Santa’s helpers (dwarves, NOT elves). Hardrock drove Santa’s sleigh while Coco helped navigate. Joe, the smallest of the three, did little more than provide a little comic relief with his ridiculously deep voice.

Although Hardrock, Coco and Joe’s entire show lasted only a few minutes, it had a lasting cultural footprint. Famed crooner Gene Autry covered the special’s song in a comic parody. Modern television shows like Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and TV Funhouse also referenced the 1951 cartoon.