Disney+ will bring a Christmas cult classic to their platform just in time for the holiday season. Ernest Saves Christmas, which stars Toy Story franchise actor Jim Varney in the iconic comedy role of Ernest P. Worrell, is set to arrive on Disney+ on Friday, November 26. The movie was the second theatrical feature to center on the character, released in 1988 after the 1987 hit Ernest Goes to Camp. Varney originated the character in 1980, first in a number of regional TV commercials. He was so popular, he became a staple in ads, and later on TV and in film.
In Ernest Saves Christmas, Santa Claus (Douglas Seale) is looking for his successor, and hapless taxi driver Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) is just the man to help him out. Traveling to Florida to pass his mantle on to children's show host Joe Carruthers (Oliver Clark), Santa gets into unexpected trouble, and it's up to Ernest, along with a teen girl named Harmony (Noelle Parker), to assist Saint Nick with his important mission, or the future of Christmas could be in jeopardy.
Ernest was a bit like Bill and Ted; a good-natured buffoon, he often found himself in situations that were theoretically far too complex or dangerous for him, but always made it through with a smile and a joke.
He first became more than an ad man in Hey Vern, It's Ernest, a Saturday morning sketch comedy show for which Varney won a Daytime Emmy. He would appear in a total of nine Ernest feature films between 1987 and 1998, with the other theatrical outings being 1990's Ernest Goes to Jail, 1991's Ernest Scared Stupid, and 1993's Ernest Rides Again. After that, the series went direct-to-video with Ernest Goes to School (1994), Slam Dunk Ernest (1995), Ernest Goes to Africa (1997), and Ernest in the Army (1998). None of them did especially well with critics, and obviously the box office eventually got low enough that they didn't merit theatrical releases anymore, but the movies were made so inexpensively that they continued to be moneymakers right up until Varney stopped making them. He passed away in 2000, while Ernest movies were in development that involved a voodoo curse, a trip to space, or (according to disputed rumors) Ernest the Pirate. The character also appeared in several TV specials over the years, many of which are available on DVD and some of which can be found on YouTube.