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This Month In YesterYear History - December

Here's your monthly refresher on big pop culture moments from 20 (2003), 25 (1998), and 30 (1993) years ago!   

Below, you'll find a little time capsule of what was significant in our lives back then.  Hopefully, as you read these brief synopses of the past, you'll begin to remember the who, when, and where of your memories from those years.  That's why I created this site, after all! 


2003:  "Return of the King," the third installment of the Lord of the Rings series, premiers in New Zealand on the 1st.  Hit reality series "The Simple Life" launched Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie into stardom on December 2.  On the 10th, 50 Cent and Shania Twain won Best Artists at the 14th annual Billboard Music Awards.  Paul Martin became Prime Minister of Canada on December 12.  On December 14, the United States announced that Saddam Hussein had been captured during Operation Red Dawn the night before.  "Return of the King" debuts in the States, making $72 million opening weekend and eventually becoming the 2nd film to gross over $1 billion.  On the 22nd, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit California.  Isiah Thomas becomes the President of Basketball Operations of The New York Knicks on the 22nd.  On the 25th, Beagle-2, a probe released from the Mars Express Spacecraft, disappears from earth contact shortly before landing.  On the 30th, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Plame Affair, which revolved around journalist Robert Novak's public identification of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative.  

1998:  On the 1st, Exxon made a $73.7 billion deal to purchase Mobil, creating the world's largest company, Exxon-Mobil.  On December 6, Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela.  Operation "Desert Fox" began when the U.S. and U.K. began bombing targets in Iraq as part of the "disarmament crisis of 1998."  On the 18th, "You've Got Mail," the Tom Hanks Meg Ryan film, premiers.  It was awfully similar to their other film "Sleepless in Seattle."   On the 19th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton and forward the articles of impeachment to the Senate.  I wonder if CNN filmed the ridiculousness of the "walk-over of the documents" as we saw happen live in 2020?  On December 31, the European Union froze exchange rates between the Euro and individual member's legacy currency.  

1993:  On December 2, St. Louis Blues coach Bob Berry coaches a then record-setting 800th career NHL game in a loss to Toronto 4-2.  He had previously coached in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Pittsburgh.  The Space Shuttle Endeavor was successfully launched earlier on the 2nd.  On the 5th, the astronauts aboard Endeavor begin repairs of the Hubble telescope.  On December 7, the "Long Island Rail Road Massacre" occurred when Colin Ferguson murdered 6 and injured 20 more on the Long Island Rail Road in Nassau County, New York.  On the 8th, Whitney Houston won big at the 4th annual Billboard Music Awards.  On December 10, the pioneer video game "Doom" was uploaded to the internet for the first time.  Iconic classic-rock New York radio station Q 104 launches on 104.3FM, replacing WNCN's classical format.  On the 14th, Tom Hanks' movie "Philadelphia" premiers.  On December 15, Lee Aspen resigned as Bill Clinton's Defense Secretary.  On December 16, Shannon Doherty was fired from Beverly Hills:  90210.  On the 18th, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas opens as the (then) world's largest casino/hotel.  Ace of Base released their song "The Sign" on December 21.  On December 28, the Dow Jones hit a new record high for the 5th time during December 1993.  December 29 sees Courtney Love sued her medical team for releasing information about methadone treatment.  The Vatican officially recognizes Israel.  On New Year's Eve, Barbara Streisand performed her first concert in 20 years in front of a sold-out crowd of over 25,000 at the brand-new MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  


2003: "Lord of the Rings - Return of the King" -  This epic fantasy adventure film was directed by Peter Jackson based on a screenplay by himself, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.  The film was based on "The Return of the King," the 1955 third installment in the novel The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It was a sequel to 2002's "The Two Towers," and is the final installment in the trilogy, and was filmed concurrently with the other two parts of the trilogy in Jackson's native New Zealand.  

The film premiered on December 1, 2003, in New Zealand and was released on December 17 in the United States.  Acclaimed by critics and audiences, it is considered a landmark in filmmaking and for the fantasy film genre praised for its visual effects, performances, action sequences, direction, screenplay, musical score, costume design, emotional depth, and scope.  It grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of 2003, the second highest-grossing film of all time at the time of release, and the highest-grossing film ever released by New Line Cinema.

Like the previous films in the trilogy, The Return of the King is widely recognized as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made.  The film received numerous accolades; at the 76th Academy Awards, it won all eleven awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture, the first fantasy film to do so.  It tied 1959's Ben-Hur and 1997's Titanic as the movie with the most Academy Award wins.  It also became the second film series whose entries won Best Visual Effects after the original Star Wars trilogy.

1998: "A Bug's Life" -  This computer-animated comedy film by Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Pictures was the second feature-length film for the partnership, following 1995's Toy Story.  The film stars the voices of Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Hayden Panettiere.  

In the film, a misfit ant named Flik looks for "tough warriors" to save his ant colony from a protection racket run by a gang of grasshoppers.  Unfortunately, the "warriors" he brings back turn out to be an inept troupe of Circus Bugs.  Aesop's fable The Ant and the Grasshopper initially inspired the film's plot.

Production for the film began immediately following the release of Toy Story in 1995.  The ants were redesigned to be more appealing than the somewhat jarring characters featured in a parallel production by Dreamworks called Antz that was released earlier in the year.  These two films caused a controversial public feud between Steve Jobs and Pixar and DreamWork's co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.  

A Bug's Life received positive reviews and grossed $363 million at the box office.  It was the first film digitally transferred frame-by-frame and released on DVD.  A 4-D "attraction" in the Tree of Life at Disney World's Animal Kingdom called "It's Tough to be a Bug" featured the "stars" of the movie since 1998 (and in Disney's California Adventure since 2001.)  The "It's Tough to be a Bug!" attraction closed in California in 2018.  In September 2023, it was announced that the Orlando version would be closing at some point in the future, replaced by a similar attraction based on the newer Pixar film "Zootopia."  

1993: "Mrs. Doubtfire" -  This is easily one of my Top 15 or 20 favorite films of all time, and I'm glad we finally get to discuss it.  I don't think any kid who grew up in the 90s like I did that didn't watch Mrs. Doubtfire over and over again.

Mrs. Doubtfire is a comedy-drama film directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone).  It was based on the 1987 novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine.  Robin Williams, who also was listed as a producer, starred with Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, and Robert Prosky.  

The movie follows a recently divorced actor who disguises himself as an elderly female housekeeper to be able to interact with his children. 

The film was released Thanksgiving weekend in 1993 and won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Comedy.  Robin Williams was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actor.  

The film grossed $441.3 million off a $25 million budget, making it the second highest-grossing film of 1993.  Although the film received mixed reviews upon release, its reception and popularity have improved considerably.  It is 67th in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 laughs" list.  It appears on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies of All Time" list at number 40.  


2003:  "Hey Ya!" by Outkast

1998:  "I'm Your Angel" by Celine Dion featuring R. Kelly

1993:  "Hero" by Mariah Carey



December 2 - Celebrity Poker Showdown (Bravo), The Simple Life (Fox), and The Tracy Morgan Show (NBC) make their debut on television.

December 3 - Extreme Makeover:  Home Edition debuts on ABC.  Move that bus!

On December 20 - During an NFL game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, former Jets quarterback Joe Namath twice stated he wanted to kiss ESPN's Suzy Kolber and couldn't care less about the team "strugg-a-ling" as he cozied up beside her.  Namath later apologized and blamed the incident on intoxication.  He would later enter outpatient alcoholism treatment.  Oh, Joe.

The terrible made-for-tv "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Part 2" debuted on the same day on NBC.  


December 1 - Comedy Central Presents debuts on Comedy Central.  I spent A LOT of time watching this stand-up comedy show when I was in middle and high school.  

December 20 - The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, a hit kid's mystery show on Nickelodeon, comes to a close after four seasons.


December 3 - The Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon airs its last episode.  This show only lasted two seasons but had a lasting impact on many kids who loved Saturday morning cartoons.

December 18 - CBS loses the rights to broadcast NFL games to FOX, who paid a record $1.58 billion for the next four years.  This was significantly more than CBS's offer of only $290 million.


  1. Thank you once again for the reminder of how old I’m becoming. It’s been 20 years since the LotR trilogy wrapped up???

    I remember standing in line back then (for the midnight show) talking with my friends about the original Star Wars trilogy ending 20 years earlier. Thinking about how people now must view Return of the King in a similar light as to how we viewed Return of the Jedi back then makes my head hurt…

  2. Thanks again for reading! Stinks getting old but beats the alternative!

  3. Tru dat. Happy holidays, man. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks! You as well. Just wait for next months History... When we shift to 1994, 1999, and 2004! For some reason those numbers just blow my mind, even more so than 93,98, and 03!