Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (TV special)
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|Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Classics|
|Directed by||Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
|Produced by||Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
|Written by||Romeo Muller|
|Music by||Maury Laws|
|Release date||December 14, 1970|
|Running time||51 mins|
|Followed by||The Year Without a Santa Claus|
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion television special, made by Rankin-Bass. The film stars actor Fred Astaire as S.D. Kluger, the narrator, and Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song of the same name, which was introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.
The special was created using stop motion animation called "Animagic", in which all the characters are made out of wood and plastic and animated via stop-motion photography. The special was originally telecast by ABC and continues to air every year on sibling channel ABC Family, though both channels have at times edited the special to make room for commercials (ABC has cut two key songs, as well as two other songs in half; ABC Family has cut several scenes that might be traumatizing to younger viewers, including the scene where the Burgermeister Meisterburger character torches the seized toys in front of the children of Sombertown).
Mailman Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger (voiced by Fred Astaire) is introduced after a newsreel prologue, telling the viewer how children around the world are preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus. His snowmobile/mail truck breaks down, so he begins to tell the story of Santa Claus, answering all of the children's letters they wrote to Santa.
The story begins in the gloomy hamlet of Sombertown, which is ruled by the ill-tempered Burgermeister Meisterburger (voiced by Paul Frees). A baby arrives on his doorstep, with a name tag reading "Claus" and note requesting that the Burgermeister raise the child as his own, despite the Burgermeister's objections. He then orders his right-hand man and lawkeeper Grimsley (also voiced by Paul Frees) to take the baby to the "Orphan Asylum." On the way there, a gust of wind blows both sled and baby far away, to the mountain of the Whispering Winds. There, the animals hide him from the Winter Warlock (voiced by Keenan Wynn), a powerful wizard who dislikes anyone trespassing his land. The animals then bring the baby to the other side of the mountain to an elf family by the name of Kringle. Led by Tanta Kringle (voiced by Joan Gardner), the elf queen, they adopt the baby and name him “Kris.” A few years later, Kris hopes that he can one day restore the Kringle family as "The First Toymakers to the King." However, the fact that the Kringles can't pass the mountains without encountering the Winter Warlock has kept them from doing so.
When Kris is old enough, he volunteers to deliver the elves' toys to Sombertown. Meanwhile, the Burgermeister has outlawed all toys in the town after being injured while stepping on a toy duck and falling down a flight of stairs and declares that anyone found possessing a toy will be arrested. Before Kris makes it into the town, he meets a lost penguin whom he names Topper. Once Kris enters the town, he meets two children washing their stockings by a water fountain. Before Kris could give the children the Kringle-made toys, he is stopped by Miss Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester), their lovely school teacher. However, she softens toward Kris when he offers her a china doll as a "peace offering". As Kris is handing out more toys, the Burgermeister arrives. After presenting him with a yo-yo, the Burgermeister at first happily plays with it recalling when he was a youngster that he was an ace with the yoyo before Grimsley reminds him that he is now breaking his own law. The Burgermeister then orders Kris' capture and Kris barely manages to escape his forces.
As Kris and Topper pass through the forest on the way back to the Kringle's, the Winter Warlock captures them. After giving the Warlock a toy train as a present, the Warlock is touched by this act of kindness and his evil icy heart is melted. The Warlock, now asking to be called Winter, turns to human form and befriends Kris. To repay him, Winter shows Kris how to make a magic snowball, showing that Jessica is searching for him. Kris finds Jessica, who informs him that the Burgermeister destroyed all of the toys and the children now request new ones. Kris becomes burdened every night with the ever increasing demands, while the Burgermeister implements harsher measures to ensure that he does not succeed. When Meisterbuger hears that Kris is going to bring more toys, he orders all doors to be locked, before their houses are searched. Kris then uses the chimneys to get inside. The children hung their stockings by the fireplace to bluff the Burgermeister so he thinks that the stockings were being dried in front of the fireplace but it was a sign to Kris that he could put their gifts inside, so that he can't find them. Growing frustrated with his inability to stop Kris, the Burgermeister sets a trap for him as he makes another delivery, as well as capturing the Kringles, Topper, and Winter. Jessica pleads with the Burgermeister to release her friends, but her pleas fall on deaf ears as well as being shunned by the entire town because of her actions. Jessica then visits the dungeon to see if Winter is able to use his magic to break everyone out, but the old warlock despondently feels that he has no more magic left except for a few items, which includes magic feed corn. Learning that the corn can make reindeer fly, Jessica gives some of it to Kris's reindeer friends and with their help, the Kringles, Kris, Topper, and Winter escape.
After having spent months of being an outlaw and discovering that their home was destroyed by the Burgermeister's troops, Kris returns to the woods, where he (in line with Kringle tradition) grows a beard as a disguise. Tante also suggests that he return to his birth name "Claus" for safety. Kris asks Jessica to share the name Claus with him, as his wife. After the marriage, the group travels to the North Pole, where they eventually build Santa Claus's Castle and Workshop. The Burgermeister vowed that his family will hunt down Kris Kringle throughout the land; not knowing that Kris grew a beard and he's going by the name of Claus. Eventually, the Meisterbergers died out and everyone realizes how silly their laws were. All of the laws were abolished, Claus' legend goes worldwide, and, having now become Santa Claus, he realizes that he cannot keep up with all the toy requests throughout the year. This leads him to make a resolution to visit just once a year, on December 24 Christmas Eve "The Night of Profound Love". Just as Santa is about to leave Winter informs him that he has his magic powers back and that there will be a white Christmas.
The film ends as S.D. Kluger reflects on what Santa's true meaning. S.D. then remembers that he still has to deliver letters to Santa and he leaves for the North Pole, joined by Topper, Winter, The Kringle family, and a parade of children. S.D. then sings "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" as we see Santa and Jessica (Mrs. Claus) in their castle. Santa steps out of his castle and waves to the viewers.
- Fred Astaire – S.D. Kluger
- Mickey Rooney – Kris Kringle/Santa Claus
- Keenan Wynn – Winter Warlock
- Paul Frees – Burgomeister Meisterburger, Grimsley, The Kringle Bros, Newsreel Announcer, Topper, other minor male characters
- Joan Gardner – Tanta Kringle, and other minor female characters
- Robie Lester – Jessica
- "The First Toymakers to the King" sung by Tanta and the Kringles
- "No More Toymakers to the King" sung by Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsley
- "Be Prepared to Pay" AKA "If You Sit On My Lap Today" sung by Kris and the Westminister Children's Choir
- "One Foot in Front of the Other" sung by Kris and Winter
- "My World is Beginning Today" sung by Jessica
- "Wedding Song" AKA "What Better Way To Give You" sung by S. D. Kluger
- "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" sung by S. D. Kluger and the Westminster Children's Choir
Released by Rhino on October 1, 2002, the soundtrack for Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is available along with that of Frosty the Snowman, the Rankin-Bass special produced the previous year in 1969. This edition contains the full dialogue and all songs for both specials.
Home video releases
Beginning in 1989, the special has been released numerous times on VHS and DVD. The 2005 DVD release included a CD single of Mariah Carey performing the title song. The special is also available as part of a DVD box set with other Rankin-Bass Christmas titles including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Frosty Returns. In 2010, the special was released in the same box set on Blu-ray Disc.
- The video game, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town!, was released on November 1, 2011 for the Nintendo DS and Wii.