Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (film)
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|Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town|
|Written by||Romeo Muller|
|Directed by||Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
|Theme music composer||Maury Laws|
|Country of origin||United States|
Arthur Rankin Jr.
|Running time||51 mins|
|Original release||December 14, 1970|
|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 the narrator S.D. Kluger, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, and Paul Frees in various roles. 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 December 14, 1970 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, like Kris climbing, and leaping to escape to prevent children from doing dangerous stunts, Winter Warlock knowing Kris will return, & telling him he'll never escape 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 and bears resemblance to Fred Astaire) is introduced after a newsreel prologue, telling the viewer how children around the world are preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus. When his snowmobile/mail truck breaks down, he tells the story of Santa Claus, answering the children's letters to Santa.
The story begins in the gloomy city of Sombertown, 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. He then orders his 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 to the mountain of the Whispering Winds, where the animals hide him from the Winter Warlock (voiced by Keenan Wynn), a powerful and malevolant wizard who dislikes tresspassers. The animals then take him to an Elfish 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 to restore the Kringle family as the "First Toymakers to the King".
When Kris is old enough, he volunteers to deliver the elves' toys to Sombertown. Meanwhile, after tripping on a toy duck, the Burgermeister has been forced to outlaw all toys in the town, and declares that anyone found possessing a toy will be arrested and thrown in the dungeon, until his injured pride recovers. On his way to Sombertown, Kris meets a lost penguin whom he names Topper (also voiced by Paul Frees). In the town, he offers toys to two slaved children washing their stockings by a water fountain. He is stopped by Miss Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester), their lovely teacher, but she softens toward Kris when he offers her a china doll as a "peace offering". As Kris gives more toys, the Burgermeister arrives, and Kris gives him a yo-yo. The Burgermeister at first happily plays with it; but when Grimsley reminds him of breaking his own law, the tricked Burgermeister orders Kris' capture.
As Kris and Topper return to the Kringles, the Winter Warlock captures them. But when Kris gives him a toy train as a present, his heart melts and befriends Kris. To repay him, he re-unites Kris with Jessica, who informs him that the Burgermeister has destroyed all the toys and the children now request new ones. When the Burgermeister hears that Kris means to bring more toys, he orders all doors and windows to be locked before their houses are searched. Kris enters by the chimneys, and the children hang their stockings by the fireplace to conceal the toys therein.
After this, the Burgermeister sets a trap for Kris as he makes another delivery, and thus captures the Kringles, Topper, and Winter. Jessica pleads with the Burgermeister to release her friends, but he refuses, and Jessica requests Winter to break everyone out, but Winter refuses, on grounds of having little magic except some feed corn enabling reindeer to fly. With the reindeer's help, the Kringles, Kris, Topper, and Winter escape. After months as an outlaw, Kris returns to the woods, where he grows a beard as a disguise. After Tanta suggests that he return to his birth name of "Claus" for safety, Kris marries Jessica. After the ceremony, the group travels to the North Pole to build their own castle and workshop. Kris, however, still has to travel by night because he is still considered an outlaw. Eventually, the meisterburgers' laws were abolished and the Somebertown townspeople look up to Kris, who, as the years pass, grows older and becomes Santa Claus. Santa decides to limit his journeys to one night a year and he and Jessica (Now Mrs. Claus) suggest Christmas Eve. Before Santa leaves, Winter informs him that now that he has his magic powers working again, he can garuntee the world a white Christmas.
After explaining Santa's true meaning, S.D. Kluger remembers that he still has to deliver Santa his letters and leaves for the North Pole, joined by Topper, Winter, the Kringle family, and a parade of children singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" during the credits. At the end, 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 – Burgermeister Meisterburger/Newsreel Announcer/The Kringle Bros/Grimsby/Burgermeister's soldiers
- Joan Gardner – Tanta Kringle/Additional Voices
- Robie Lester – Jessica
Andrea Sacino, Dina Lynn, Gary White, and Greg Thomas provide the voices of the Children (Thomas also provided the voice of young Kris Kringle).
- "The First Toymakers to the King" sung by Tanta and the Kringles
- "No More Toymakers to the King" sung by Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsby
- "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 Tell 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.
A novelization (an oversized children's hardback) of the special was published by Running Press Book Publishers in 2008. The script was adapted by Sierra Harimann with watercolor illustrations based on the original show by Mike Koelsch. There are some additional details in the book, although it is unknown if they are the from the imagination of the author or were based on the original script. The Dismal Forest is at the foot of the Mountain of the Whispering Winds. The little girl and boy are named Annette and Andy. The Kringles move nearby the Warlock's mountain because it is closer to Sombertown. The Sombertown Dungeon was built like a fort with a courtyard in the center, and it is there that the reindeer land to rescue everyone.