The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (TV special)

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The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
Cover of the movie The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.jpeg
Genre Animated Musical
Directed by Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Produced by Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Written by Julian P. Gardner
Starring J. D. Roth
Earl Hammond
Alfred Drake
Lesley Miller
Bob McFadden
Earle Hyman
Music by Bernard Hoffer
Country United States United States
Japan Japan
Language English
Release date December 17, 1985
Running time 50 minutes

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus is a 1985 Christmas television special produced in stop motion animation by Rankin/Bass. It is based on The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a 1902 children's book by L. Frank Baum. This was Rankin/Bass's final stop motion animated special produced. Future specials and series's would be traditional animated from this point on.

Production[edit]

The Rankin-Bass production, which spells the title with an ampersand, truncates much of the story (it ran in a one-hour time slot) and simplifies some of the motivations, but its major alterations from the book are setting up the hearing over the Mantle of Immortality as a frame story explaining just why Claus (J. D. Roth/Earl Hammond) deserves the mantle, although there is an edit that makes it difficult to realize that the scene in which Ak (Alfred Drake) calls the council when first finding the infant in the woods does not occur in the same time period as the main story. In addition, Shiegra accompanies Claus to the Laughing Valley, in which, unlike the book, it is always Winter. A similar compromise toward popular culture is Claus's now eight reindeer, albeit unnamed. Peter Knook, a rather crusty but amiable fellow, replaces most of the other Knooks, save the Protector (King) and two strangers, and declares "only on Christmas Eve" for the reindeer without any argument or explanation. One important new character, Tingler, a Sound Imp (Robert McFadden) also accompanies Claus and gives him someone to talk to.

When the show premiered, the book was not as easily available, and many Oz fans who only knew of the book were surprised to discover that Tingler was not one of Baum's creations, so true was the character to the author's spirit. Earle Hyman portrayed the King of the Awgwas, and Leslie Miller played Necile. Most of the other voices were performed by Peter Newman and Lynne Lipton. Larry Kenney was the Commander of the Wind Demons, who initially served as a devil's advocate to Ak at the fateful hearing, but soon became the Immortal most approving of giving the Mantle to Claus, and casts the first vote in what proves to be a unanimous decision to that effect. Most of the Immortals' titles were changed to alleviate them all being kings and queens.

Screenwriter Julian P. Gardner created a musical production number, "Big Surprise" as the children at Weekum's orphanage plead Santa Claus for more toy cats. Other songs include the chorus "Babe in the Woods" and the powerful chant, "Ora e Sempre (Today and Forever)" representing the immortals. Bernard Hoffer composed the music, as well as setting a quatrain by Baum inspired by Claus's famous laugh. The presentation of the Christmas tree is different; Claus, realizing his death is imminent, decorates a tree with ornaments and suggests it should be his memorial.

This is the only Rankin-Bass Christmas special without a celebrity narrator. Originally broadcast on CBS, this special now airs on the ABC Family cable network though heavily edited, along with most of the other Rankin-Bass animated Christmas specials.

The Rankin-Bass production is distributed by Warner Bros. Television. This special was paired with Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey and released on DVD under the Warner Archive brand on November 17, 2009.

See also[edit]

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