Father Christmas (1991 film)
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|Directed by||Dave Unwin|
|Produced by||John Coates|
|Written by||Raymond Briggs (books)|
|Starring||Mel Smith (UK)|
William Dennis Hunt (US)
|Music by||Mike Hewer|
|Distributed by||Channel 4 (TV)|
Universal Pictures (home video)
|24 December 1991 (UK)|
|26 min (British runtime)|
Father Christmas is a British animated short starring Mel Smith as the titular character. Created for Channel 4 and first broadcast on Christmas Eve 1991 in Britain, the story is an adaption of two books written by Raymond Briggs - Father Christmas and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday - and is the second animated adaptation of Briggs' work made for the channel, following the 1982 animated short The Snowman. The story focuses on a stereotypical vision of Father Christmas with a down-to-earth twist, living in contemporary Britain with his pets and reindeer, coping with everyday domestic chores, who recounts to the viewers about a holiday he took before preparing for another Christmas.
The animated short was dedicated to the late animator John McGuire, with the film later released as part of a DVD bundle alongside The Snowman, before being released separately in subsequent home media releases.
Following another annual Christmas Eve run, Father Christmas returns to his small house in contemporary Britain. While settling in, he comments to the viewers that contrary to popular belief, he is busy throughout the year caring for his reindeer and pets, tending to his garden, shopping, and doing housework, before explaining that the constant cycle led to him deciding to take a holiday the previous year, and recalls it through a flashback.
After returning home one day from shopping, Father Christmas spent time looking through travel magazines to determine where to go, and first decides on visiting France. After converting his sleigh into a camper van and leaving his pets in a kennel, Father Christmas takes off with his reindeer and sets up in the French countryside. While shopping, he buys clothing to help him blend in, before having a meal at a fancy restaurant. However, the French cuisine leads him to moving to a campsite after contracting food poisoning and diarrhoea. Blaming his illnesses on the water and finding people suspecting his true identity, he opts to fly to Scotland next. Despite buying a kilt and enjoying whisky, he soon finds his new location not perfect after trying to swim in a nearby loch, only to find it cold and shark-infested. Father Christmas thus settles on travelling to Las Vegas, and sets himself up in a luxurious casino resort. He quickly enjoys being able to eat good food, enjoy the pool, and spends time enjoying the night life. After spending over a month at the hotel, he soon finds himself forced to leave upon kids questioning his true identity, alongside running low on funds and racking up a huge hotel bill.
Upon returning home, Father Christmas finds his garden overgrown, and upon returning from the kennel with his pets, discovers letters addressed to him beginning to arrive. He soon sets to work reading every letter that arrives and preparing for Christmas Eve. With his reindeer hitched to his sleigh and presents loaded, he soon sets off to deliver each one, running across several difficulties along the way. Eventually he travels to the annual snowmen's party, greeting James and his snowman. When the pair go to see his reindeer in a nearby stable, they quickly discover two presents that had not been delivered, and so alert Father Christmas to this. Realising that these are for the British Royal Family, he quickly sets off for Buckingham Palace and delivers them before the dawn of Christmas Day.
In the present, Father Christmas prepares for the festive day by placing his turkey in the oven, prepping his pudding, and giving his pets their presents. Heading upstairs with presents from his relatives, he leaves these beside his bed, and prepares to get some sleep. Before turning in, he wishes his viewers a "Happy blooming Christmas", before falling asleep as morning arrives.
Links to other works
Father Christmas and The Snowman take place in the same universe—both were written by the same author, and both television shorts were made by very similar production teams. It is suggested that this film takes place a year or so after The Snowman, as Father Christmas jokes to the boy "glad you could make it again; the party I mean, not your snowman”, which ultimately gives The Snowman a happy ending. The boy can also be seen wearing the scarf Father Christmas gave him in The Snowman. There is also a poster of the snowman in one of the rooms when Father Christmas is delivering presents.
In Father Christmas, Ernest the milkman from Ethel and Ernest can be seen delivering milk to the Royal Family on Christmas morning, and Jim and Hilda Bloggs from When the Wind Blows are shown enjoying a drink in the Scottish pub.
A heavily sanitised American version was produced. The most notable change is that Father Christmas was re-voiced by William Dennis Hunt, becoming much jollier, and all 76 (75 by Father Christmas, 1 by a child's voice in a song) instances of the word "blooming" were replaced with "merry". Scenes where Father Christmas gets drunk, over-eats, dances with chorus girls and suffers a hangover were removed. Also cut are a few candid moments showing his "builders' bum".