Father Christmas (1991 film)

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Father Christmas
Directed by Dave Unwin
Produced by John Coates
Written by Raymond Briggs (books)
Starring Mel Smith (UK)
Music by Mike Hewer
Distributed by Channel 4, Universal Pictures (UK)
Release date
24 December 1991 (UK)
Running time
26 min (British runtime)
Language English

Father Christmas is a 1991 animated short based on two books written by Raymond Briggs: Father Christmas and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, published in 1973 and 1975 respectively. It was first aired in Britain in 1991 on Channel 4, nine years after The Snowman, another animated Briggs adaptation produced for the same channel. This movie was dedicated to the late actor John McGuire. The film was first released on DVD in 2000, bundled with The Snowman. It was later released separately.

Voiced by comedian Mel Smith, the title character physically resembles a stereotypical vision of Father Christmas, with a large white beard and red suit. However, in a down-to-earth twist, he is depicted as rather grumpy, is shown coping with everyday domestic chores, and lives on his own in a small house in contemporary Britain.

This Father Christmas later appeared in a television advertisement, enjoying a Kit Kat after returning home from his deliveries.


Father Christmas centres around the prospect of what Father Christmas does with himself "the other 364 days of the year", along with his annual delivery of presents to children around the world. The film starts with Father Christmas coming back from his annual Christmas Eve run, and relaxing in his home with his cat and dog. Then he breaks the fourth wall, explaining that his unwinding is well deserved, contrary to popular belief. He cites the care of his reindeer, his garden, and shopping among others as activities that take up his time. Because of his strenuous lifestyle, he explains that in the past year he decided to take a holiday.

In a flashback, it is shown that after bringing home brochures, and audibly considering Italy, Greece, Ireland, Holland, Canada, Germany, Tunisia, Switzerland, he finally settled on in France. However, when he imagines camping in a rainstorm, he decides on the need for a camper van. He converts his sleigh into one, listening to French secondary language tapes while he is working.

After packing and putting his pets in a boarding kennel, he flies off to France. While out shopping, he realizes that he looks too much like a tourist and buys some new clothes, although by choosing a stereotypical outfit he stands out even more. He then goes to a fancy restaurant and eats Fish, Lobster, Kidney, Escargot, ice cream and lots of French wine. Unfortunately, he ate far too much of the rich food, and contracted himself to food poisoning and diarrhoea. In the morning, he realizes that his reindeer are attracting some attention, even leading to speculation that he's Father Christmas. He decides that it's time to move on, choosing Scotland for the purity of its water.

Unfazed by the rain, and saying morning to a seal in the loch, Father Christmas goes to a pub where he got drunk with a Scotsman. When he got out of the pub, he came across a kilt shop and bought himself a kilt, where when shopping, a little girl pointed and said that he's Santa Claus. The following day, after recovering from a drunken headache, he decided to move on again, he then found that the rain had stopped, and goes to take a swim in the nearby loch. Unfortunately, the water is very cold, as well as shark infested. Grumbling to himself after that experience, he decided to go somewhere hot, and what better than Las Vegas as his next stop.

He stays at Nero's Palace (a spoof of Caesar's Palace) for over a month, enjoying the casino, pool, room service, entertainment, golf courses, and cuisine extensively. A combination of running low on money and kids suspecting that he is "Santa Claus" makes him choose to go home, but not before paying the huge hotel bill.

He comes back to an overgrown garden, and after he picks up his dog and cat, he finds his front door blocked by letters piled up behind it. He starts sifting through them, commenting on all of the different names that children call him. Shortly thereafter, a postman delivers more bags of post. There is more looking at letters amongst daily activities, and then a truck comes and dumps an entire load of post on the ground. After he's finished with the post, he picks up his suit from the dry cleaners and goes to sleep. After dreaming of relaxing in a pool surrounded by women back in Vegas, his alarm goes off and he gets ready to go out.

James (aged 12) and his snowman (from the 1982 film) meet Father Christmas.

Father Christmas loads up his sleigh, hitches up his reindeer and sets off delivering presents (with a snack break in the middle). There is a thunderstorm, fog, and of course heavy snow to deal with. Events include getting stuck on a television antenna, stumbling in on a fancy dress party, and finding a way into a caravan and an igloo.

After he's finished, he goes to the annual snowmen's party. While he's there he greets a young boy and his snowman, who go to see his reindeer that are being kept in a stable. They find two presents that have not been delivered, having fallen under the sleigh's back seat: they are for the British Royal Family. Father Christmas quickly flies off again, and makes it to Buckingham Palace just in time, arriving at 6:00 AM.

Then he flies back home, coming out of the flashback. After putting a turkey in the oven, taking a bath, and giving his pets presents, he critiques presents received from his relatives. Father Christmas climbs into bed, wishing everyone a merry Christmas. Then the camera zooms out to the immediate area, where church bells can be heard ringing out on Christmas morning.

Links to other works[edit]

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". in reference to the boy's snowman. 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.

American version[edit]

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".



External links[edit]