Father Christmas (1991 film)

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Father Christmas
Directed byDave Unwin
Produced byJohn Coates
Written byRaymond Briggs (books)
StarringMel Smith (UK)
William Dennis Hunt (US)
Music byMike Hewer
Distributed byChannel 4 (TV)
Universal Pictures (home video)
Release date
24 December 1991 (UK)
Running time
26 min (British runtime)

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 on Christmas Eve 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 animator [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 with his pets and reindeer 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 three hundred and sixty four days of the year".

Father Christmas returns from his annual Christmas Eve run. He explains to the viewer that contrary to popular belief he is busy throughout the year, citing care of his reindeer, his garden, and shopping among activities that take up his time. Because of this, in the past year he decided to take a holiday.

In a flashback, it is shown he that he first decided on France as a destination. He converts his sleigh into a camper van and flies off to France. While there he buys a new set of clothes to blend in and goes to a fancy restaurant. Since his favourite chips and ketchup are not on the menu, he orders fish, lobster, escargot, and other French food, but ends up contracting food poisoning and diarrhoea. He decides that it is time to move on, choosing Scotland as his next destination.

In Scotland, he gets drunk on whiskey and buys himself a kilt. The following day, after recovering from a drunken headache, he discovers the rain has stopped, and goes to take a swim in the nearby loch. Unfortunately, the loch's water is very cold, as well as shark-infested. Grumbling to himself after that experience, he decides to go somewhere hot, and decides on Las Vegas.

He stays at the luxurious Nero's Palace (a spoof of Caesar's Palace) for over a month. Eventually though, he decides to leave due to running low on money and racking up a huge hotel bill.

He returns home to an overgrown garden and a mountain of letters. He sets to work making plans for Christmas Eve.

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

When Christmas Eve arrives he loads up his sleigh, hitches his reindeer and sets off delivering presents. He faces various difficulties along the way including extreme weather, getting stuck on a television antenna, and having to find a way into a caravan and an igloo.

After he has finished, he goes to the annual snowmen's party. While he is there, he greets James and his snowman, who go to see his reindeer in a nearby stable. They find two presents that have not been delivered, having fallen under the back seat: they are for the British Royal Family. Father Christmas quickly flies off again, making it to Buckingham Palace just in time.

He then flies back home and we return to the present. After putting a turkey in the oven and giving his two animal pets presents, he opens presents received from his relatives. He then climbs sleepily into bed, wishing everyone a "Happy blooming Christmas".

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”, 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.

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]