Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (film)

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Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
SCICTT cover.jpg
Written byRomeo Muller
Directed by
Voices of
Narrated byFred Astaire
Music by
Country of origin
Original languageEnglish
  • Arthur Rankin Jr.
  • Jules Bass
CinematographyKizo Nagashima
EditorIrwin Goldress
Running time51 mins
Production companyRankin/Bass Productions
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution (on behalf of DreamWorks Classics)
Original networkABC
Original releaseDecember 14, 1970 (1970-12-14)
Preceded byThe Little Drummer Boy
Followed byThe Year Without a Santa Claus

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions in New York, New York. The film stars the voices of Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Robie Lester, Joan Gardner and Paul Frees, as well as an assistant song performance by the Westminster Children's Choir. 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 "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", which was written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie for Leo Feist, Inc. and introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.[1]

The special was created using Japanese 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,[2] which continues to air the special every year along with its sister network Freeform as of 2020 (commemorating the special's 50th anniversary), though both channels have at times edited the special to make room for commercials.


Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger is introduced after a newsreel prologue, telling the viewer how children around the world are preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus. When his mail truck breaks down, he tells the story of Santa Claus by answering the children's letters to Santa.

The story begins in the gloomy city of Sombertown, ruled by the ill-tempered Burgermeister Meisterburger. 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 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 and take him to the Kringle elf family. Led by their matron, Tanta Kringle, they adopt the baby and name him “Kris”. A few years later, Kris hopes to restore the Kringles' title as the "first toymakers to the king".

When Kris is old enough, he volunteers to deliver the elves' toys to Sombertown. Meanwhile, the Burgermeister has banned all toys in the town and declares that anyone found possessing a toy will be arrested. On his way to Sombertown, Kris meets a lost penguin whom he names Topper. In the town, he offers toys to two children washing their stockings by a water fountain. He is stopped by Miss Jessica, their lovely schoolteacher, but she softens toward Kris when he offers her a china doll as a "peace offering". As Kris gives out 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 that he is breaking his own law, the Burgermeister orders Kris captured.

As Kris and Topper return to the Kringles, the Winter Warlock captures them with the help of his tree monsters Willy Willow and Peter Pine. But when Kris gives him a toy train as a present, the Warlock's evil exterior melts and he befriends Kris. To repay him, Winter reunites Kris with Jessica, who informs him that the Burgermeister has destroyed all the toys and the children now request new ones. To protect the town from further toy deliveries, the Burgermeister orders all doors and windows to be locked. But Kris enters by the chimneys and places toys in the children's hung stockings.

The Burgermeister then sets a trap for Kris and Topper as he makes another delivery while his soldiers capture the Kringles and Winter. Jessica pleads with the Burgermeister to release her friends, but he refuses. Coming to the prison, Jessica asks Winter to break everyone out but he sadly refuses, having little magic left except some magic feed corn which enables reindeer to fly. With the reindeer's help, the group all escape.

After months as an outlaw and discovery that their home was destroyed by the Burgermeister's guards, Kris grows a beard as a disguise. After Tanta suggests he return to his birth name "Claus" for safety, Kris marries Jessica. After the ceremony, the group travels to the North Pole to build their a castle and toy workshop.

As the years pass and Kris and Jessica grow older, Kris travels only at night until the meisterburgers died off and Kris' legend goes worldwide. Having become Santa Claus, he is unable to fulfill all the toy requests throughout the year, and reserves his efforts for Christmas Eve. As Santa prepares to head out on that night, Winter tells him that he has regained his magic and can guarantee a white Christmas.

At the end, S.D. Kluger suddenly realizes that it's getting late and remembers that he still has to deliver the letters to Santa and leaves for the North Pole with Topper, Winter, the Kringles, and a parade of children as he sings "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" during the credits. At the end, Santa steps out of his castle and waves goodbye to the viewers.

Voice cast[edit]

  • Fred Astaire as Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger
  • Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus
  • Keenan Wynn as Winter Warlock
  • Robie Lester as Miss Jessica/Mrs. Claus
  • Paul Frees as Burgermeister Meisterburger, Grimsley, Topper, Doctor, Guards, Kringle Brothers, Ebenezer Scrooge, Businessman, Townspeople
  • Joan Gardner as Tanta Kringle, Department Store Worker, Townspeople
  • Dina Lynn, Greg Thomas, Gary White, and Andrea Sacino as the children

Musical numbers[edit]

CD cover
  1. "The First Toymakers to the King" sung by Tanta and the Kringles featuring the Mike Sammes Singers
  2. "No More Toymakers to the King" sung by Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsley
  3. "Be Prepared to Pay" a.k.a. "If You Sit On My Lap Today" sung by Kris and the Westminster Children's Choir
  4. "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" sung by Kris and Winter featuring The Mike Sammes Singers
  5. "My World is Beginning Today" sung by Jessica
  6. "Wedding Song" a.k.a. "What Better Way To Tell You" sung by S. D. Kluger and The Mike Sammes Singers
  7. "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 Comin' 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.

Editing by ABC and Freeform[edit]

The special has been edited for content and length by both ABC and Freeform since its original airing. ABC has cut two key songs from the special, as well as two other songs in half.

Freeform has cut several scenes that they believe may be traumatizing to younger viewers, such as Kris climbing and leaping to escape (which was cut to prevent children from trying to imitate the same stunt), Winter Warlock knowing Kris will return and telling him he will never escape, and the scene where the Burgermeister torches the seized toys in front of the children of Sombertown. The DVD releases include these deleted scenes given that they are vital to the story's plot.

In 2019, Freeform's print of the special included the 2012 Universal Pictures logo preceding the film, due to their purchase of DreamWorks Animation, the current owner of the pre-1974 Rankin/Bass library, in 2016 and the scenes that were originally cut were added as well.

Home media[edit]

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 and Frosty the Snowman, and Bill Melendez's Frosty Returns. In 2010, the special was released in the same box set on Blu-ray Disc. In 2015, both the special and Frosty the Snowman were released on Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo packs in the 45th Anniversary Collector's Edition.


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 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 Kris meets when he arrives are named Annette and Andy. 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.

Video game[edit]

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town!
Developer(s)1st Playable Productions
Publisher(s)Red Wagon Games
Composer(s)Maury Laws Edit this on Wikidata
Nintendo DS
  • NA: November 8, 2011
Mode(s)Single player, multiplayer

A video game based on the film was released on November 8, 2011 for the Nintendo DS and Wii.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crump, William D. (2019). Happy Holidays—Animated! A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Cartoons on Television and Film. McFarland & Co. pp. 264–265. ISBN 9781476672939.
  2. ^ Woolery, George W. (1989). Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987. Scarecrow Press. pp. 359–361. ISBN 0-8108-2198-2. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  3. ^ "SX5E4Z - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!".
  4. ^ " Santa Claus is Coming to Town - DS Review".

External links[edit]