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 language(s)English
  • Jules Bass
  • Arthur Rankin Jr.
CinematographyKizo Nagashima
Editor(s)Irwin Goldress
Running time51 mins
Production company(s)Rankin/Bass Productions
Original networkABC
Original releaseDecember 13, 1970
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. The film stars Fred Astaire as the narrator S.D. Kluger, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle / Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, and 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 introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.

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 13, 1970 by ABC and continues to air every year on sibling channel ABC Family (now Freeform) though both channels have at times edited the special to make room for commercials (ABC has cut two key songs, as well as two other songs in half; ABC Family/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.


Postman Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger (voiced by and resembling Fred Astaire) is introduced after a newsreel prologue, telling how children around the world are preparing for Christmas and Santa Claus' arrival. When his snowmobile mail truck breaks down, he tells the story of Santa, answering the children's letters.

The story begins in the gloomy city of Sombertown, ruled by the abusive, and ill-tempered mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees). A baby arrives on his doorstep with a name tag reading "Claus" and note requesting that he raise the child. He instead orders his lawkeeper Grimsley (Frees) 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 unkind Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn) and convey him to an Elvish family by the name of Kringle in Rainbow River Valley. Led by matriarch Tanta (Joan Gardner), she and the five elf brothers (Dingle, Wingle, Bingle, Tingle and Zingle; Frees) adopt the baby and name him "Kris". A few years later, he hopes to restore the Kringle family as toymakers ("The First Toymakers to the King").

When Kris (Mickey Rooney) becomes an adult, he volunteers to deliver the elves' toys to Sombertown. However, the Burgermeister has banned toys from the town after tripping on a toy duck left on the steps of the city hall—causing him to break his leg—and declares that anyone found possessing a toy will be imprisoned (“No More Toymakers to the King”). On his way to Sombertown, Kris meets a lost penguin whom he names Topper as they evade the Warlock, who vows to catch him the next time he passes. In the town, he offers toys to two children washing their stockings by a water fountain. He is stopped by Miss Jessica (Robie Lester), their lovely schoolteacher, but she softens toward Kris when he offers her a china doll as a "peace offering". As Kris distributed more toys (“Be Prepared to Pay”), the Burgermeister arrives in a wheelchair to arrest the children, but Kris gives him a yo-yo. He at first happily plays with it, but Grimsley reminds him he's breaking his own law, leading Meisterburger to order Kris' arrest.

As Kris and Topper return to the Kringles’, the Warlock’s tree monsters Willy Willow and Peter Pine capture them. But when Kris gives him a toy locomotive as a present in exchange, the Warlock befriends Kris as his appearance changes (“Put One Foot in Front of the Other”). To repay him, he teaches Kris how to use magic snowballs to see anywhere in the world. This re-unites Kris with Jessica, who informs him that the Burgermeister has destroyed all the toys and the children now want new ones. Kris agrees to do so if the children behave, promising to watch them through his magic snowball. Upon hearing this, the Burgermeister orders all doors and windows to be locked before their houses are searched. However, Kris enters by the chimneys where the children have hung their stockings to dry by the fire where he hid the toys.

Thereafter, the Burgermeister sets a trap for Kris as he makes another delivery and thus captures the group. Jessica pleads to release her friends, but he refuses (“My World is Beginning Today”). She then asks Winter to break everyone out, but he is unable to help them, since he is powerless except for some “magic feed corn” in his possession that allows reindeer to fly. The group then escape on the animals’ saddles (with a hidden reference to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the end of this sequence) before the Burgermeister swears that he and his descendants will hunt them down throughout the land and declare them outlaws.

After months as a fugitive, Kris hides within the woods, where he grows a beard as a disguise. After Tanta suggests that he return to his birth name "Claus" for safety, Kris and Jessica marry on Christmas Eve and the group travels to the North Pole to build their own castle and workshop (“Wedding Song”).

As the years pass, it is explained, Kris still has to travel by night because he is still considered an outlaw. Eventually, the Meisterburger family die off and fall out of power with their laws now abolished. The people of Sombertown then look up to Kris and eventually canonize him, thereby becoming Santa while Jessica is now Mrs. Claus. Kris then decides to limit his journeys to one night a year and selects Christmas Eve, "the night of profound love" as termed by Kluger. While preparing to leave, Winter tells him that he has his magic powers back to guarantee the world a white Christmas.

Kluger returns after the entire mise-en-scène, and after he explains Santa's true meaning, he remembers that he still has to deliver the children's letters. He leaves for the North Pole joined by Topper, Winter, the Kringle family, and a parade of children over the credit roll ("Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"). As they reach Santa's Workshop, we see Kris and Jessica's shadows inside their castle, whereafter Kris exits an elevator and steps outside in his Santa outfit and waves goodbye to the viewers.


  • 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, Townspeople
  • Joan Gardner as Tanta Kringle, 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.

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, Frosty the Snowman, and 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.[1][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SX5E4Z - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!".
  2. ^ " Santa Claus is Coming to Town - DS Review".

External links[edit]