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
  • United States
  • Japan (Animagic)
Original languageEnglish
  • Arthur Rankin Jr.
  • Jules Bass
CinematographyKizo Nagashima
EditorIrwin Goldress
Running time51 mins
Production companyRankin/Bass Productions
DistributorClassic Media
Original networkABC
Original releaseDecember 13, 1970 (1970-12-13)
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 is narrated by Fred Astaire and starring the voices of 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 on December 13, 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.


After a newsreel prologue stating that children around the world are preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus, a postman named Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger is introduced. When his mail truck breaks down, he tells the story of Santa in response to several letters sent from children.

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 henchman and 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 toys to Sombertown. Meanwhile, the Burgermeister, after tripping on a toy and suffering a leg injury-(i.e. a broken funny bone), bans all toys in the town, declaring that anyone found possessing a toy will be arrested and thrown into the dungeon. 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 start their journey back to the Kringles, the Winter Warlock captures them with his tree monsters, but when Kris gives him a toy train as a present, the Warlock's evil exterior melts away 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. Jessica determines that she belongs with Kris, and goes to the prison, to rescue everyone. Jessica asks Winter to break everyone out but he sadly refuses, having very little magic left, save for 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 original name "Claus" for safety, Kris marries Jessica. After the ceremony, the group travels to the North Pole to build a castle and toy workshop.

As the years pass and Kris and Jessica grow older, Kris continues to travel only at night, as he's still considered an outlaw. Eventually, this changes as the Meisterburgers die off and lose power over Sombertown, and most of the laws are deemed ridiculous and thus revoked. Kris's legend goes worldwide, and he's deemed a saintly figure, becoming Santa Claus. As more years pass, a now elderly Santa becomes unable to fulfill all the toy requests throughout the year, and announces to Jessica that he will be limiting his trips to one night a year: 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.

Shortly before the conclusion of the special, S.D. Kluger notes that while Santa is admired by most and no longer an outlaw, there are still a number of people who dislike both Santa Claus and Christmas. Lamenting this, Kluger gives a short speech in which he expresses his hope that by living up to Santa's lesson of selfless giving, world peace can be achieved. Kluger suddenly realizes that it's getting late and remembers that he still has to deliver the letters to Santa and warns the audience of Children (who have been a vocal part of the special throughout) to behave, as Santa still has the Magic snowball to see them with, before leaving 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. Kris and his wife are seen silhouetted in an upstairs window as Jessica puts on his hat and Santa steps out of his castle, waving goodbye to the viewers and ending the special.

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, animals, guards, doctor, Newsreel Announcer, Kringle Brothers, male townspeople, businessman, Scrooge-related man, and more
  • Joan Gardner as Tanta Kringle, stores lady, female townspeople, and more
  • Dina Lynn, Greg Thomas, Gary White, and Andrea Sacino as the children (Greg Thomas also as Young Kris Kringle)

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, Viacom and Freeform[edit]

The special has been edited for content and length by both ABC, Viacom, and Freeform since its original airing. As early as 1986, ABC cut two songs from the special ("My World Is Beginning Today" and "What Better Way", as well as two other songs in half.

When Viacom syndicated the special to local television stations in the 1980s and early 1990s, only the songs (with the exception of "Put One Foot In Front Of The Other") were shortened for time while "What Better Way To Tell You" was removed entirely.

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.


The film has an aggregated review score of 93% based on 14 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic consensus stating: "Arriving with light-hearted cheeriness and the best musical numbers, Santa Claus Is Comin To Town is a magical story told by charming wood-figure animation."[3]


A novelization of the film was published by Running Press in 2008 in an oversized children's hardback edition. The script was adapted by Sierra Harimann with watercolor illustrations based on the original show by Michael Koelsch.[4] 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
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.[5][6]

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. ^ "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town on Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Santa Clas Is Comin' to Town. Google Books. Running Press. 23 September 2008. ISBN 9780762430215. Archived from the original on June 26, 2020. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  5. ^ "SX5E4Z - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!".
  6. ^ " Santa Claus is Coming to Town - DS Review".

External links[edit]