The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985 film)

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
Cover of the movie The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.jpeg
VHS cover
Based onThe Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
Written byJulian P. Gardner
Directed byJules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
StarringJ.D. Roth
Earl Hammond
Alfred Drake
Lesley Miller
Bob McFadden
Earle Hyman
Theme music composerBernard Hoffer
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
CinematographyAkikazu Kono
Running time50 minutes
Production company(s)Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment
Pacific Animation Corporation
Original networkCBS
Original releaseDecember 17, 1985

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus[1] is a 1985 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and based on the 1902 children's book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The special first aired December 17, 1985 on CBS in the United States, and December 24, 1986 on TV Asahi in Japan under the title Santa's Secret and Great Adventure (サンタの秘密と大冒険, lit. Santa no Himitsu to Dai Bōken). This was Rankin/Bass' final "Animagic" stop motion production filmed in Japan; later productions would be traditionally animated.


Long ago in the Forest of Burzee, a council meeting is held where the Great Ak tells the story of Santa Claus to the leaders of the Immortals, hoping to persuade them to grant Claus immortality. About 60 years earlier, the Great Ak finds an abandoned baby in the snowy woods on the border of the Forest. He gives it to the lioness Shiegra to raise. However, after hearing about the discovery of the infant, Necile, a Wood Nymph, steals him from Shiegra and goes to the Great Ak, begging him to let her raise the child. After initial concern that a human was brought into the Forest which is against the law, the Great Ak allows Necile to raise the child while Shiegra stays to protect them. Necile names the child "Claus".

When Claus has grown to be a young man, the Great Ak takes him to see the mortal world and its cruelty and suffering. Claus learns that he must live there and make it better. He leaves the Forest and lives in a workshop in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho with Shiegra and Tingler, a Sound Imp. As he gets older, he works to bring happiness to children in a nearby village. He eventually makes toys (the first being a wooden black cat modeled after the kitten Blinky that Necile sent to them, which he gives to the orphan boy Weekum). He is occasionally assisted by a group of Ryls, Knooks, and Wood Nymphs from the Forest.

Meanwhile, evil creatures called the Awgwas (who influence children to do bad things and who are led by King Awgwa) are not happy with Claus's efforts to bring happiness to children, so they attempt to stop Claus from making and delivering toys. At first, they send a warning to Claus, telling him to stop or they would come for him. After Claus ignores the warning, the Awgwas kidnap him, but he calls for aid from the Knooks, who help him escape. As he and his friends make attempts to deliver toys to the village, the Awgwas repeatedly ambush them and steal the toys. Claus tries to go alone by night, but he is again ambushed.

The Great Ak has had enough of this and summons King Awgwa and his followers to come and face him. King Awgwa defies the Great Ak's demand that he stop interfering with Claus's efforts and declares war on the Immortals. Later, the Great Ak and some other Immortals face off against the Awgwas and some monstrous friends that they brought. The monsters attack the Immortals, but the Immortals defeat them. The Immortals then charge toward the Awgwas, who flee in fear. Afterwards, the Great Ak informs Claus that he can resume his toy delivering without fear of interference, because the Awgwas "have perished".

Claus and his friends prepare a sleigh to deliver toys to the village, but it is too heavy for them to pull. Peter Knook comes up with the idea of hitching reindeer from the Forest to the sleigh in order to pull it. Claus travels across the valley in his sleigh along with Tingler and Shiegra. The sleigh makes multiple large leaps which Tingler says is like flying. Claus claims that he now knows why the valley is named the way it is, as he laughs in a "ho ho ho" manner. When he makes his first stop, he finds that the door of the house is locked since it is night, so he enters through the chimney. Once inside, he finds that the children's stockings were hung by the fireplace to dry, so he decides to put small toys in them while placing larger toys elsewhere. After Claus leaves and the family wakes up, they refer to him as "Saint Claus" or "Santa Claus". Once Claus returns, Peter Knook informs him that he can only use the reindeer once a year on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is only ten days away, so he will not have time to make enough toys. In order for Claus to have enough gifts, Peter Knook finds and retrieves the toys stolen by the Awgwas. Claus sets out on his first of many Christmas Eve sleigh rides.

As Claus nears the end of his life, he suggests that his friends remember him by decorating a tree every year. After hearing about Claus's life and good deeds, the council votes to give him the Mantle of Immortality. Having become known as "Santa Claus", he delivers gifts to children every Christmas Eve.

Voice cast[edit]

The Children[edit]


Bloops without a voice listed above[edit]

  • Her Majesty, the Queen of the Water Spirits
  • The Lord of the Sleep Fays
  • The Master of the Sound Imps
  • The Commander of the Wind Demons
  • The Grand Duke of the Light Elves
  • Bloopettes Flashette and Twilight
  • The Protector of the Knooks
  • The King of the Ryls
  • Shiegra the lioness
  • The Mayor of the Color Bloops
  • Mr. Awgwa
  • The Chancellor of the Music Trolls

Production staff[edit]

© 1985 Videocraft International, Ltd.


The Rankin/Bass production truncates much of the story (it ran in a one-hour time slot) and simplifies some of the motivations, but its major alterations from the book are setting up the hearing over the Mantle of Immortality as a frame story explaining just why Claus deserves the mantle, although there is an edit that makes it difficult to realize that the scene in which Ak calls the council when first finding the infant in the woods does not occur in the same time period as the main story. In addition, Shiegra accompanies Claus to the Laughing Valley, in which, unlike the book, it is always Winter. A similar compromise toward popular culture is Claus's now eight reindeer, albeit unnamed. Peter Knook, a rather crusty but amiable fellow, replaces most of the other Knooks, save the Protector (King) and two strangers, and declares "only on Christmas Eve" for the reindeer without any argument or explanation. One important new character, Tingler, a Sound Imp also accompanies Claus and gives him someone to talk to.

When the show premiered, the book was not as easily available, and many Oz fans who only knew of the book were surprised to discover that Tingler was not one of Baum's creations, so true was the character to the author's spirit. Earle Hyman portrayed King Awgwa, and Leslie Miller played Necile. Most of the other voices were performed by Peter Newman and Lynne Lipton. Larry Kenney was the Commander of the Wind Demons, who initially served as a devil's advocate to Ak at the fateful hearing, but soon became the Immortal most approving of giving the Mantle to Claus, and casts the first vote in what proves to be a unanimous decision to that effect. Most of the Immortals' titles were changed to alleviate them all being kings and queens.

Screenwriter Julian P. Gardner created a musical production number, "Big Surprise" as the children at Weekum's orphanage plead Santa Claus for more toy cats. Other songs include the chorus "Babe in the Woods" and the powerful chant, "Ora e Sempre (Today and Forever)" representing the immortals. Bernard Hoffer composed the music, as well as setting a quatrain by Baum inspired by Claus's famous laugh. The presentation of the Christmas tree is different; Claus, realizing his death is imminent, decorates a tree with ornaments and suggests it should be his memorial.

This is the only Rankin/Bass Christmas special without a celebrity narrator. The special aired on Freeform and since 2018 on AMC currently airs the special.[2] though the Freeform broadcast was heavily edited from its original CBS broadcast, along with most of the other Rankin/Bass animated Christmas specials.

The Rankin/Bass production is distributed by Warner Bros. Television.

Nielsen ratings[edit]

Its first airing on December 17, 1985, earned a 12.5 rating and a 19 percent audience share, ranking third in its timeslot, and placed in the bottom ten for the week (56th out of 65 shows).[3]

Home media releases[edit]

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus was released on VHS tape on September 26, 2000 by Warner Home Video.[4] The special was paired with Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey and released on DVD under the Warner Archive brand on November 17, 2009.[5]

Broadcast history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Schedule". 6 December 2016. Archived from the original on 8 December 2016. THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (TBD) 7:00 PM
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus VHS". Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  5. ^ "Double Feature: Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus/Nestor The Christmas Donkey". Retrieved October 15, 2017.

External links[edit]