Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny
is a 1974 Christmas film directed by Barry Mahon and R. Winer that aired as a weekend afternoon kiddie matinee. It stars Jay Clark as Santa Claus and "Kids" from Ruth Foreman's Pied Piper Playhouse
Actually, no, that description doesn't nearly do it justice.
It's actually a complete and utter Mind Screw
from start to finish. Standard movie-watching logic does not apply to this film. In fact, any attempt to apply basic storytelling logic to the film will probably give you an aneurysm. It ignores every basic dramatic convention. The final episode of The Prisoner
was less of a mind rape
than this movie. To say that the movie feels like a fever dream, or David Lynch
attempting to make the most surreal kids movie ever made is an understatement.
Santa and his sleigh are stranded on a beach somewhere in Florida in inch-deep sand, his reindeer having flown back to the North Pole to cool off. Several kids (including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
) try to help him out with a variety of farm animals (and a guy dressed in a gorilla suit!), but to no avail. Just when all hope is given up, Santa is reminded of the story of "Thumbelina
", upon which the film sidetracks the Santa Claus story to focus on Thumbelina. The eponymous Ice Cream Bunny doesn't show up to help Santa until the very end, where the two drive off in his old fire truck.
Did we mention that the "Thumbelina" segment is actually a longer
and entirely different film, complete with its own opening and closing credits left intact? Yep, Santa's story to the children includes detailed descriptions of who the executive producer was. By now you should start to understand why this film is basically a Logic Bomb
The "Thumbelina" segment was shot at the long-defunct Pirates World theme park in Florida in 1970, and stars Shay Garner as the title character. It is a re-telling of said story done in the style of a museum exhibit, complete with models of the sets. So, that makes the theme park itself a Framing Device, too!
Oddly enough, depending on where the film was shown, certain prints substituted the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk
" for "Thumbelina", also shot at Pirates World, with Mitchell Poulos as the boy hero. This was no improvement, especially as the Giant (Renato Boracherro) offered such lines as, "Wife, bring me my creepy-crawlies! Mmmm-mmmmmm!".
Barry Mahon, one of the directors, was actually a fugitive from the true story of The Great Escape
. What did Those Wacky Nazis do
to him that caused him to make this
Read The Agony Booth
's recap here
. Also available as a RiffTrax video download.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny contains examples of:
- Amateur Cast: The kids are actually billed as "'Kids' from Ruth Foreman's Pied Piper Playhouse". (That's not a typo: "Kids" is in quotation marks in the credits.)
- Blatant Lies: The poster advertises this film as being "all new" and promises an "exciting rescue" by the Ice Cream Bunny, when in fact only about a third of the film is made up of new footage, and the "rescue" involves the Ice Cream Bunny giving Santa a ride home in his fire truck.
- Broken Aesop: Before and after the Thumbelina story, Santa repeatedly tells the kids they must never, ever give up...right after he's repeatedly given up trying to move the sleigh and swears up and down that nothing will work. Most glaringly, he gives up after trying to dig the sleigh out himself even though it's working (he clears about half of one of the runners in less than a minute).
- Canine Companion: Rebel the dog.
- Deus ex Machina: The Ice Cream Bunny and his fire truck. Though, that doesn't explain how Santa can return to the North Pole...
- It's strongly implied that the Bunny drives Santa to the North Pole on the fire truck. Santa's sled teleports back to the North Pole as a failsafe, should it and Santa ever be separated. (Of course, there's no explanation why that failsafe can't be implemented while Santa is in the sled. Perhaps in order to teleport you must be naked, which would be the reason why Santa and the rest of the world wouldn't want that to happen.)
- Stop! You're making this film make sense!
- Earworm: The bit where they play "Old Man River" on kazoos (no, really) is pretty much guaranteed to rattle around in your head for a while.
- Filming For Easy Dub: Possibly the single worst example ever committed to film. It was obviously shot silent to keep the (non-existent) budget even lower and the dialogue was looped in later, and they kept the shots of the actors' mouths moving to a minimum. Ever seen The Beast of Yucca Flats? It's like that, but much worse. Yes, this film sailed below the standards set by Coleman Francis.
- Framing Device: The whole bit with Santa was just one of these for "Thumbelina", along with the theme park for said segment.
- Gainax Ending/No Ending: The film doesn't end. It just sort of stops.
- Greek Chorus: Tom and Huck are this in theory, as they sit in the bushes and observe the action from the outside. They don't actually contribute anything worthwhile to the story.
- Informed Attribute: We're told that Rebel is a smart dog, which might be a bit easier to believe if he didn't drink out of muddy puddles and nearly get run over three times during the climatic "rescue" scene.
- Last Episode New Character: The Ice Cream Bunny doesn't appear until the climax to rescue Santa.
- Mind Screw: To say that the movie has a tendency to be random, bizarre and nonsensical is an understatement.
- Mondegreen: Santa calling out "Kim!" is often misheard as "Kid!"
- Nested Story: The "Thumbelina" short...which even has its own credits.
- No Name Given: While summoning the kids, Santa calls each one out by name, except for the three girls jumping rope, to whom he simply calls out, "Girls!"
- Non Indicative Name: As pointed out below, no explanation is given for why he's called the Ice Cream Bunny. He's not made of ice cream, nor is he shown handing out or eating ice cream. The filmmakers seem to have assumed that the Ice Cream Bunny was so well known that, like Santa, he required no introduction. This is apparent when Santa's reaction to seeing him come to the rescue is "The Ice Cream Bunny! Of course!"
- Only in Florida: Where else could a film like this be made? Or take place?
- Out-of-Genre Experience: From Santa's sleigh predicament to a cheap theme park adaptation of "Thumbelina".
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Ice Cream Bunny supplies no ice cream whatsoever.
- Product Placement: For Pirates World theme park. The internal evidence suggests this film was created to double-dip off pre-existing movies previously funded by the park's owners for the kiddie matinée circuit.
- If you sense desperation, it's because Disney opened Walt Disney World the year before. A year after the film was released, Pirates World was bankrupt. By 1975, the place was closed. Not long after, the park was razed and condos built in its place.
- Public Domain Character: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, who serve no purpose to the plot other than extra Padding. It also stars Santa Claus who gets stuck in Florida.
- Saving Christmas: Santa is stuck in Florida, and according to the calendar he presents at the end of the film, there are only five days until Christmas.
- Stock Footage: One of the elves peers outside the workshop to view a clip of some reindeer on a ''green'' landscape of the North Pole.
- Stop Trick: The sleigh's disappearance at the end of the film.
- Those Two Guys: Tom and Huck, who were just paddling around in a lake when they hear the commotion of the kids being summoned by Santa. They swim to shore and run after the group, then spend the rest of the movie standing behind a bush watching everything unfold without getting involved.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the climax, the Ice Cream Bunny drives through the Pirates World theme park, and the people at the park pay no mind to an anthropomorphic rabbit driving through in an antique fire truck carrying kids and a dog.
The "Thumbelina" adaptation contains examples of:
- Acting for Two: Shay Garner plays both the title character and the young woman who stumbles upon the exhibit. The Thumbelina segments are presumably the young woman imagining the story as she listens to it.
- Amusement Park of Doom: That steeplechase ride near the beginning and end — No safety belts, plenty of sudden turns, and dangerously fast. Have fun, kiddies!
- And You Were There: Tom Thumb is played by the same actor as the young girl's boyfriend.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Thumbelina's dress never gets messed up, even during many months spent in the outdoors. Her hair is always flawlessly combed.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Thumbelina is lost in the woods, she starts singing, "Fiddle-dee-dee!" She explains through the song that it's her way to cope with frightening situations, and advises to "give it a try and you’ll agree".
- The frog, apparently alone, explains his entire back story while looking directly at the camera (probably, it's hard to tell since his eyes are part of a mask). One can only assume he's speaking to the audience.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The witch certainly needs to reiterate the price of her services after singing about it for five minutes!
- Dull Surprise: Thumbelina, who reacts to everything as though she's been drugged and isn't sure if what she's seeing is real or not.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Thumbelina protests marrying a frog and Mr. Digger because they've only known each other for a day, but then has no problem with immediately marrying Tom Thumb. Sure, there's species to consider, but species is barely even brought up. Her main reason for agreeing to marry Tom Thumb seems to be that he wasn't as pushy as her other suitors.
- Happily Ever After
- "I Want" Song: Thumbelina's "Flower Child" song, in which she expresses her desire to enjoy the outside world which her marriage to Mr. Digger will deny her.
- May-December Romance: In the loosest sense of "romance" possible. Mr. Digger convinces Thumbelina that it would be in her best interests to marry him, and she goes along with it for a while. Her main concern is that he's old. The fact that he's a mole doesn't seem to enter into it.
- Mind Screw: Given the Acting for Two above, you've got to wonder if the girl listening to the story is hearing her own voice whenever Thumbelina talks.
- Narrator All Along: The narrator from the drive thru-looking speaker in the exhibit throughout the film is actually Mrs. Mole, who lets Thumbelina into her home during the winter.
- Nested Story
- Pair the Spares: After Thumbelina doesn't go through with marrying Mr. Digger, he settles on Mrs. Mole instead.
- Recap Film: Utilized in the ending for some reason other than more padding.
- Show, Don't Tell: Averted, as crucial story moments are skipped over and described by the narrator or characters.
- Stock Footage: Whenever the film is going to describe something that would too expensive to film, it cuts to the girl at the exhibit listening and tilting her head.
- Suppressed Mammaries: Inverted. It's incredibly obvious that Shay Garner is not wearing a bra.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never stated what happened to Thumbelina's mother after her kidnapping. The last we see of her, she's sobbing over the kidnapping of her daughter.