Film: The Santa Clause

A trilogy of Disney Christmas movies starring Tim Allen.

The first film in the series, The Santa Clause (1994) is sort of a modern take on the Scrooge story but with a twist. Cynical businessman Scott Calvin is divorced and bitter, his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) doesn't want him to have much contact with his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), and he's more concerned with the company's bottom line than with Christmas spirit. One fateful Christmas Eve, he startles a man who he believes is a burglar on his roof. The man falls off into the snow of their front yard, then vanishes, leaving his clothing behind. Scott, guilted into trying to be a better father, puts on the guy's red Santa coat — and this results in him and his son being magically transported to the North Pole, where he discovers that he must now take on the role of Santa. Being a cynic, he blows this off and returns to his life. But before he knows it, the naughty and nice list arrives for him to check twice. Scott finds himself craving cocoa with marshmallows and Christmas cookies. He puts on weight at an alarming rate despite workouts. He finds his hair whitening and a beard that grows back in five seconds, rather than a shadow at five o'clock. His ex thinks he's crazy and tries to have him arrested. The elves must spring him from jail and get him back to the North Pole in time for the midnight ride.

The second is The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause (2002) in which Scott discovers that in order to keep being Santa, the fine print in the magical contract that gives him his Christmas powers requires him to find a wife. So he has only until Christmas to find a Mrs. Claus. He gets a watch with a magical indicator on it that tells him how much Christmas magic he has left; if it runs out, he can't get back to the North Pole. In order to keep the elves in the dark about the problem, a toy Santa is created to take his place. When it goes wrong, the elves try to keep a lid on it so Scott can find a lady. He finds one in Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) , but when he confesses, she kicks him out, believing he's being a Jerkass. But of course it all ends well.

The third, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), features a North Pole visit from Carol's parents for Christmas. Mrs. Claus is about to have a baby, and Santa must contend with jealous Jack Frost. Played by Martin Short, the harbinger of winter is jealous that Santa gets all the winter attention, and decides to exploit the escape clause of the Santa Clause in order to steal the job from Scott Calvin. Scott is returned to his life before, without Carol, but is made aware of what's gone wrong and has to set it all right before Christmas Eve.

This movie series has examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • The toy Santa in the second film doesn't get Bernard's name right.
    • Neither did Scott in the first one. While trying to remember it, he scans Bernard's body for a nametag, and not finding one, gets stumped (after reading off Judy the waitress's nametag).
  • Adult Fear: In-universe example from the first movie. Scott and Charlie disappear with no trace around Thanksgiving to work at the North Pole with no warning to Laura or Neil but also no malice or intent to hurt them. But his mother spends an entire month worrying about him and only hears from him on the phone and while he does sound happy, the police cannot get a trace on his location and have no leads to his whereabouts.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Even magical Christmas elves can't always get it right. In the sequel, the Elves make a toy Santa but it doesn't work out as planned. See below.
  • All Myths Are True: Every Santa myth is the truth. Mother Nature is a real person. So is the Tooth Fairy. And Jack Frost. Among others.
    • Mind you, the myths here are mostly those familiar to Americans. There are very few references to the European version of the character.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Interestingly enough, Bernard the Head Elf.
  • Amicable Exes: Scott and Laura eventually become friendly.
  • American Accents: Tim Allen, being a Colorado native who grew up in Michigan, repeatedly says "roof" as "ruf".
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Council of Legendary Figures.
  • Ascended Extra: Bernard was only in a few scenes in the first movie, but was a main character in the second.
  • Audible Gleam: Charlie sacrifices a tooth to summon the Tooth Fairy so he can get Carol to the North Pole. When Santa's powers return, so does Charlie's tooth, with a visible sparkle that you can also hear.
  • Awesome McCoolname: The Tooth Fairy wants a better name, so Scott jokes "The Molinator" (after the molars).
  • Bad Santa: Scott takes the elves up on making a toy subsitute Santa so he can go search for a wife in the second film, but toy Santa takes a turn for the dictatorial.
  • Balloon Belly: Comet, after eating a bunch of candy.
  • Big Eater: Scott becomes this after assuming the role of Santa.
  • Big "NO!": Jack Frost in the third film, when Scott foils him.
  • Bowdlerise: The televised version of the first film ends the doctor's office scene early, because the doctor uses his stethoscope, and the camera shows Scott's bare chest.
  • Brick Joke: In the beginning of the film the first Santa dies after falling off Scott's roof. Later in the film it seems Scott himself has developed a minor phobia of falling off roofs.
    • On one of his first visits, Scott sarcastically tells a little girl that he is lactose intolerant after she tells him to have the milk and cookies. A year later, he visits the same girl and she has put out soy milk for him.
  • But Thou Must: Whoever signs the Santa Clause is forced to be Santa throughout the duration of the Christmas season. They can't change back until it's over.
  • Butt Monkey: Scott Calvin, mostly in the first film.
    • Neil could also be but only from Scott constantly mocking him.
  • California Doubling: Inverted; most of the film was shot in Ontario. In one scene, a Swiss Chalet restaurant stands in for a Denny's.
    • Also played straight in the third movie; Carol's parents are led to believe that Scott is a toymaker living in Canada. The "Canada" they visit is just the North Pole decorated in a very stereotypical manner.
  • Canada, Eh?: The third film, the North Pole is dressed up to look like Canada. The kids even say, "Welcome to Canada. Eehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."
  • Cassandra Truth: Scott confesses to Carol that he really is Santa Claus. She becomes angry with him, thinking he's mocking her hesitant confession about how much she loves Christmas. Charlie later attempts to vouch for his father, doing his first good deed since the previous christmas in that film, only for her to think the same for him.
  • Cavalier Consumption: Scott spends a board meeting taking his time scooping a sundae dish clean, all to the tune of Think!.
  • Christmas Elves
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Bernard is absent in the third film, and it's never explained why.
  • Consummate Liar: Ties into Scott's cynicism and bitterness in the first film.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: What they did to Toy Santa after shrinking him. The only problem is he tries to teach the other Toy santas to dance properly.
  • Cool Old Guy: Bernard when he's not working is very jovial and fun. He looks like a teenager or young adult, but he's really very old even by elf standards.
  • Crystal Ball: The magic snowglobe in the third film may qualify.
  • The Cynic: Both Scott and Neil to a degree in the beginning, they both get better.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scott Calvin is easily the snarkiest character in the whole series.
    • Also Bernard.
    • Charlie has his moments of this as well.
  • Defcon Five: Averted by the North Pole's "Elfcon" system, of all things, which acts as a means of helping keep the workshop from being discovered.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Carol in the second movie. Turns out she was an ice queen because being warm-hearted had gotten her hurt in the past.
  • Demoted to Extra: Charlie appeared only very briefly in the third film.
  • Description Cut: When Scott pulls into a Denny's.
    Scott: Everybody likes Denny's! It's an American institution!
    (Cut to restaurant full of Japanese men)
  • Disappeared Dad: Scott always loved Charlie, but the first movie demonstrates how much more focused with business he was. Becoming Santa obviously helps him get his priorities in order. However, in an irony, Scott still falls into this by the second movie - though now because of the workload over caring for all the children of the world.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Toy Santa is unfamiliar with the concept of proportion of any kind—as far as he's concerned, if a kid does anything bad at all, all year, (s)he counts as naughty. Curtis and Bernard try to convince him this is too simplistic of an argument, but of course he doesn't listen.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Elves use one as a gag in the first film.
  • Doom Doors
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Inverted in the first film; during the Denny's scene, there's a whole section of the restaurant filled with single dads who screwed up Christmas Eve dinner and are trying to make up for it.
  • First Father Wins: Played With; Scott is able to patch up his relationship with Charlie without Neil, the stepdad, having to be screwed over or vilified.
    • Invoked in the third movie. In a world where Jack Frost became Santa, Neil tried to be a father to Charlie while Scott was busy at the office. Charlie regardless preferred the absent Scott, which put pressure on Neil's relationship with Laura.
  • Foreshadowing: In the beginning of the second movie, Scott/Santa remarks that his pants feel looser before he finds out about the whole Mrs. Clause/Desantafication ordeal.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: The plot of the second movie is that Scott/Santa has to find a "Mrs. Claus" in one month or lose his powers.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Neil's influence on Charlie in the first film backfires when Charlie declares that Neil is denying his inner child.
    • From the second film:
    Lucy: You can't stay mad at (Uncle Scott) forever, Charlie. He's your daddy, and you love him.
  • Gasshole: Comet: When first meeting him in the first film, after Scott Calvin warns Charlie that the Reindeer might have "Key Lyme Disease", Comet ends up breaking wind.
    • Also, Scott himself ends up getting this during the first stages of his transformation into Santa (when he is getting up out of bed, you can distinctly hear a farting sound).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Subverted. A scene ended up deleted specifically because of complaints relating to a phone number. See Executive Meddling.
    • Though this harmless little line was left in:
    Charlie: Whoa, Dad! You're flying!
    Scott Calvin: It's okay, I'm used to it. I lived through the '60s.
  • Gilligan Cut: When told he has to convince the other elves that the Toy Santa is the real one, Bernard insists "I'm not gonna lie to all the elves!" Cut to Bernard telling him how much better "Santa" looks now to the other elves.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Bernard when he's working is very impatient and serious. He looks like a teenager or young adult, but he's really very old even by elf standards.
  • Hey, You!: Scott keeps misnaming Bernard, and Bernard only addresses Scott as Santa.
  • Homemade Sweater From Hell: One of the prospective women Scott dates is a Christmas freak with a sweater like this. Neil also wears these in the original, and is mocked for it by Scott.
    • Who is hilariously forced to wear one himself on his first date because it's the only thing that fits him.
    • Also the sweater Scott wears when he visits Neil and Laura's house after the custody hearing is far worse than anything Neil wore in the entire trilogy.
  • Honorary Uncle: Scott for Lucy. It's another sign that Scott made peace with the Millers after the first film.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: When the tooth fairy thinks he's caught, he grunts "bicuspids!"
  • Hide Your Otherness: Scott keeps shaving and dying his hair (he didn't want to look like Santa), only to have the beard grow back immediately, and the hair to go back to white.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Santa's bag is functionally empty until one reaches a qualifying house, at which time it produces the requested gift.
  • I Have Many Names: When arrested in the first movie, Scott delays his interrogation significantly by supplying a different name for Saint Nicholas each time he is asked for his name. And then Topo Gigio.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: In the first movie, the trucker that sees Scott and Charlie on the sleigh is played by Jimmy Labriola, who had a recurring role as Benny on Home Improvement.
  • Inconvenient Summons: At the end of the movie, Charlie summons Scott mere minutes after they part.
  • "Jeopardy!" Thinking Music: As Scott eats, his co-workers just watch while this plays.
  • Jerk Ass: Neil is a watered-down one in the first movie, portraying his logical psychology as a bad thing when it means you shouldn't believe in magic and wonder.
    • Scott Calvin is in the first movie up until he transforms into Santa Claus, basically because of his arrogant and cynical disposition.
    • To a small extent, Laura is because of how she tries to argue with Scott in the beginning which would make sense on what lead to their divorce on her part, while with Scott it would most likely be over his arrogant cynicism and negligence.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite how much of a Jerk Ass he is at the beginning, it is clear Scott loves his son Charlie and would do anything for him, which is proven when he puts on Santa Claus's suit and delivers the toys just to make him happy.
  • Kick the Dog: Jack Frost does this several times in the third film. Aside from freezing Lucy's parents and exploiting the North Pole when he becomes Santa, there's this unforgettable quote:
    Santa!Jack Frost: Remember, kids. How much your parents love you depend on how much money they spend on your present!
  • Klingon Promotion: Scott first got the Santa job by accidentally killing his predecessor.
  • Large Ham: Martin Short as Jack Frost.
  • Leaving Food For Santa: Early in his tenure as Santa, when he's still refusing to get into the spirit of it, Scott doesn't touch the food. When a small child catches him not drinking the milk she's left out, he tells her it's because he's lactose intolerant. This becomes a Brick Joke when he returns to the house at the end of the film, and finds that she's remembered and left him a glass of soy milk instead.
  • Legacy Character: The previous Santa dies or retires and the next person to don the suit gets the job. Apparently most Santas are lost through rooftop falls, as that's the first thing that Bernard (correctly) assumed happened to the previous Santa when he meets Scott.
  • Let There Be Snow:
    • Happens near the end of the first film, when a crowd is watching Santa leave. Next, there's a Match Cut to the snow globe when Charlie uses it.
    • A variation in the second film. Their town isn't in a warm climate, but Scott uses some of his dwindling Christmas magic to make this happen while he's courting Carol.
  • Lighter and Softer: The first film is rated PG and the next two are both G. Although the first was just barely a PG, this trope is still present in that both sequels have a more child-friendly tone.
  • Marquee Alter Ego: Tim Allen spends a significant chunk of all three movies as Scott and reverts back to Santa in time for the Happy Ending.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The trailer for the first movie had Scott fooling around with a doll and chatting with some guy in front of a children's play area.
  • Mrs. Claus: The second film is about Scott having to get a wife.
  • Never Land: The elves are ancient but look mostly like preteen children.
  • My Card: Neil gives his to Scott when the Santa issue reaches a fever pitch.
  • Nice Guy: Scott after he gets rid of his Jerk Ass qualities and accepts being the new Santa Claus.
  • Not Me This Time: Variation: When Bernard reveals that Charlie's on the naughty list, Santa/Scott initially thinks that he's referring to Charlie Sheen, and remarks that he thought he straightened out. Abby then reveals that they weren't referring to Sheen, but to his son, Charlie Calvin.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Inverted in the first film; when people refer to Neil as a doctor, Scott sarcastically replies "He's not a doctor, he's a psychiatrist."
  • Obvious Pregnancy: Carol in the third movie.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted by Judy the waitress and Judy the elf. After the first night at the North Pole, Scott concludes Charlie is remembering the waitress as an elf.
  • Only Sane Man: Bernard in the second movie is the only person in the know who thinks toy Santa is a bad idea. Scott realizes how unconvincing it looks but tells Bernard to convince the other elves it's him anyway, and when he does he sounds so sure of himself. Unfortunately, he admits that maybe Curtis was right that it was a good idea right before toy Santa goes completely bonkers.
  • Painting the Medium: The first movie's poster and everything based on it have the text of the titular clause printed along the edges, just as it is with Santa's business card in the film.
    • Some white sparks change the title from print to cursive, then linger on the e in Clause.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Scott has to get married in the Santa Clause 2 to fulfill the conditions of the Mrs. Clause. He falls in love with Carol... who also happens to be Charlie's hated principal. When Charlie first finds out they're dating, he's devastated, but later decides that his father's happiness is more important and tries to convince Carol to believe in Scott.
  • Parental Bonus: When Scott's son appears on the Naughty List.
    Bernard: It's... Charlie.
    Scott: Sheen? I thought he straightened out.
  • Pre Ribbon Rope Throwing One Liner: "We're your worst nightmare. Elves. With. Attitude."
  • Product Placement: Used very effectively. Both Laura and Neil talk about toys they wanted as children that convinced them Santa wasn't real, both actual toys: Mystery Date was what Laura wanted, and an Oscar Meyer weenie whistle was what Neil wanted. Scott finally delivers them at the end of the first movie.
    • The second film features it in the sequence where Scott delivers the school staff all their favorite toys from childhood including Toss Across and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.
  • Protector Behind Bars: In 2, Curtis has to go warn Santa that Toy Santa has gone off the deep end in Bernard's place because Bernard has been placed under house arrest. Scott is incredulous about this news.
  • Pun-Based Title: Blatantly spelled out in the first movie:
    Bernard: ...So when you put on the suit, you fell subject to the Santa Clause.
    Scott: The Santa Claus? Oh, you mean the guy who fell off my roof.
    Bernard: No no, not Santa Claus the person, Santa Clause the clause.
    Scott: What?
    Bernard: (sigh) Look, you're a business man, right?
    Scott: Yeah.
    Bernard: Okay, a clause as in the last line of a contract.
    (Beat)
    Bernard: You got the card??
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: See Pre Ribbon Rope Throwing One Liner.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Lucy is a champion at this. She comes by it honestly, as her parents, Neil and Laura, demonstrate.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: Though many of the elves dress in very old-fashioned clothing, the elves also take full advantage of the latest technological advancements, and they appear more technologically advanced in some areas than humans.
  • Put on a Bus: Bernard doesn't appear at all in the third movie (due to David Krumholtz having contractual obligations). Curtis (the Assistant Head Elf from the second movie) takes his place as the Head Elf.
  • Putting on the Reich: Robo-Santa in part 2.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: Once the main character is destined to become the new Santa, his beard grows at an unbelievable rate.
  • Read the Fine Print
  • Really 700 Years Old: The elves are very old but all look like adorable children who happen to have pointed ears. Bernard resembles a teenager or young adult and is older than a millennium according to some of 2's behind the scenes material.
  • Running Gag: Neil's ugly sweaters in the first movie. Finally culminates when Bernard greatly admires one and wonders if it was produced by the elves.
  • Santa Claus: Natch.
  • Santa's Existence Clause: Scott pretends to believe in Santa for Charlie's sake, to the point of trying to explain how the reindeer fly, only to discover it is real.
  • Saving Christmas: What Scott ends up doing in each movie, with the help of elves and his family.
  • Second Episode Morning: Scott tries desperately to dismiss his first night in the North Pole as a dream, and hide the Santification process.
  • Secret Keeper: Charlie and his mother and her new psychologist husband, and later their daughter Lucy. They all know Scott is Santa but can't tell anyone. Charlie takes this particularly hard for a while.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: The only thing left of Santa after he vanishes is his Santa Suit.
  • Shoot the Messenger: From an elf in the second movie after bringing Santa the naughty and nice list.
  • Shout-Out: In part 2 — a robo-Santa who views everyone as naughty and intends to punish them accordingly?
    • Lucy has a Kim Possible picture in her room.
    • Scott mentioning the Disney Channel makes the first film much easier to market and air on related networks.
    • When Scott Calvin has a smorgasboard of food before a meeting at the toy company that he works at while his coworkers wait for him to finish eating, the theme tune of Jeopardy! is playing in the background.
    • Scott's confrontation with Toy Santa results in Toy Santa exclaiming, "You are a sad, strange little man." Doubles as an Actor Allusion.
    • It's probably unintentional, but the name of Scott and Carol's newborn child is Buddy Claus.
    • The English-accented elf in charge of the North Pole's technical department is called Quentin, probably in reference to Q.
  • Shown Their Work: When Scott and Charlie finish their first run, the sun has already begun to rise. When they land at the North Pole, it's dark. Why? It's polar night! Compare to almost every other Santa film, where the North Pole has "normal" day and night cycles.
    • Lucy is almost seven, the age at which experts believe children gain the ability to tell right from wrong, and, by extension, the ability to keep a secret.
  • Significant Monogram: Scott Calvin.
  • Someone Has to Do It: The world needs Santa, so there must always be one.
  • Spotting the Thread: Toy Santa would look just like Santa... if his face and hair weren't obviously made of inorganic material. Bernard tries to cover this by saying Santa had some work done and is sensitive about it.
  • Steam Never Dies: Steam trains show up all over the place at the North Pole.
  • Subbing for Santa: Drives the entire plot of the movie.
  • Suddenly Voiced: In the first movie Comet is a normal reindeer who has the ability of flight like the rest of Santa's (the only sounds he makes are growls and grunts). In the sequels, he is somehow able to speak with a voice reminiscent of Scooby-Doo.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Carol in the second movie.
  • Surprise Santa Encounter: Lucy finds out that Uncle Scott really is Santa Claus and gets in on being a Secret Keeper.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Abby in the second film, for Judy in the first film.
  • Take You Aside Talk: In the first film, these situations set up discussions about the effects of Scott's becoming Santa Claus; in the later two films, Scott is usually about to receive bad news.
  • Taking the Kids: Scott's wife in the first film thinks Scott is an unfit father, and that, once the Santa stuff begins happening, he's crazy.
  • Theme Initials: Pointed out by Charlie with regards to Scott Calvin/Santa Claus.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Scott gradually takes on Santa's traits and kind demeanor. Compare when he visits the little girl's house in the first movie as his normal jerky self, then later as Santa.
  • Time Travel: Jack Frost uses this to go back to the first film's events and get the coat from the previous Santa before Scott can. However, you would think that Jack Frost would have to put on the whole suit in order for the Santa magic to take effect on him like it did Scott, and because that is what the Santa card said. Even though Scott a couple of times in the sequels mistakenly makes references that the card said that whoever put on the coat would be subject to the duties of Santa Clause instead of saying suit like everything else did in the first one. Therefore, Jack Frost was able to pull off stealing the position in the alternate universe by just putting on the coat instead of the whole suit. However, though, he then returns to the present and turns Christmas into a commercialized parody of itself.
  • Title Drop: See the quote at Pun-Based Title.
  • Took A Level In Bad Ass: Charlie in the second film; puberty can do wonders for a guy.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Scott after he becomes the new Santa Claus.
    • Also Laura and Neil after they realize Scott is really Santa Claus.
  • Two-Timer Date: Scott has to spend most of December looking after Charlie and trying to find a wife. The problem is that's exactly when he has to be at the North Pole doing his Santa duties. They create Toy Santa to get around this.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Toy Santa in the second film becomes a Literal Genie dictatorial monster who nearly ruins Christmas when he decides no children are good enough to get presents so they should all get coal. Jack Frost steals the Santa position via Time Travel in the third film.
  • Wacky Cravings And a Diet Coke: Side effects of the Santafication process.
  • Wedding Day: Albeit rushed. It was done at 11:50 on Christmas Eve, on account of the...
  • Wedding Deadline: Santa has to be officially married before Christmas Eve turns Christmas Day at midnight or he'll lose his powers and there will be no Santa.
    • Fridge Logic: Very surprising, considering the efforts the elves make to to ensure that there is always a Santa.
  • What Are You in For?: Again, the Denny's scene. The waitress asks if Scott and Charlie are part of the corporate group which is seated in the front room of the restaurant, then seats them among other people who are in the same situation as they.
  • Wonderful Life: In the third film, Scott realizes that without his becoming Santa, his entire family ends up a bunch of greedy cynics.
  • Wrote the Book: The third movie has:
    Lucy: Okay, okay, chill!
    Jack Frost: I invented chill!
  • Yes Virginia
  • You Kill It, You Bought It