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Western Animation: Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 CGI animated film produced by Aardman Animations. It is their second attempt at CGI and their first film produced in their new partnership with Sony Pictures Animation.

The film is set on Christmas Eve, and at last reveals the answer to every child's question: "So how does Santa Claus deliver all those presents in one night?" It is thanks to Santa's ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. It also turns out that being Santa Claus is an inheritable position, passed from father to son. Except this time, there are two sons who are prospective Santas: Arthur, whose heart is in the right place but is a bumbler, and his brother Steve, who is extremely efficient but more serious. Their father Malcolm, the current Santa, is little more than a figurehead who isn't familiar with how anything in his company works, and is blissfully unaware of the brothers' rivalry. When one out of the 2 billion presents is accidentally not delivered, it's up to Arthur to complete the mission - with a little help from the his grandfather (the previous Santa Claus) and a plucky female elf named Bryony - before Christmas morning dawns and a child's heart breaks. This must be done, of course, without being discovered by the rest of the world. Naturally, this turns out to be much harder than it sounds.

The film's voice cast includes James McAvoy as Arthur, Hugh Laurie as Steve, Jim Broadbent as Malcolm, Ashley Jensen as Bryony and Bill Nighy as Grandsanta. The film was set for release on November 11, 2011, in the United Kingdom, and November 23, 2011, in the United States.

The official trailer can be viewed here.

Not to be confused with Arthur's Perfect Christmas, a 2000 Christmas Special with a talking bipedal aardvark.

This film provides examples of:

  • 3-D Movie
  • Abstract Scale: The weight of the load in Santa's sleigh, as seen in the opening, is measured in Playstations, of course.
  • Adorkable: Arthur, the title character.
  • All-CGI Cartoon
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The elves are shown to be this for Arthur. He's a bit clumsy and slightly buffoonish (especially as compared to Steve, whom they all admire), so they say things behind his back like "Send him to the South Pole." Even his father isn't quite sure what to do with him. As shown during his Heroic BSOD, he's fully aware of it.
  • All Reindeer Are Dogs
  • Aloof Big Brother: Steve.
  • Ambiguously Human: The Clauses.
  • An Ass Kicking Christmas: When several governments think Santa's sleigh is an alien invasion, and try to shoot it down.
  • Badass Santa: While Steve isn't actually Santa, he more or less fills this role. Doubles as Badass in a Nice Suit, since his version of the costume is a Versace.
    • Grandsanta. He's been doing Christmas runs since 1941, and (according to him) has taken twelve shots from Axis soldiers during World War II.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The polar bear in the teaser trailer.
  • Bland-Name Product: The HOHO 3000 trackers are apparently manufactured by Snowy. Played for Laughs, given the fact that we see many more Sony products throughout the film.
  • Berserk Button: Never mess with the wrapping if Bryony is on duty!
  • Brick Joke: Grandsanta impresses Arthur by making a cloud snowman. Quite a while later as part of the news reports about the 'alien menace' we see it has morphed into a more terrifying shape on one of the North Pole news screens.
  • The Board Game: Apparently there's one of Christmas. The whole holiday.
  • Character Blog: There is a twitter account for someone called 'notanelf'
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tons. In approximately the order they're fired, Eve's 'camouflage' function allowing them to pretend to be a UFO, Arthur's electric slippers saving him from the lions (and the chihuahua), and then letting them divert the fighter plane, Gwen's bicycle giving Arthur a way to reach her house in time, and the S-1's underside night sky display giving the Santas a few extra minutes at Gwen's house.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Grandsanta's pet reindeer sits in the back of the sleigh like a lump doing nothing the whole movie, right? Well, until all the others have gone missing and he manages to pull Eve through the final stretch.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bryony's present wrapping skills come in handy for a few scenes.
    • As does Arthur's skill at riding a bicycle.
  • Christmas Elves: Of course. Rather more militaristic than standard-issue, though, and with an extremely complex rank system. They specialize in covert ops. Each and every one is devoted to the notion that all children deserve and must have a Happy Christmas. It borders on fanatical. This becomes a problem when Steve suggests that just maybe a single child doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, triggering a mass freak-out that almost results in the entire North Pole being destroyed.
  • Cone of Shame: Worn by Grandsanta's reindeer.
  • Cool Sleigh: The S-1. A couple miles long, with flawless camouflage, capable of traveling seven million miles in a single night. And it runs on milk and cookies!
    • Eve is too, in her own dilapidated, steampunky way. Even at a hundred and seventy years old, she's more powerful than any other aircraft aside from the S-1. She's even space-capable.
  • Determinator: Gwen will get that bike if Arthur has anything to say about it, dammit.
    • And Bryony will not see a present being delivered unwrapped it, even if she has to wrap it while Arthur still needs to use it.
  • Disney Death: Grandsanta. In an extremely touching moment, he sacrifices himself to protect Arthur - but it turns out he outfell the explosion and shows up a couple minutes later in a wheely bin.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The high-tech actions of the elves at each landing site are a bit like Prep and Landing turned Up to Eleven.
  • Doing in the Wizard : There is very little actual magic in the movie, besides the pixie dust that enables flight. Even the original sleigh had mechanisms in it. (Elfin "magic" in general seems to be a case of Clarke's Third Law in this setting.)
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Clauses; they're even described that way in one of the official synopses of the film. Steve and Grandsanta are constantly battling over the way to handle the operation, Malcolm is relatively out of touch with everything, Margaret is the Only Sane Man who tries to maintain order, and Arthur...just wants everyone to be happy. By the end of the film, they are.
  • Everyone Is Christian At Christmas: According to the statistics, averted. They deliver two billion presents, but only to six hundred million children out of the world's 1.9 billion.
  • Genki Girl: Bryony.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The movie has at least four references to drinking, and two references to children drinking. (Though in the latter case this is used mostly as more evidence that Grandsanta wasn't quite the epitome of virtues he prefers to remember himself as.)
  • Grumpy Old Man: Grandsanta. He's 136 years old, and doesn't hesitate to act like it.
    Grandsanta: "They used to say it was impossible to teach a woman to read!"
  • Happily Ever After: Everyone, in the epilogue. Even Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, B-Bambi, John, You With The White Ear, You, and You.
  • Happily Married: Malcolm and Margaret - Santa and Mrs. Claus, that is.
  • Heroic BSOD: Arthur suffers an intense one after he realizes his father, Malcolm, doesn't truly live up to the mythic image of Santa, being instead a doddering figurehead.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: A Zig-Zagging Trope answer: The Santas over the years have various methods, ending in the coda with several thousand reindeer pulling a gigantic sleigh-shaped ship, as well as having an army of extremely well-organized and co-ordinated elves visit every single house, with Santa placing the last present of the operation himself.
  • Homemade Sweater From Hell: Arthur wears one. Willingly. (Granted, tacky Christmas sweaters are part of the season's magic for some.)
  • Legacy Character: The title of Santa Claus. The opening shot demonstrates this trope beautifully as it pans across the wall full of portraits, showing us how the costume and the man have changed over the centuries.
  • Masquerade: For various reasons, the sacred rule any acting Santa must follow is to not be seen. (Secret treaties and the extremely high technology level the Elves enjoy are the closest explanation we get to the reasons behind this rule.) This brings the world to the brink of an alien invasion panic when Arthur and Grandsanta are seen.
  • Matrix Raining Code: Christmas themed symbols over the closing credits.
  • Meaningful Echo: "There's always time for a bow."
    • "I'll be the candle."
  • Mrs. Claus: Played by Imelda Staunton, she's definitely the side of the family that Steve got his uber-competence from, and apparently handles the political side of the Claus operation (if that Treaty with Greenland she has to negotiate is any indication). She apparently spends her downtime taking lessons online, to the point where she can do most anything without trouble.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Steve drinks a lot of espresso, and even gets a chair with a dispenser.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Delivering toys with an army of elves armed with high tech and ninja stealth and reflexes. And that's just the first ten minutes.
  • No Antagonist: The closest thing is the respective egos of Steve, Grandsanta and, to a smaller extent, Malcolm.
  • Noodle Incident: Exactly what happened on Grandsanta's last trip. He almost caused World War Three during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Not So Different: Malcom and Arthur make the same screw up in trying to deliver toys.
  • Older Is Better: What Grandsanta believes. Steve, however, is all about newer is better and (he even says during the movie) Bigger Is Better. This pretty much constitutes one of the major conflicts of the film. Arthur, in contrast, has no problem with the new technologies and finds himself rather dubious and terrified when introduced to the pitfalls of the traditional methods, but is very much attached to the traditional ideals of the Santa mystique: That somewhere in the world, there's a wonderful man who knows and dearly loves each and every child, wanting nothing more than for them to be happy. When he realizes his father Malcolm doesn't truly embody these ideals, he's absolutely shattered, suffering a temporary Heroic BSOD.
  • Old Master: despite his crotchety-ness and apparent senility, Grandsanta reveals himself to be this to an extent, calming eight reindeer who've never flown before with naught but a whistle and maneuvering the sleigh with great skill and dexterity. Makes sense, given that he had to fly it during some of the most turbulent times in human history.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Arthur, Grandsanta, Bryony and the old reindeer.
  • Red Herring: With so many animated films these days having a twist villain, you'd expect there to be a real villain in the film. There isn't (unless you count Old Doom-laden Scottish Elf because of what he almost did in a panicked overreaction).
    • In one scene, Grandsanta tells Steve that the only way that he'll get to be Santa is if he bumps his father off. Neither one is really a villain either (though Grandsanta is admittedly off his rocker and Steve winds up having to go through a lesson in humility throughout the film).
  • Running Gag: Arthur's slippers.
  • Saving Christmas: On a small scale for most of the movie. Then Old Doom-laden Scottish Elf convinces the elves to start of an 1816-style North Pole shutdown and the stakes get higher...
    • The whole point of the film is that even one child's happy Christmas is worth fighting for.
  • Shout-Out: There are a few shout outs to other Aardman films in the movie. For example:
    • When Steve delivers Gwen's bicycle to the wrong house, he steps on a Shaun the Sheep toy.
    • Gwen has a Chop Socky Chooks poster in her room.
    • One of the elves in the opening montage puts model train tracks down in the same fashion as Gromit in The Wrong Trousers.
    • In a Sony-related example, the first "waker" kid has an Open Season poster in his room.
    • "Christmas: The Board Game" is obviously based on Monopoly, even having similar pieces.
    • During the opening montage, two parents can be seen watching The Snowman.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: That elf in the trailers really wasn't helping his cause.
  • Subbing for Santa: What Arthur thinks he's doing. Until he realizes that Santa is whoever delivers the presents, not necessarily a specific person.
  • Tempting Fate: Steve saying Grand-Santa is "too old to be getting into trouble."
  • Trade Your Passion for Glory: Three generations of Clauses had forgotten that it's about the children, more than themselves.
  • We All Live in America: In Denmark, we see that people have a turkey in the oven come Christmastime, Christmas stockings hanging by the fireplace and Santa not showing up until everyone has gone to bed. That's not how a Danish Christmas works. To be fair, there are a lot of things the film did get right, such as the German custom of leaving shoes out instead of stockings, and even a quick reference to the Finnish myth that Santa lives in Lappland.
    • Also, the movie shows the Centre in Toronto as being spelled as "Center," the American spelling of centre.
    • Screenwriter/Co-Director Sarah Smith explains their awareness of differences in Christmas celebrations internationally, and why certain things were ignored in this interview.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Arthur, at first.
    • Steve is this, such how he views Malcolm's attempts to deliver Gwen's present in this way.
    Steve: "Forget about the 2 billion things I did right today. Let's focus on the one thing I didn't."
    • When his dad finally gives him recognition, he realizes he wanted that even more than being Santa.
  • What Could Have Been: Michael Giacchino wrote a score that ended up being rejected. Harry Gregson-Williams replaced him.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
  • You Are Not Ready: Steve himself admits he's not the one to be the next Santa at the end of the film and allows Arthur to succeed their father, having been impressed by his determination in getting Gwen's present delivered in a timely fashion and learned a lesson in humility in the process.
  • You Are Number Six: To Steve, the little girl who was overlooked is a multiple-digit number, illustrating that he views children as statistics rather than people. To Arthur, however, she's Gwen. It's indicative of their jobs; Steve is the one who utilizes technology to make the entire operation run efficiently, while Arthur actually answers the letters children write to Santa and thus engages with them on a personal level.

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alternative title(s): Arthur Christmas
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