Western Animation: Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
is a 1970 Stop Motion
puppet animated (called "Animagic") Rankin-Bass holiday special
detailing Santa Claus
' early years.
As narrated by polar postman S.D. ("Special Delivery") Kluger (Fred Astaire
), a family of toy-making elves adopts a foundling baby and decides to call him Kris Kringle. When Kris grows into a young man (Mickey Rooney), he offers to take the toys the elves have made past the mountain of the evil Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn, Ed Wynn's son) to the children of Sombertown. Unfortunately for Kris, the leader of the town, Burgermeister Meisterburger (Rankin-Bass favorite Paul Frees
), injured himself shortly before by tripping over a toy left by a child and subsequently banned all toys from the town. The story details how Kris outwits the Burgermeister, but is eventually forced to run from his soldiers to the safety of the North Pole.
The script, by Rankin-Bass's usual writer, Romeo Muller, uses elements suggested by The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
author L. Frank Baum
; Rankin-Bass would produce a more direct adaptation in 1985. The music followed the favored R-B formula, starting with a classic Christmas tune and adding original songs by Maury Laws and co-producer Jules Bass.
Had a semi-sequel called The Easter Bunny Is Comin' To Town
which had Fred Astaire reprise his role while telling kids about the Easter Bunny's origins.
- Adaptation Distillation: Pretty much every trope associated with Santa is put into the plot. Whoda thunk that the first Christmas trees were the ones Kris and Jessica decorated for their outlaw wedding in the wild?
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Apart from the obvious Kris Kringle, there's also the Winter Warlock and his tree monsters, Willy Willow and Peter Pine.
- Amusing Injuries: Happens to Burgermeister Meisterburger at least twice, including once in the form of an Ass Shove.
- Anachronism Stew: Although the story allegedly takes place several centuries ago in a medieval walled city, the clothing is mostly Victorian (and Jessica seems dressed for 1910); later scenes mix Victorian adultwear and kids in jeans. A character is seen at a desk with a touch tone telephone from the 1960s and Kris is seen giving a child in Sombertown a toy train; he also gives one to the Warlock. Also, a toy automobile is visible in one of the piles of confiscated playthings in the Burgermeister's home. This may have been done deliberately to give it a timeless feeling.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Magic feed corn that makes reindeer fly! And apparently, the effect is permanent.
- Awesome McCoolname: Burgermeister Meisterburger. Come on now, how can it not be an awesome name.
- Beardness Protection Program: Why Kris originally grows his beard.
- Berserk Button: Don't let Burgermeister Meisterburger catch a toy in his town.
- Big Bad: Burgermeister Meisterburger ultimately turns out to be more of a threat to Christmas than the Winter Warlock.
- Bilingual Bonus: German-accented Tanta Kringle's name sounds like the German word tante, which means "aunt."
- Also "Is that why he's called Santa Claus?" Until you learn that "santa" is Spanish for "saint," this line can be meaningless.
- Blithe Spirit: Kris, upon visiting Sombertown.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Burgermeister Meisterburger doesn't figure out that the only way to stop Kris Kringle's toy delivery service was striking at its heart until after Kris devises the "toys in the stockings" gambit to conceal the toys. His own soldiers are just as dumb, overlooking the stockings when searching the houses as well as Winter's magic corn when arresting him and the Kringles.
- Captain Obvious: Kris's observation to Tanta Kringle that "I'm a man now!" Double points for having this declaration immediately follow the Narrator's announcement that Kris was now a man.
- Also nearly every damned time some part of the Santa legend is shown the origin of, the kids the narrator is telling the story to feel the need to point it out. Made particularly annoying since the kids are very bad actors.
- Christmas Elves: The Kringles (well, the males in the family) appear to be little old men with beards.
- Christmas Special
- Continuity Nod: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer makes a brief cameo, with S.D. Kluger telling us that his origin is another story.
- Cool Car: Kluger's snowmobile/truck
- Crystal Ball: A crystal snow ball! This is what Santa uses to know whether you're naughty or nice.
- Dark Reprise: "No More Toymakers to the King."
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Jessica... about five seconds after Kris meets her.
- The Winter Warlock is a gender inversion; once Kris gives him the toy train he's always wanted, he literally defrosts.
- Deleted Scene: ABC removed "If You Sit On My Lap Today" and "My World is Beginning Today", along with a short introduction to the title song, going right up to the start of the opening credits; the second verse of "No More Toymakers to the King"; and the second half of "What Better Way to Tell You", plus a small scene that shows the Kringles moving onto the Winter Warlock's territory, much to his pleasant surprise; a scene that takes place right before "My World is Beginning Today" where Jessica tries unsuccessfully to plead to the Burgermeister for clemency on behalf of Kris and his friends; and a scene where the Burgermeister starts his manhunt for Kris. These scenes were removed mainly for time; on the other hand, scenes were removed on ABC Family mainly for content (though one scene removed for content in the ABC version, "If You Sit On My Lap Today", has remained on the ABC Family version since 2010), though some lines were also cut for time.
- Disc One Final Boss: The Winter Warlock is hyped up in his debut scene as the potential Big Bad...but Burgermeister Meisterburger winds up having that position instead.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The song Jessica sings, "My World is Beginning Today," and its animation are straight out of The Seventies. Psychedelic, man. It's so out of place that lots of channels airing the special actually cut out that scene.
- Disney Creatures of the Farce: Jessica's song attracts a couple of birds that undo her hair for her.
- Disproportionate Retribution: What spurs the toy-ban? The Burgermeister tripped on a toy and broke his leg in the fall. Upon discovering the cause of his accident, Meisterburger declares It's Personal.
"I hate toys...and toys hate me. Either they are going, or I am going, and I am certainly not going!"
- Don't Explain the Joke: "So that's why he __________!"
- Doorstop Baby: Kris himself.
- Unique in that the person who owned the doorstep Kris was left on (Burgermeister Meisterburger!) had no interest in raising a child, and had the baby sent to an orphan asylum. It's only due to the forces of nature and some friendly animals that Baby Claus ended up with the Kringles.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: When asked if everybody loves Santa, Kluger says most everyone, and shows several "poor misguided folks who missed the whole point" and wonder why everyone is so happy on Christmas when there is so much unhappiness in the world. Kluger then says that there might be lots of unhappiness, but Christmas takes a little of that away, and maybe if we all tried to be like Santa Claus, the world wouldn't be so unhappy.
- Environmental Symbolism: Sombertown and its citizens are done in drab grays with occasional muted blues or purples, whereas Kris and the Kringles are bright and colorful.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Topper.
- Evil Laugh: Burgermeister Meisterburger delivers one after announcing his intention to initiate a worldwide manhunt for Kris. It's the last thing we ever hear him utter while he's onscreen (his reading of the WANTED poster shortly afterward doesn't count).
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Sombertown. The whole town is somber.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The good news is that Kris and Topper managed to escape an entire legion of armed guards by escaping into the woods. The BAD news:
Kris: "You are trespassing on the lands of the...Winter...Warlock."
Trees behind him: ROAAAAAAAAR!
- First Name Basis: What the Winter Warlock tries to be on with Kris after his Heel-Face Turn. However, Kris continues (for centuries) to address him as "Mr. Warlock." It just may be that Kris is trying to sound formal, since Winter, after all, is a very important friend.
- Friend to All Living Things: Kris.
- Gallows Humor: Kris actually makes a light-hearted joke about the Sombertown-wide toy ban he had just learned about after giving Jessica the dolly she had always wanted: "Watch out for that dolly. She's a hardened criminal, I hear."
- Happily Adopted: Kris, by the Kringles.
- Heel Face Door Slam: Happens to Burgermeister Meisterburger: "Excuse me, sir: you're breaking your own law."
- Heel-Face Turn: The Winter Warlock.
Mr. Warlock, if you please!
- Hero of Another Story: Rudolph is mentioned,but quickly said to be part of another story
- Heroes Want Redheads: Kris and Jessica.
- Hot Librarian: Jessica, the schoolteacher of Sombertown.
- I Have Your Penguin: The Burgermeister finally lays a trap for Kris and catches him coming out of a chimney. Kris surrenders when he realizes they've already captured Topper.
- Hypocrite: The Burgermeister banned toys, but reveals that he's an avid yoyo enthusiast when Kris gives him one in an almost successful attempt to convince him to drop the ban. He's pretty angry when he realizes he's breaking his own law.
- Ill Girl: One of these was what led to Kris discovering that he could use chimneys to enter locked houses. "Susie, a tiny little girl who was very, very sick, had asked Kris for a toy Noah's ark. Kris just couldn't disappoint her." It's left ambiguous just what the extent of her illness is; "very, very sick" could very well be a stand-in for "dying".
- Important Haircut: Kris's beard.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Kris (Mickey Rooney) and the narrator, S.D. Kluger (Fred Astaire).
- Jerkass: The Burgermeister, in case you haven't figured it out yet.
- Karma Houdini : Again the Burgermeister. Despite all the misery and unhappiness he causes everyone, he just quietly dies offscreen, apparently from natural causes. As S.D. Kluger obliquely puts it, he and his family just "sort of died off, and fell out of power", as represented by his portrait falling off his wall, to be replaced by one of Kris as Santa Claus. Grimsley apparently doesn't get any comeuppance either, although his notable absence from the Burgermeister's side following Kris' escape could suggest he lost his job over it.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Jessica, during her song sequence. (Mind you, she apparently just lost her job as village schoolteacher, so she no longer had to keep up apperances.)
- Line-of-Sight Name: Topper the penguin. For some reason, while sputtering after the penguin's display of affectionate gratitude, the word 'topper' comes out of Kris's mouth and he decides that's what the penguin's name will be.
- Micro Monarchy: The setting.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Topper. Justified, as he was looking for the South Pole and ended up in the Arctic Circle by mistake.
- Narrator: Fred Astaire's Arctic mailman, S.D. Kluger.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Topper the penguin.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Grimsley proves how scarily competent he really is when he and a Meisterburger posse bust the Kringles' toy-making operation (leaving only Jessica unscathed in the ambush):
: NOBODY is going to do ANYTHING! You are ALL under arrest for defying the law and making toys... [points to Winter]
and for being an accomplice to Public Enemy
Number One, KRIS KRINGLE! Meisterburger soldier
: To the dungeon!
- The Obi-Wan: Winter becomes this after his Heel-Face Turn.
- Only Six Faces: The King in Tanta Kringle's song "First Toymakers to the King" has the same character design (at least facially) as the Doctor who attends the Burgermeister and the father of the children who find toys in their stockings.
- Post Kiss Goofiness: A kiss on the cheek from Jessica causes Kris's eyeballs to roll in his head, and he says "Golly!" like some country bumpkin.
- However, taking into consideration that Tanta Kringle is presumably the only woman Kris has ever known and that he didn't go to Sombertown until he was an adult, Jessica's the first person he's ever had any major interaction with outside of the Kringles (with the exception of the children of Sombertown). Small world.
- Redemption Demotion: The Winter Warlock lampshades and justifies it.
- Redheaded Hero: Kris.
- Royal Decree: Burgermeister Meisterburger does one that outlaws toys and toymakers in the town.
- Rhymes on a Dime: All of the male Kringles — other than Kris — have first names that rhyme with Kringle, such as Wingle and Dingle.
- Santa Claus: Kris takes this as his name in order to hide from his pursuers; according to the tag he was wearing when he was abandoned as a baby, Claus was his birth name. (The 'Santa' part was added later by other people; see Bilingual Bonus, above.)
- Shout-Out: To Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Also towards the end of the film, when explaining about people who don't understand the true meaning of Christmas, an old man grumbles, "Bah humbug!"
- Single Palette Town: Sombertown is gray, which makes Kris' red coat stand out all the more.
- Smurfette Principle: There is apparently only one female Kringle. Then again, she is explicitly called "the elf queen," and is twice the size of the males; maybe they have a biology similar to bees...
- Sophisticated as Hell: The full text of the Burgermeister's decree:
Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful... anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon. No kidding!
- Spit Take: The Burgermeister, when Grimsley reveals Baby Claus to him.
- Title Drop: When the Title Theme Tune is sung at the beginning and at the end, and very nearly when Kris Waxes Lyrical to the kids of Sombertown (See below).
- Ultimate Authority Mayor: Burgermeister Meisterburger, who has the power to ban toys "throughout the land, from sea to sea." Pretty impressive, since a burgermeister in real life is basically a mayor. Add to that, he has the authority to arrest the toy makers of the King.
- Mind you, in former times a burgermeister traditionally got the job because he was the wealthiest - and therefore the most powerful - person in the district, and it was hinted that Meisterburger and his family had clout with the Burgermeisters in all the surrounding villages, and perhaps even related to at least some of them. Sort of a legal Mafia.
- The Unseen: The children who want to know about Santa. Justified as they are really just personifications of questions asked in the letters to Santa.
- Wanted Poster
- Waxing Lyrical
Kris Kringle: You better watch out. You better not cry, you better not pout.
Kris Kringle: I'm telling you why! Because I came to town.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of the "very, very sick" Susie, who vanishes from the story once her role in inspiring Kris to come down chimneys is complete.
- So perhaps she got better, and getting her Noah's ark was somehow instrumental in that?
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Where exactly is Sombertown? It's implied that the town is somewhere in Germany, given the use of the title of burgermeister and Grimsley's helmet (below), but this is never explicitly stated, and the hodge-podge of vocal accents in the show doesn't really clarify anything.
- Yes-Man: The ludicrously underrated character Grimsley, who tends to steal every scene he's in. If you don't know who he is, he's the one with the Pickelhaube (Prussian spiked helmet) and the little moustache, who sounds kinda British. And is adorable.