Western Animation: The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
L. Frank Baum
's story of the origins of Santa Claus, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
received two animated adaptations: A Rankin-Bass Christmas special that would be their last stop-motion Christmas project and a 2D animated film released in the year 2000 featuring Robby Benson
and Jim Cummings
playing the title character at different ages.
The Rankin Bass version utilizes the ending of the book as a framing device, where Ak, the Master Woodsman of the world, argues a case for Santa Claus
to be granted immortality to a council of his peers. Both versions tell of how Santa Claus
was an orphaned baby found by the immortals of the magical Forest of Burzee, being shown the unfortunate state of other human children by Ak and finding his calling of making toys. However, monsters called the Awgwas oppose Claus's efforts to bring joy to the children that they torment, leading to Ak and the immortals to intervene.
These works provides examples of:
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In the Rankin-Bass special, Peter Knook never explains why Claus is only allowed to use the reindeer to deliver toys on Christmas Eve, which causes conflict since that date means Claus only has ten days to make enough toys for the journey. In the book it's a deliberate attempt by the Knook King to sabotage Claus' efforts.
- Adaptation Name Change: The 2000 animated film changes the names of a few minor characters:
- Weekum, the first child to receive a toy from Claus, is called Ethan
- Glossie and Flossie, Claus' first two reindeer, are called Mistletoe and Holly (they're nameless in the Rankin-Bass version)
- The Awgwah King is called Mogorb (he's nameless in the book and the Rankin-Bass version)
- Altum Videtur: "Ora e Sempre (Today and Forever)," the opening musical number. Ora e Sempre literally translates to "the edge of the measured." Could be a borderline case of Ominous Latin Chanting.
- An Axe to Grind: Ak's weapon of choice is a silver axe... that can apparently shoot lasers.
- Ascended Extra: Shiegra the Lioness has a much bigger role in the Rankin-Bass special than in the original book.
- Battle Discretion Shot: While the fight with the Awgwas' allies is shown (though bloodless), the scene cuts before we can actually see the final battle with the Awgwas themselves.
- Big Good: Ak, Master Woodsman of the World
- Canon Foreigner: Tingler the Sound Imp in the Rankin Bass version.
- Composite Character: Peter Knook in the special plays the roles of Will Knook, Peter Knook, and the Knook King from the book.
- Covers Always Lie: The Rankin-Bass version was finally released on DVD in 2009 as a double-feature with Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. While the image of Nestor is faithful to the movie, the image for The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is obviously a scene from an entirely different Rankin-Bass special, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: When Santa's friends fight the massed Awgwas and monstrous allies their magic tilts the balance so far the monsters never even get a shot in.
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to other Rankin-Bass specials.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In the book, Will Knook threatens to torment the deer who pulled Claus' sledge with stinging gnats for the "heinous" crime of returning to the forest one minute after the curfew he set.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: The 2000 animated version throws in a princess for... some reason. (She was a nobleman's daughter in the book and Rankin-Bass special)
- The Fair Folk: Fairies, nymphs, Knooks, Sound Imps, water spirits, wind demons, light elves, Awgwas, Ryls, whatever-the-heck-Ak-is... thankfully for Claus, all of them save the Awgwas are benevolent.
- Fairy Companion: Tingler in the Rankin-Bass special and Wisk in the 2000 animated film
- Framing Device: In the Rankin-Bass special, the meeting with the immortals serves as this, as Ak relates Claus' story to try to convince the other immortals that Claus deserves immortality.
- Friend to All Living Things: Claus gets along with humans, immortals, and animals. Only the Awgwas are antagonistic toward him.
- Happily Adopted: Claus shows absolutely no curiosity about his birth parents. Possibly justified seeing as he was abandoned as a baby and he had a happy childhood with Nicelle and Shiegra.
- Invisibility: An ability of the Awgwas in the Rankin-Bass special... which somehow lets them pass through solid walls too.
- Ak can grant this ability, and uses it to show Claus how mortals live without them being observed.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the Knooks in the book save Peter Knook, who's simply kind without being a Jerk Ass. The "jerk" part is toned down in the special.
- Mama Bear: Well, lioness, but you don't mess with Claus when Shiegra's around. The Awgwas are only able to abduct Claus the first time because they ambush and tie her up first.
- Manly Tears: Shed by Claus when he sees the children's reactions to receiving their first toy, and later when he learns the immortals intend to fight on his behalf.
- Narrator: This is the only Rankin-Bass Christmas special to not have a celebrity narrator, though Ak serves as one in-universe as he tells Claus' story to the rest of the immortals.
- Never Say "Die": Both played straight and averted in the special. The Awgwa leader declares that Claus will be "done away with for good" (he flat-out states they'll kill him in the book). In a later scene, however, Ak informs Claus that the Awgwas have "perished," averting the trope.
- Omniglot: Tingler in the Rankin-Bass version, being a Sound Imp, can speak any language, including animal languages.
- Our Demons Are Different: The Wind Demons. We only see one (the Commander), but he looks like a cross between a bat and a mosquito, tends to cause bursts of wind before he speaks, and while not malicious, is the most vocal detractor toward Claus being made immortal.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Looks like an Asian-style dragon but breathes fire like a Western dragon.
- Raised by Wolves: Claus is nursed and raised by Shiegra, a lioness, until Necille takes over as his caretaker.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: The story of Santa Claus as a High Fantasy
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The snake that threatens Claus and the dragon mook during the final battle share this trait
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The only animals that are malicious toward Claus or any other character are a giant cobra, a dragon, and a spider.
- Reused Character Design: While most of the characters in the Rankin-Bass special have unique designs, some of the children look like they've been re-used from previous Christmas specials.
- Single Tear: Happens whenever a character cries. Justified in that it's difficult to portray tears well in a stop-motion show.
- Stop Motion: Rankin-Bass' last stop-motion Christmas special
- Suddenly Voiced: Inverted. Shiegra the Lioness had lines in the book but only growls and roars in the Rankin-Bass version, which is unusual given her Ascended Extra status in the special. Likewise, the reindeer had lines in the book but are silent in the movie.
- Time Abyss: The Immortals, as explained in "Ora e Sempre (Today and Forever)."
- Window Pain: In the Rankin-Bass special, the Awgwas' harassment of Claus begins with a threatening note tied to a rock and hurled through a window.
- X Meets Y: Has been described as "Santa Claus meets Lord of the Rings"