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Film / Santa Claus: The Movie

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A 1985 fantasy film starring Dudley Moore as one of Santa's elves and John Lithgow as a Corrupt Corporate Executive who seeks to commercialize Santa's Christmas magic. David Huddleston plays Santa, but doesn't get above-the-title billing despite playing the title character.

The film's first act presents an origin story for Santa and proceeds to follow the growth of his legend over the centuries. The remainder of the film takes place in the then-Present Day. While Santa befriends both a Street Urchin and a Lonely Rich Kid in New York City, the aforementioned elf Patch – having resigned from Santa's employ following an ill-fated attempt to bring an automated production system to the workshop – heads to the Big Apple himself and soon falls in with the sinister toy mogul B.Z., who agrees to distribute Patch's amazing new invention, one that can rival anything Santa has produced. From there the villain intends to build on its success to conquer Christmas altogether... regardless of who gets hurt in the process, because there's a dangerous flaw in Patch's creations that only B.Z. and an underling are aware of. Can Santa and his friends save Christmas and the spirit of giving?

Not to be confused with the Mexican film Santa Claus (1959). The second half of this film has some similarities to the later, more successful Elf.

The film provides examples of:

  • All-Natural Snake Oil: At the press conference in the wake of the huge success of Patch's lollipops, when Patch is asked what exactly they're made of B.Z. quickly jumps in with the claim that they're made with all-natural ingredients. While this could well be true, the claim serves two purposes for B.Z. in the moment: it makes him look good and keeps Patch from giving away that the secret, key ingredient is stardust.
  • All There in the Manual: The Novelization fleshes out a lot of the Backstory and world building. For example, the elves used to deliver gifts to children themselves from their base in the North, but as centuries passed it became harder work, leading to a major backlog of toys (as seen in the giant tunnel). Claus fulfills a prophecy of a human Friend to All Children who would be able to handle such a duty in just one night. The book also fills in the ending's Left Hanging issues, as noted below.
  • And Starring: Dudley Moore is billed last in the first stretch of the closing credits, but receives "And Dudley Moore as Patch", while every other cast member only has their name listed. The full cast list places him at the top, and Moore is also the only cast member listed on the most recent DVD front cover!
  • The Anti-Grinch: Like everyone else at the North Pole, Patch wants to make the world a better place via the gifts given to the world's children, and his idea to make the North Pole workshop a more efficient, modern place via the assembly line is both in service of that and his personal desire to prove once and for all just how gifted he is. But when he is too proud and excited to think that his toy-making machine might go wrong it completely spoils one Christmas for everyone. His subsequent attempt to prove he can get Christmas right by striking out on his own works too well, as he manages to both upstage Santa Claus and give B.Z. a foot in the door into completely co-opting the holiday for his own greedy ends. Upon realizing he didn't have to try this hard to get everyone at the Pole to care about him again, he decides to return to the North Pole and give Santa the candy canes he was manufacturing for B.Z.'s Christmas II, but he doesn't know that the sweets are explosive when he stores them in the back of the Patchmobile...
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Stardust, which is capable of temporarily inducing flight. It's mixed in with the reindeer's fodder on Christmas Eve for Santa's big journey around the Earth. The Patchmobile follows suit by running on stardust-laced fuel. Most important to the plot, stardust also works on humans, becoming the secret ingredient in the lollipops that Patch creates and making them a must-have item around the world. Unfortunately, when exposed too long to heat (which is not an issue at the North Pole) stardust becomes explosive, and the candy canes intended for Christmas II have more of it as an ingredient at B.Z.'s orders...
  • Artistic License – Biology: B.Z. would have suffocated and froze long before he left Earth's atmosphere as shown, although since magical stardust is involved the film might get a pass here. (The director points out they were going for fairy tale-style fantasy rather than realism in the DVD commentary, and the moderator even jokes that he could just be drifting off to the Phantom Zone, given the director and producers' other work.)
  • Artistic License – Law: B.Z's plan to escape to Rio after selling off the exploding candy canes. Not only was Brazil no longer lacking an extradition treaty with the United States by the time the movie was released, but even if there still wasn't, a crime as horribly vile as killing children en masse would probably have made the Brazilian government agree to hand him over to the Americans anyway. Justified though since B.Z. is a Stupid Evil psychopath so he might either be lying (and has a different plan to escape) or more likely is just that arrogant and ignorant.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Christmas All Over the World", performed by Sheena Easton over the end credits.
  • Bad Santa: The drunken Salvation Army-type Santa that Joe observes in his first scene.
  • Beta Outfit: The elves make his suit, but Mrs. Claus doesn't think green works. When red is suggested by Patch, everyone is enthusiastic (except Puffy, who suggested brown), as it goes with Santa's rosy cheeks.
  • Big Applesauce: The Present Day characters live in New York City. Come the Christmas Eve when Santa first crosses paths with Joe and Cornelia, his flight into the city is given much fanfare (to the point that footage from this sequence was used in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Radio City Music Hall's annual stage show, for years).
  • Big Damn Heroes: This may be the only movie where North Pole reindeer get this moment.
  • Billed Above the Title: David Huddleston doesn't get it, but it's justified, since the film was initially marketed to suggest that Santa Claus was playing himself, since no actor could do him justice. (This is carried through to the making-of special ABC aired.) And though his billing isn't at the top of the cast list proper, Huddleston is the first performer listed/shown in the end credits.
  • Bindle Stick: Patch has one of these as he runs away from the North Pole, but rather than containing personal belongings, it's full of the stardust he needs for his plan to prove himself to Santa and the world.
  • Bookends: With a comic twist: The film's opening shot is of a starry winter night's sky, panning down to the cottage Claus is about to visit. The closing sequence first pans up from the North Pole complex into the starry sky, and then reveals B.Z. and the remains of the Patchmobile floating beyond Earth's atmosphere into space on top of that.
  • Broken Aesop: Puffy's approach (quality with careful craftsmanship) is shown to be superior to Patch's approach (mass production with no quality control), yet Patch is a plucky hero, and Puffy is a stick-in-the-mud minor antagonist. Notably averted in the Novelization's ending in that they reconcile and decide to work together in the future, meaning Patch's innovative ideas will be properly realized via Puffy's quality control.
  • Buffy Speak: When B.Z. tells Patch that television is the best way to get the word out about the latter's product, Patch responds with "Oh, you mean those little picture box thingies?"
  • Cassandra Truth: Subverted with Cornelia. She thinks the police don't believe her warning about B.Z., but given their response, they obviously do.
  • Catch a Falling Star: By finally executing the Super Duper Looper, Santa and the reindeer manage to perfectly position the sleigh to catch Patch and Joe in its backseat when the two are thrown into the air by the Patchmobile's explosion.
  • Chair Reveal: Played straight twice.
    • When B.Z. arrives at his office after his disastrous Senate hearing, he's shocked to see his own armchair turn around to reveal a cheerful Patch sitting in it.
    • On the Christmas Eve of the lollipop giveaway, while the advertisement is playing all over New York City and elsewhere, Cornelia is called into the office of her previously-mentioned, usually absent but tonight visiting uncle, whose chairback is to her (he's watching the ad) as she enters. "Merry Christmas, Uncle." The chair swivels to reveal none other than a gleeful B.Z. "It certainly should be! [Evil Laugh]"
  • Chase Scene: The movie's climax. Patch and Joe head back to the North Pole in the Patchmobile, neither aware that the candy canes in its trunk will eventually explode due to exposure to the heat of its inner workings. Santa and his reindeer, accompanied by Cornelia, must catch up with them to effect a rescue, a task made tougher by the fact that two of the reindeer are out sick.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The wooden figure of an elf that Santa carves for Joe to serve as the boy's first Christmas present. Santa doesn't realize until he's finished that, as Anya points out, the figure is the spitting image of the now-runaway Patch (because Santa had the son they never had in mind). Joe keeps the figure on his person upon receiving it, unaware of its special significance, and while he's angrily confronting Patch in the cellars of B.Z.'s factory it falls out of his coat. Upon seeing it and learning who made it, Patch realizes that Santa still cares about him despite everything, and resolves to leave for the North Pole immediately (with Joe in tow).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Patch is mainly a source of exposition in the opening third, but come the present day plotline and Santa deciding to hold a contest to choose an assistant, his role in the story becomes much bigger.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Super Duper Looper, a special reindeer flying maneuver that Santa's team has never quite been able to pull off.
  • Chewing the Scenery: John Lithgow, with a knife and fork, as B.Z.
  • The Chosen One: Santa is actually called this.
  • Christmas Elves: Of course. They're known in the folklore of Claus and Anya's people as Vendequm, but prefer to be called elves. They are friendly immortals and very slow-aging; all of them are adult and male. With regards to size, they are noticeably shorter than Claus and Anya, a trick pulled off by the filmmakers via 1) casting only actors 5'2" and under and 2) using terraced sets.
  • Cigar Chomper: B.Z., and he's obnoxious about it too; Patch spends much of the conversation in which the idea of Christmas II is broached coughing thanks to all the smoke.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Yet another movie Marvel adapted into Marvel Super Special in The '80s and later republished as 3 shorter issues. Given that the film has the same plot structure as any number of movies adapted from comic books, this is more fitting than most.
  • Cool Car: The Patchmobile is a Flying Car version.
  • Cool Toy: Or rather, a Cool Treat: Patch's lollipops allow people who consume them to temporarily fly a few feet into the air thanks to the secret ingredient of stardust. (Beat that, Turbo Man!) B.Z. realizes that giving them away for free at Christmas will create such huge demand for more that he'll have no problem charging kids/their parents the next time around. From there, the candy canes are intended to be even cooler, with more stardust in them to allow people to fly higher — but that also makes them more dangerous.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: B.Z. His Establishing Character Moment is a congressional hearing where his outrageously vile toy manufacturing processes are exposed (and he can't really do much to defend himself) and he later has the idea of creating Christmas Two in order to increase his toy sales.
  • Credits Montage: The end credits start by showing a clip of each major character next to the name of their actor, and move on to an assortment of clips from throughout the movie but especially the workshop sequences. For bonus points, some clips appear to be from deleted scenes/sequences.
  • Crisis Makes Perfect: Santa mentions that he has never been able to pull off the "Super Duper Looper" move earlier in the film, and of course when he says at the climax that he will need to do it to try to catch Patch Cornelia offers an alarmed "You said you've never been able to pull it off!", and sure enough, this time it works.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Dooley and Patch tend to repeat their own phrases in inverse order. ("I'm sure they're fine and dandy, dandy and fine!")
  • Didn't Think This Through: B.Z., on a couple of occasions.
    • In one case, he plans to mark his magic candy canes for hundreds of dollars. When asked where kids will get that kind of money, he says he doesn't care; he'll just sell the item and watch the money come rolling in. A fundamental rule of economics: if your target audience can't afford the product, they won't buy it. End of discussion.
    • B.Z.'s plan to avoid the authorities by fleeing to Brazil. One small problem. Depending on the scope of his marketing, Brazil may not have an extradition agreement with the U.S., but it might have one with some country where B.Z. has marketed his goods. Secondly, depending on how successful his marketing is (and whether he can overcome the flaw mentioned above), his product could end up killing a significant number of the children (and a fair number of adults) in the country. Obviously, this movie was made before 9/11, but in hindsight, it is clear that, especially in the wake of a tragedy that could dwarf 9/11, the U.S. wouldn't let such niceties as extradition treaties (or lack thereof) stop them from taking down B.Z. by any means necessary.
    • Ultimately, considering the end result of B.Z.'s attempt to evade arrest, he obviously didn't think that one through!
  • Digital Destruction: Inverted. The original Media Home Video VHS release was in Extended Play format rather than Standard Play, and had a disastrously soft image on top of its J-D-C Scope dimensions being subjected to pan-and-scan. After initial airings of a sharper print on HBO in the late 1980s, it was apparently this print that was in circulation on television for decades. It wasn't until the Turn of the Millennium DVD release that a quality home media release was available, and even then the old TV print was the one that remained in circulation until 2016, when it was replaced by a much sharper one.
  • Disney Villain Death: Inverted. B.Z. flies up to his doom after eating the candy canes to evade the police.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: B.Z.'s plan to charge astronomical fees for his magic candy canes, not caring where kids get the money, sounds a lot like an Aggressive Drug Dealer.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: A humorously played variant with some justification. B.Z. explains to Patch that television is the best way to inform the public about his special product, and that with enough money an ad can reach everyone he wants it to. Patch decides they will buy airtime for a one-off advertisement on Christmas Eve going out to "All the countries, all the channels!" B.Z. is upset by the expense that will require, but ultimately agrees to the plan, and it works. Even the sole television at the North Pole picks up the transmission.
  • Enfant Terrible: Discussed. B.Z. explains to Patch at their first meeting that he doesn't believe in Santa because "He never brought me anything." When Patch responds "That's because you probably were a naughty boy", B.Z. chuckles and admits "Yes, I guess I was no angel."
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles:
    • Played straight with stardust, the film's Applied Phlebotinum, which is extremely twinkly. In addition, when Santa and later Patch teleport short distances, they leave sparkles of magical energy in their wake.
    • Played tongue-in-cheek with the costumes in the television commercial, which are all sequin-encrusted as part of The Theme Park Version of the North Pole on display — even Patch ends up in a garishly-colored version of his usual outfit.
  • Evil Uncle: B.Z. is Cornelia's stepuncle. While there's no indication he's outright abusive towards her, he doesn't seem to care much about her. ("He probably doesn't know what grade I'm in.")
  • Expy: B.Z. is essentially the Salkind films' version of Lex Luthor with the change of being a Child Hater.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Patch's pride leads to him implementing a disastrous mass-production system, and then striking out on his own, which only makes things worse.
    • B.Z. is repeatedly shafted by his shortsightedness. This culminates in him eating some of the magic candy canes to try and escape the police... which causes him to helplessly float into space.
  • Fate Worse than Death: In the climax, B.Z. chomps on as many candy canes as he can and steps out the window of his office to fly away from the police, only to helplessly float up into space.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Most of the elves seem to be living in the ancient past, utterly unaware of the outside world or how times have changed. Notably averted with Patch, who seems to be aware of and even predicting modern technology such as television, alarm clocks, and indoor heating; the novelization suggests this might be a mild psychic ability unique to him.
  • Fish out of Water: Patch in New York.
  • Flying Car: The Patchmobile, which Patch creates so he can deliver the lollipops.
  • Flying Postman: Variation — As soon as no human is around to see it happen, letters to Santa Claus are magically swept off to the North Pole, tumbling down a giant chimney to be collected by the elves. The defective toys that Patch's mass-production system creates end up being "returned" to the North Pole after they break in this manner. After Cornelia learns of B.Z.'s treachery she writes a letter to Santa asking for his help and while she isn't able to finish it, as soon as she leaves her room it is swept away to alert Santa to the emergency.
  • For the Evulz: B.Z. His Establishing Character Moment is a congressional hearing regarding his outrageously vile toy manufacturing processes (OK, sure, sawdust instead of stuffing sounds bad but it's still a cheap way of filling a teddy bear... but filling it with nails?!) and his plan to provide kids with lollipops that make them fly hits a snag when he discovers that the amount of stardust in them would lead to it exploding if it overheats... he essentially goes "" at the fact that this has a high chance of killing children, which would make him one of the more loathed criminals in history (sure, he has enough of a mind to plan on selling the candy and then run away to Rio immediately afterwards, but realistically speaking the moment the news become international there would be no place for him to hide in the world).
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Cornelia first meets Joe and Santa Claus there's a photograph of B.Z. on the mantlepiece next to the plate of cookies. His first scene occurs several minutes later but we don't learn that he and Cornelia are related until much later in the movie.
    • The transition from the North Pole to the introductory scenes for Joe and Cornelia in New York City is made via a Match Cut from a snowglobe's streetscape to the exterior of her townhouse. It's mentioned in passing that the snowglobe is the handiwork of Patch — the one elf who isn't a Fish out of Temporal Water and who ends up driving the second half of the movie when he travels to New York and ends up entangled with Cornelia's evil stepuncle. (The Novelization notes that he came up with the globe decades ago but Dooley only remembered to show it to Santa now.)
  • Funny Background Event: When Patch first arrives in NYC, the A-Team van is parked on the street.
  • Gadgeteer Genius / Bungling Inventor: Patch, as noted above, is not a Fish out of Temporal Water as the other elves are and is capable of creating wonderful things, but falls straight into the latter trope whenever his enthusiasm, pride, and desire to prove himself blinds him to the potential flaws of those things, resulting first in the mass-production system (which when operated at full speed malfunctions, resulting in defective toys) and later the candy canes (which will explode if exposed to heat too long) going horribly wrong. The Novelization notes that his mind "was as bright as a star, but as undisciplined as it was unique", going on to explain that since others usually don't understand his ideas, he seeks any opportunity to show off his skills and be appreciated/receive attention for them. This, along with the fact that for centuries his forward-thinking ideas and designs had worked just as intended, is why he doesn't pay enough attention to how well the aforementioned two projects actually work and is "always the last to admit he might have been wrong".
  • Genre Shift: The first half is a mostly serious, almost epic fantasy taking place centuries ago concerning the origins of Santa. The second half is a wild, whimsical, zany modern-day adventure primarily taking place in New York City.

  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Patch is wide-eyed, naive and sheltered to the point that it never occurs to him that a cigar-chomping businessman who wants to compete with Santa Claus might have greedy motivations or not be the most trustworthy person around. Even when he finds that B.Z. and his assistant have had a child tied up in a factory he fails to think about the implications of what this means, as he quickly gets distracted by the realisation that Santa kept the model he made for him and liked him after all. It's suggested that all of the elves have this mindset by nature due to their isolation and their only communications from the outside world coming from its children asking for presents via letters; only Santa is worried that Patch might get into trouble when the news breaks that he's run away, because he knows that "The world is no place for an elf."
  • Hidden Elf Village: Zig-zagged with the North Pole; while it is a self-contained society hidden from the rest of the world and the elves are largely unaware of the darker sides of humanity, its residents are working for the happiness of Earth's children. In many respects it's a European, less-isolationist variant on The Shangri-La.
  • Hollywood Law: B.Z. plans to flee to Brazil to escape prosecution, given that Brazil had no extradition treaty with the U.S.. Two problems: 1) At the time of the movie, Brazil had an extradition treaty with the U.S. for twenty years (and, for the present-day sequence, this is not meant to be a Period Piece); and 2) lack of an extradition treaty doesn't prevent a country from voluntarily extradititing a fugitive, particularly if the fugitive is a foreign national (and if the U.S. puts on the pressure). To be fair though, B.Z. is pretty Stupid Evil and might not know any better, or he could even be lying about exactly where he plans to flee to so that even his assistant can't find him.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: Santa Claus is gifted with the ability to hold sway over time, so Christmas Eve doesn't end until he finishes his job.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: The reason Patch decides to throw in his lot with B.Z. He arrives in New York City and sees a display of B.Z.'s toys in a store window — and assumes that the store employees clearing out the lot are doing so because they're popular. It's actually because they're all being recalled. When B.Z. realizes that Patch doesn't know about his corrupt ways and legal problems, he makes sure that Patch can't find out the truth.
  • In-Universe Nickname: Joe good-naturedly nicknames Cornelia the simpler "Corny". She doesn't mind.
  • Jack of All Trades: Beyond being a Gadgeteer Genius (who sometimes shades into Bungling Inventor, granted) who designs and fabricates, sometimes single-handedly, inventions ranging from mass-production systems to candy that enables flight to a flying car, Patch is also the official caretaker of the reindeer (his key function among the elves in fact) and a musician, serving as the organist in the elves' band. Patch's ability to fabricate the lollipops and so forth with no additional help becomes a selling point with regards to B.Z. bankrolling him, as it means the Corrupt Corporate Executive no longer has to deal with unions and the like. (Moreover, Patch doesn't expect or demand any sort of payment for his work aside from room and board and admits he has little idea of money — and B.Z.'s happy to keep it that way.) This trope is taken further in the Novelization, which reveals he's the one who came up with the idea of the elves working in shifts and redesigned their sleeping quarters to facilitate the changes and was the founder of the aforementioned band, seeing both as ways to increase productivity in the days leading up to Santa's first flight, and was responsible for the design of Santa's sleigh and installed the sole television at the North Pole.
  • The Joy of First Flight: Four times!
    • Santa Claus's first Christmas takeoff and journey is a colossal celebration for him and everyone else at the North Pole.
    • Joe's first ride with Santa in the sleigh over New York City is a similarly joyous occasion for the boy.
    • Patch's initial flight in the Patchmobile is presented in a similar manner to Santa's first flight, just with a smaller crowd of B.Z. and his underlings cheering him on.
    • Much of humanity gets to feel this when they find out what makes Patch's lollipops so special. The first person seen experiencing it is Miss Tucker, Cornelia's sourpuss nanny, who only takes a bite because the girl doesn't want it. She laughs delightedly upon floating up, adding "I feel just like Mary Poppins!"
  • Karma Houdini: Patch is responsible for the catastrophic Christmas delivery and somewhat to blame for the mess caused in the second half of the movie, but he's Easily Forgiven.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: After Patch runs off and, with B.Z.'s backing, manages to upstage him, Santa starts to become disillusioned by the progress of time and depressed that Christmas has lost a lot of its magic and sanctity over the years. People lack any goodwill towards one another, and the holiday season seems to now bring out the worst in them. Children don't appreciate the hard work his elves put into their gifts. Mrs Claus reminds them of their purpose and reason for being. This development/story arc ends up forgotten in the rush to the climax. An additional scene in the Marvel Comics adaptation and Novelization explains this far better: Santa actually returns to New York City before returning to the North Pole on Christmas morning, and sees first a garbage can full of North Pole presents that were never even opened (as kids are now obsessed with the puce pops) and then encounters two unbelieving kids who are raving about the pops. When Santa asks them what they gave others for Christmas, as opposed to got, they are incredulous at the very idea.
  • Large Ham: B.Z.
    B.Z.: For FREEEEEEEEE!!!!???!?!?!!?!?!?
    B.Z.: We'll call it... CHRISTMAS 2!!!!!!
    B.Z.: Santa Claus... is FINISHED!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Towzer and Grizzard are both arrested for the kidnapping. B.Z. avoids this fate — for a worse one!
  • Left Hanging: The rather quick ending sequence doesn't resolve several outstanding conflicts. The Novelization actually fills all of them in:
    • What's Patch's role rejoining the team? Puffy presumably is still Santa's Assistant. (Novelization says: They'll work together from now on — Patch will design new things, Puffy will make sure they actually work as intended.)
    • Is Joe homeless when he returns to New York in a year? (Novelization says: No — he asks to be adopted by Santa and Mrs. Claus, and they're overjoyed.)
    • Did Cornelia have a home to come back to? Her uncle seems to have been her benefactor and he's dead. (Novelization says: No — she will be adopted too.)
    • Santa's name is still mud after the disastrous Christmas delivery halfway through the movie. Any redemption is never shown. (Novelization says: Not long after the puce pop giveaway, children regret going crazy for them and ignoring/tossing away what Santa brought them that particular Christmas, and write letters to Santa by way of both apology and future requests.)
  • Letter Motif: B.Z.'s underlings all have at least one Z in their names (Towzer, Grizzard, Miss Abruzzi).
  • Lonely Rich Kid: The Novelization confirms that Cornelia doesn't have any relatives aside from the usually-absent (and evil) B.Z., as her parents passed away some time before the present day stretch of the story begins. In any case she only has her strict nanny for company until she gets to know Santa Claus and Joe. After the disastrous Christmas of mass-produced toys, she has an argument with a fellow student at ballet class that culminates with the latter insulting her over not having parents. Cornelia responds with a stinging slap.
  • Long Last Look: As Patch runs away and crosses over into the human world, he takes a last look back at the North Pole as it fades from view.
  • Made of Explodium: The candy canes contain a large quantity of volatile stardust (more so than the lollipops did at B.Z.'s demand) and thus will explode if they get too hot.
  • Match Cut: The city streetscape in the snowglobe Patch makes, and which Dooley shows to Claus and Anya, marks the story's transition to The Present Day with a match dissolve to the exterior of Cornelia's townhouse.
  • Mirror Character: Quietly downplayed with Patch and Joe. Both have Pride as their primary character flaw, both are/become runaways, and Santa effectively serves as a father of sorts to each of them by the end (with the ending implying Santa will straight up adopt Joe). It is very telling that the wooden figure Santa creates for Joe, which he models after the son he imagined he and Anya might have had were they able to, ends up being a doppelganger for Patch.
  • Mrs. Claus: In this adaptation, Claus and Anya are an elderly couple without children before they become Santa and Mrs. Claus.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The dancers and singers for Patch's commercial are just a step below Vegas showgirls.
  • Must Make Amends: When Patch realizes his attempt to get back into Santa's good graces not only wasn't necessary but also made matters worse, he decides to return to the North Pole via Patchmobile and take all the candy canes already produced for B.Z. with him so Santa can give them away at Christmas instead. Thing is, he doesn't know that the candy canes are explosive...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Upon freeing Joe, Patch is shocked to learn from the boy that he actually made matters worse for Santa with his attempt to get back into his good graces. It doesn't help that Joe doesn't know what Patch actually is (he thought him to just be a "weird guy on TV") or that he didn't know he was being manipulated by B.Z., so Joe straight-up regards him as a villain until the Chekhov's Gun of the figurine falls out of his coat.
  • My Little Panzer: Every toy B.Z.'s company made, including a teddy bear stuffed with sawdust and construction nails. (Most of these, like the bear, seem to be For the Evulz given that they would cost more than just doing it right.)
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Opening with an iconic view of Capitol Hill, the British trailer for this movie makes it seem like a story about corporate corruption and politics, with Santa having a minor part at best. By comparison, the full-length U.S. trailer presents it as the cinematic-Superman-meets-Christmas adventure it actually is.
  • New Technology Is Evil: The elves' first foray into mass production is a disaster. Averted in the Novelization, which makes it clearer that new technology isn't the problem, but rather not properly thinking it through before implementing it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Patch, from his appointment as Santa's assistant until his rescue of Joe. Quite literally, too; his inventions tending to work for a while and then break down/have a disastrous flaw is how he keeps screwing up.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Patch is an excellent case of what happens when a person's genuinely good intentions, coupled with enthusiasm and pride, blind them to the flaws in their plans — they backfire terribly.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Subverted. See Cassandra Truth.
  • Novelization: Several were produced: A traditional novelization (by Joan D. Vinge) and a storybook abridgment of same that added extensive photos, and several paperback picture books for younger kids (some specifically distributed through McDonald's restaurants; see Product Placement below) that each focused on a specific stretch of the story. The full-length novelization has tons of additional scenes, details, and Backstory for the characters.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: While living in B.Z.'s factory, Patch takes to sleeping in the trunk of the Patchmobile once he's built it. Given what an industrial, lonesome place the factory is compared to the North Pole, it makes some sense that he would sleep in the thing that most closely brings his true home to mind.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: B.Z.
  • Only One Name: Everyone except Dr. Eric Towzer.
  • Parental Abandonment: The novelization confirms that both Joe and Cornelia lack parents; only Joe's father (whom he's never known) may even be alive.
  • Periphery Demographic: In-universe. The magic lollipops are marketed to kids, but it seems some adults like them even more.
  • The Power of Friendship: Patch is the official caretaker to the reindeer and is deeply fond of them to the point that they're the only beings he bids goodbye to when he runs away. In the climax, Santa encourages his depleted team (two are out sick with the flu) to fly as they never have before for the sake of their friend, and this culminates in them finally being able to execute the Super Dooper Looper by way of saving him and Joe.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: B.Z. is at first outraged when Patch suggests giving a product away for free, but after thinking it over for a second he realises it could be a good PR move.
  • Pride:
    • Patch has so much confidence in his own abilities that he doesn't think to make sure everything he creates works exactly as intended, leading to the disaster of the mass-production system. (This is better justified in the Novelization, which reveals that this was the first time any of his inventions/designs, once realized, failed in hundreds of years.) His wounded pride and mistaken belief that he is no longer appreciated at all after he loses his job as Santa's assistant leads him to leave the North Pole to prove he can get Christmas right on his own, which ends up making matters even worse.
    • Santa notes that Joe is too proud to admit he wants or needs anything, even though it's clear to others when he does want/need something, as he carves a present for the boy.
  • Product Placement: For Coca-Cola and McDonald's. The latter had several giveaway premiums — storybooks and reindeer ornaments. Averted in one case: There was a commercial tie-in with Kodak's recently introduced Disc camera but the product doesn't appear in the movie.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Both ways with B.Z.'s henchmen. Played straight with the toady, Towzer, who doesn't seem malicious, just weak-willed. Inverted with Grizzard, who is a genuinely mean bastard.
  • Relationship Reveal: Cornelia's absent stepuncle turns out to be B.Z., a reveal made with the help of a Chair Reveal (see above).
  • Santa Claus: It's in the title, after all.
  • Santa Clausmas: Christmas is all about the sacred duty of Santa to give toys to children. There are hints that toymaking is a religion in itself to the elves, but the religious meaning of Christmas itself is omitted, a deliberate choice by the filmmakers to appeal to the widest possible audience (although Santa's first takeoff is underscored with an instrumental "Joy to the World"). The reason Christmas Eve is the night of his annual flight, according to the Novelization, is because that was when he delivered his toys to his fellow villagers back in his mortal life and also coincides with the winter holidays of other societies.
  • Saving Christmas: The film's first half features Santa's Origin, then averts this trope with the unfortunate mass-produced Christmas and its unhappy aftermath. From there, the second half weaves together Taking Over Christmas, The Elf Who Tried Too Hardnote , and in the late going The Sleigh's Broke (two of the reindeer are sick and the rest are still tired from Christmas Eve) as Santa and his friends must stop the holiday from being ruined for good by "Christmas II" (the combination of B.Z.'s greed and Patch's Must Make Amends).
  • Scenery Porn: Much of the North Pole/Santa's workshop is practically dripping with atmosphere, making the contrast between its warmth and life and the cold, empty factory of B.Z. that much more powerful.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Not only is the villain B.Z. an obnoxious Cigar Chomper, but unlike most traditional depictions of Santa Claus up to that point, the one in this movie doesn't so much as have a pipe. The latter at least was an intentional invocation of this trope.
  • Smug Snake: B.Z. Take the Salkinds' version of Lex Luthor, change the name, change the actor, and tell John Lithgow to go Large Ham. Now you have a nice picture of how he is.
  • Snowclone Title: To Superman: The Movie, thanks to Alexander Salkind. (Both films do not actually use the subtitle onscreen.)
  • The Sociopath: B.Z. is a pretty textbook example. He's a corrupt businessman who tries to co-opt Christmas for his own greedy ends while cutting all kinds of corners, and when he learns that his product will result in the deaths of countless children he immediately starts thinking about running off with as much money as he can to a tropical country with no extradition treaty (he thinks), rather than doing anything to stop it. He's an incredibly arrogant Smug Snake and pathological liar and cheat with a complete and utter Lack of Empathy for anyone, and he treats it all as a big joke and game when the game is up and the law comes for him.
  • Spinning Paper: A short montage of front pages from around the world attest to the huge success of Patch's lollipops.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Cornelia can be a bit prim but is sweet and kind, borne out in her treatment of Joe especially. The Novelization notes in the scene introducing her that she would gladly give away some of her toys and outfits to needy kids, but Miss Tucker won't allow it, believing the girl "was being ungrateful and didn't deserve her stepuncle's kind generosity."
  • Start My Own: An unusual version. After the disaster of the mass-production system leads to Patch losing his job as Santa's assistant, he sets off to the human world to create and distribute another invention, and with B.Z.'s assistance becomes Santa's potential rival. But Patch only wants to prove himself to Santa and get back into his good graces, not realizing that Santa still thinks highly of him. He helps B.Z. create "Christmas II" only because he believes that the children of the world will be disappointed if he doesn't.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The Patchmobile makes the Batwing noise in the climax, as well as some of the bleeps and bloops of the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man (sound effects that also appeared in Superman III, from the same producers).
  • Street Urchin: Joe. The Novelization explains that he never knew his father and his mother died over a year before his stretch of the story begins, whereupon he chose to run away rather than be taken to an orphanage.
  • Stupid Evil: B.Z.; he invokes Didn't Think This Through more than once (see above) and it ends up his undoing.
  • Thememobile: The Patchmobile, a mostly-wooden flying car that Patch creates and uses to distribute the lollipops as his equivalent to Santa's sleigh.
  • The Theme Park Version: The "North Pole" created for the TV commercial used to unveil the lollipops to the world is a chintzy Variety Show-style set with an overblown production number to go with it. Patch is upset by the whole business because it doesn't remotely resemble the warm, wooden city set in the quiet Arctic that he knows and misses, but Towzer explains "The public doesn't want the reality, they want the dream."
  • Think of the Children!: Used twice in the second half.
    • B.Z. convinces Patch to stay just a little longer in New York to develop a followup to the lollipops by telling him to do it not just for B.Z., but for all the children of the world.
    • Towzer argues to B.Z. that they can't go ahead with selling the exploding candy canes because children would be put at risk, but B.Z. convinces him that it's better to take the money and run away. Besides, if kids get hurt, then it's the fault of their parents for being so "reckless" as to have things like radiators in their houses!
  • Title: The Adaptation: Santa Claus: The Movie...although the actual title that appears onscreen is just Santa Claus. This quirk of marketing is carried over from the same producers' Superman: The Movie.
  • Vanishing Village: Beyond it being at the North Pole, the elves' city seems to be hidden from the sight of humanity except to those it is deliberately revealed to. For residents, it also disappears from view once they travel beyond a certain point (as seen when Patch runs away).
  • Villain with Good Publicity: What B.Z. is striving to be. To put it mildly he isn't thrilled by the prospect of spending tons of money to get the advertisement for Patch's lollipops on every channel, and even less so by the prospect of giving said lollipops away for free! But he promptly realizes that doing this will do a lot for his public image and agrees to the plan.
  • Weight Woe: As the elves are reading to Santa the poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Santa gets self-conscious over the line about his "little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly." Mrs. Claus tells him it's probably from all the cookies. The next scene shows him eating vegetables, but then it's never touched upon again.
    • All There in the Manual: The Novelization reveals that the above scenes take place shortly before Christmas Eve. Come his annual flight, Santa tries to resist eating the cookies at the very first house he visits, but he can't help himself — he loves cookies and he knows he'd be disappointing the kids who leave them out for him if he didn't eat them. From there he decides he's happy just the way he is, arguing to the reindeer that people want Santa Claus to be Big Fun.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: After he accidentally spoils one Christmas with the failure of his mass-production toy machine and loses his job as Santa's assistant, Patch not only feels ashamed, embarrassed, and frustrated but honestly believes that Santa doesn't even like him, hence his decision to run away from the North Pole and definitively prove his worth. It's only when he sees the figurine Santa's carved for Joe (which, though Santa doesn't realize it until after he carves it and Anya points it out, is in Patch's likeness) that he realizes the former well and truly cared for him all along.
  • When It All Began: The first half of the story.
  • Where Do You Think You Are?: B.Z.'s outraged response to Patch's plan to give away the lollipops spurs the latter to say "But that's how we do it at the North Pole!" B.Z. roars "Well, that's not how we do it here!" and begins explaining exactly how the free-market system works — but then realizes that Patch's plan could be just the P.R. boost he needs under his current circumstances.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Patch genuinely wants to help Santa (and by extension the world) with his innovative creations in the modern day, but his innocence, enthusiasm, and pride get in the way of noticing their flaws until it's too late. These character traits also allow him to be deceived and exploited by B.Z. Justified because the North Pole is a largely peaceful place and the elves aren't aware of just how dark humanity can be, so they're all idealistic by nature; the others don't initially think Patch can get in any trouble when he runs away.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Cornelia tells Santa she called the police to warn them about B.Z.'s candy canes and Joe's kidnapping, but she doesn't think they believed her. Apparently, they did, because they try to arrest him shortly afterward. This is probably because they believed Joe had been kidnapped, and child kidnapping isn't taken lightly by the NYPD at all, and given all the legal troubles B.Z. was facing to begin with, Cornelia probably had the police's attention the minute she mentioned him! (Confirmed in the Novelization.)
  • Your Size May Vary: The elves vary between a few feet tall to normal humans but a bit short.


Video Example(s):


pan and scanned 'Santa Claus'

Scenes from the 2.35:1 theatrical version the film compared to a 4:3 pan and scan version. Note the two-shot where one character is often cut out.

The 4:3 clips are sourced from a contemporary making-of documentary.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / PanAndScan

Media sources: