The first film in the series, The Santa Clause (1994) is a modern take on the Scrooge story with a twist.
In The Santa Clause 2 (2002), Scott discovers that the fine print in the magical contract that gave him his Christmas powers requires him to find a wife, and he has only until next 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), a principal at Charlie's school.
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 (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 an overwhelmed Scott. Scott is returned to his life as it was before becoming Santa, without Carol, but is made aware of what's gone wrong and has to set it all right before Christmas Eve.
The Santa Clauses was announced in January 2022 as a limited series on the Disney+ streaming service, with Tim Allen returning as a nearly 65-year-old Scott Calvin who's realized he can't stay Santa forever and is looking for a suitable replacement so he and his family can return to the regular world again. A second season is in the works.
This movie series provides examples of:
- All Myths Are True: American myths, at least: Santa Claus, Mother Nature, Father Time, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Jack Frost all exist, with the only apparent misunderstanding being that Santa is a job rather than a single person. However, adults still seem to generally believe these figures are myths, despite unexplained presents apparently appearing in their homes every year...
- Anthropomorphic Personification: The Council of Legendary Figures, consisting of Mother Nature, Father Time, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Cupid (and Jack Frost in the third film, who represents winter as a whole).
- Bad Santa: Scott's a little rough around the edges, particularly on his first midnight run before actually transforming into Santa, but is never outright malicious. However, both of the sequels feature this. Scott takes the elves up on making a toy substitute Santa so he can go search for a wife in the second film, but toy Santa takes a turn for the dictatorial. Jack Frost becomes a Corrupt Corporate Executive variety in the third film and turns the North Pole into a commercial theme park.
- Big Eater: Scott becomes this after assuming the role of Santa. Comet is also this, overdoing it on chocolate in the sequel to the extent that he can't fly.
- But Thou Must!: Whoever puts on the coat becomes Santa Claus. Once the coat goes on, their old life is effectively over, whether they like it or not.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Santa is a jolly Nice Guy, while Bernard the head elf is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Casting Gag: David Krumholtz is Jewish, but plays the Head Elf Bernard in the first two films.
- Catching Some Z's: The Sandman's magic sleeping dust consists of various Zs.
- Chimney Entry: Traditionally, Santa goes down the chimney. With houses that didn't have chimneys or fireplaces, but rather heating vents and pipes, Scott Calvin as Santa enters the house through there and a fireplace magically appears in the room where lands.
- Christmas Elves: The trilogy features child-like elves who are Really 700 Years Old. (Bernard, Santa's second-in-command, is noticeably taller and played by a teenager.) After meeting them in his "dream," Scott objects to the more "dwarf-like" interpretation of Christmas elves that his advertising company was going to use in a commercial.
- Christmas Town: The North Pole is a central location in all three films. It is a large metropolis populated by child-like elves and flying reindeer. It is all owned by the current Santa Claus (in the film's case, Scott Calvin) and acts as a meeting place for other iconic magical beings (Mother Nature, Father Time, Jack Frost, etc).
- 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.
- Cousin Oliver: The sequels introduce Lucy, presumably because Charlie's actor (Eric Lloyd) had become too old to be the cute little kid. Being Neal and Laura's daughter, born in the eight-year gap between the first and second movie, Lucy's introduction is less shoehorned than in many other examples.
- Deadpan Snarker: Scott Calvin is easily the snarkiest character in the whole series, in typical Tim Allen fashion. Bernard and Charlie have their moments of this as well.
- Dork in a Sweater: Neal wears goofy sweaters, one of which Bernard thinks was made at the North Pole.
- Forced Sleep: The Sandman can cause people to fall asleep. He uses it on Bud and Sylvia prior to taking them to the disguised North Pole.
- Grumpy Old Man: When he's working, Bernard 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.
- Honorary Uncle: Scott for Lucy, a sign that Scott made peace with the Millers after the first film.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Santa's bag is functionally empty until one reaches a qualifying house, at which time it produces the requested gift. This is Hand Waved to an extent with the mention of the bag's magical properties during Scott's orientation as Santa.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite how much of a Jerkass he is at the beginning, it's 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. The last movie indicates that he would have become even more cynical and wrapped up in his work if he hadn't.
- Legacy Character: Santa Claus is not one set person or even an actual name (or at least hasn't been since the very first). It goes from person to person, with succession happening whenever Santa dies or retires. The next person to don the suit gets the job. Apparently, most Santas die instead of retiring and are usually lost through rooftop falls, as that's the first thing that Bernard (correctly) assumed happened to the previous Santa when he meets Scott.
- Lighter and Softer: The first film is rated PG and the next two are both G. Although the first was just barely a PG thanks to a few raunchier bits from Allen, 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 only really becomes/reverts back to Santa in time for the Happy Ending.
- Never Land: The elves are ancient but look mostly like preteen children.
- Nice Guy: Scott after he loses his jerkass behaviors and accepts being the new Santa Claus.
- Novelization: Junior Novelizations for the first and third films, at least. The third differs from the finished film in that Bernard's still around though.
- Older Than They Look: The elves are all but stated to be this. Curtis in particular looks like he's no more than 12-14 years old, but Bernard points out he's at least 900.
- Post-Modern Magik: Santa's workshop has become modernized, with the elves manufacturing toys in a factory. Santa's sleigh has been tricked out with gadgets like a cookie cocoa dispenser, and even the literal North Pole has a keypad on the side.
- Practical Effects: In all three movies, Comet is played by an animatronic whenever the reindeer aren't shown to be flying.
- Pun-Based Title: The series' title is a pun on "Santa Claus" and "legal clause".
- This is 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.
Bernard: (sigh) Look, you're a businessman, right?
Bernard: Okay, a clause as in the last line of a contract.
Bernard: You got the card?!
- And again in the second movie:Curtis: Santa, there's a clause.
Scott: That would be me.
Curtis: No, I mean there's another Santa clause.
Scott: Curtis, in case you haven't noticed - this time of year, the malls are filled with other "Santa Clauses".
Curtis: Yes, but there's another Santa clause. There was a first clause, but also a second clause.
Puppets: Get on with it!
- This is blatantly spelled out in the first movie:
- Purely Aesthetic Era: Although many of the elves dress in very old-fashioned clothing, they also take full advantage of the latest technological advancements and appear more technologically advanced in some areas than humans.
- Rapid Hair Growth: Once the main character is destined to become the new Santa, his beard grows at an unbelievable rate.
- 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. An elf who Scott runs into when he first arrives at the North Pole says that he has pointy shoes older than Scott after he was called a kid by Scott. When Judy made Scott a cup of hot cocoa, she says it took her 1,200 years to get the recipe just right.
- Remember the New Guy?: This happens in all of the sequels with the North Pole elf characters due to the long production gaps resulting in most of the child actors growing too old to reprise their roles. The only ones to appear in multiple installments are Bernardnote and Curtisnote .
- The Sandman: In the second and third films, the Sandman is a respected member of the Council of Legendary Figures, along with Santa, Father Time, Mother Nature, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.
- Santa Claus: The films' central premise is how someone transitions into becoming the new Santa Claus, which in this universe is a Legacy Character.
- Saving Christmas: What Scott ends up doing in each movie, with the help of elves and his family.
- Secret Identity: Scott has to keep his identity as Santa a secret as part of the "Secret of Santa" ordeal, otherwise the spirit of Christmas would cease to exist.
- 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.
- Sequel Non-Entity: Because of the choice to cast pre-teens as elves who are Really 700 Years Old, few return for the sequels. Bernard is one because he was already an older teenager in the first film, and Curtis is another because the gap between 2 and 3 was just close enough to not be that noticeable.
- Significant Monogram: Scott Calvin.
- In the sequel series, Simon Chokski also qualifies.
- Someone Has to Do It: The world needs Santa, so there must always be one.
- Steam Never Dies: Steam trains show up all over the place at the North Pole.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Abby in the second film, for Judy in the first film as both are elves who bring cocoa to Santa, have very close names, and wear similar costumes. An unnamed elf played by a different actress briefly appears in the third film wearing the same costume as Abby, but it's not clear if she's meant to be her.
- Weirdness Censor: When you think about it, the fact that almost no adults believe in Santa is more than a little ridiculous in the face of a bunch of mysterious presents (including rather conspicuous items, like a freaking kayak) showing up en masse in everyone's houses on Christmas morning.