The Secret World of Santa Claus is a 1997 French/Canadian cartoon series produced between France's Marathon Media and Canada's CinéGroupe that originally aired under the title Le Monde secret du Père Noël.
It chronicles the adventures of Santa Claus and his three elves, Thoren, Jordi and Guilfi, as well as the polar bear Balbo, as they make preparations for Christmas and help children in need. Their efforts are frequently stymied by Gruzzlebeard and his henchman Dudley, who try to sabotage Santa and ruin Christmas.
Of course, this is a Christmas show about Santa, so the bad guys never succeed for long: they usually end the episode caught up in whatever trap they've tried to set for our heroes.
Although only 26 episodes were produced, the series has had international distribution, most notably in Canada on Teletoon, which has made airing the show a Christmas tradition.
The Secret World of Santa Claus contains examples of:
- Acrofatic: Despite his trademark jelly-belly, Santa is more athletic than he appears. He is shown working out from time to time, and the elves occasionally comment on how fit he is.
- The Ageless: Santa, his elves, Gruzzlebeard, and Dudley all seem to be ageless immortals; Santa and the elves have been around since before Arthurian times according to "Santa Claus's Memoirs", and Gruzzlebeard and Dudley are still alive and still look like their usual selves two hundred years into the future in "The Return of Santa Claus"; confusingly, Gruzzlebeard has an Arthurian Identical Ancestor (see Older Than They Look below).
- All Trolls Are Different: There appear to be two types of trolls in the show: friendly trolls as they appear in "A Present for Santa" are tiny, gnomelike crafters who grow and harvest the magical materials for Santa's trademark suit of red, while the gaggle of "Terrible Trolls" that appear out of a magic book in "The Story of the Trolls" are malicious, elf-sized creatures that hate elves. This variety have strange steel globes on the ends of their hair, which they can fling around to break things and cause mayhem. Dudley is a Terrible Troll, and analyzing the steel globe on his head is Santa and co's key to defeating the ones antagonizing them.
- An Aesop: While the show as a whole broadly teaches the importance of being good boys and girls — it is about Santa, after all — some episodes teach more specific lessons:
- In "The Lucky Charm" a young figure skater loses her lucky charm, without which she believes she can no longer skate competitively. When Santa and the elves can't find her charm, Santa gives her an identical copy. After the girl wins the competition, Santa reveals to her that the charm was a duplicate, and the girl learns to believe in herself.
- In "The Magic Wand," a girl is bullied because she has a long nose. When Gruzzlebeard gives her a defective magic wand, she uses it to shrink her nose, but immediately finds she dislikes it. The wand starts causing mayhem, and when Santa and the elves break the spell, she learns to like her old appearance and gets the confidence to befriend a boy she likes.
- In "The Boy Who Wished To Be Little Again", a boy is jealous of his baby sister because she seems to be taking his parents' attention away from him. He wishes to be small again; meanwhile, Dudley wishes to be tall, and the two use a machine to fulfill both their wishes at the same time. However, the boy shrinks to the size of an ant, while Dudley becomes a giant. After Santa sets things right again, the boy comes to realize his parents still care about him — it's just that his little sister needs lots of attention right now, because she's only a baby.
- Badass Normal: Jordi can shapeshift and Thoren can fly, but Guilfi is the only elf without magic powers for most of the show, until the final episode, where he finally awakens the power of telekinesis. He still remains a reliable ally and a great help to Santa, who respects him dearly.
- Bad Boss: Gruzzlebeard to Dudley; he lazes about and makes Dudley do all the chores around their dirty, ramshackle house, hits or smacks him for any slight, and frequently calls him mean names.
- Bad Future: "The Return of Santa Claus" sees Santa and his elves transported to the year 2222 when Gruzzlebeard tampers with a teleportation device Jordi invents; because Santa has been missing for two hundred years, Gruzzlebeard has turned the village closest to Santa's workshop into a high-tech dystopia that glorifies himself, and erased Santa's name from history. Christmas is nonexistent, and robots built by Gruzzlebeard's forces boss humans around and make children learn lessons about Gruzzlebeard. Luckily, Santa and the elves start a revolution, and manage to fix the teleporter-turned-time machine and return to their proper time period, stopping Gruzzlebeard's dystopia from happening.
- Benevolent Boss: Santa, of course! The workshop is occasionally treated as a business, and he's a very understanding and friendly employer to his three elves and Balbo.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "The Return of Santa Claus", after cutting the wire on Jordi's teleportation device, Gruzzlebeard runs out in glee shouting "From now on, this is MY TV show!"
- Catchphrase: Santa has two, repeated many times throughout the series: "Upon my beard!"/"By my beard!", and "With Santa Claus, nothing's impossible."
- Christmas Episode: Given that the entire series revolves around Santa and his efforts to deliver presents to all the boys and girls, pretty much every episode qualifies.
- A Father to His Men: Santa is this to the elves, serving as their mentor and confidant. The analogy is reinforced by Santa being a kind old man, and the elves looking and sometimes acting youthful.
- Forgetful Jones: Despite being a genius when it comes to inventing, Jordi seems to frequently forget his magic powers.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Jordi always comes up with new toys and gadgets for Santa. While they sometimes malfunction, they can also be quite helpful.
- Happy Ending: Every episode ends with Santa, the elves and Balbo succeeding in helping a child and stopping Gruzzlebeard's shenanigans. After a short cut-in of Santa's sleigh flying across the night sky, Santa and co. gather around his magic computer to watch the child they helped open their present on Christmas morning.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite serving Gruzzlebeard and being mean and antisocial himself, Dudley will sometimes help Santa and the elves thwart his boss.
- The Klutz: Poor Balbo the polar bear is always tripping, stumbling, or bumping into something.
- Lost in Translation: Gruzzlebeard's name in the original French version is 'Père Fouettard', a French Christmas figure whose name means "Father Whipper"; this Krampus-like figure is a companion to Saint Nicholas known for whipping naughty kids as punishment for their poor behavior, rather than a mean, dimwitted antagonist to Santa as the show portrays him. "The Christmas Conference" also features a an example that introduces several international Christmas characters; while the Scandinavian Santa Lucia and Italian Befana remain as they are, the Russian Ded Moroz gets localized into "Frosty Freddy", a generic winter spirit more like Jack Frost than anything.
- Manchild: The human antagonist of "Stolen Christmas" is possibly an adult that's still bitter over never receiving Christmas presents, so he made a career of stealing toys disguised as Santa during the Christmas season and hoarding them.
- Never My Fault: One antagonist is bitter over never getting Christmas presents, but when caught reveals he never wrote a letter to Santa asking for one.
- Older Than They Look: Most main characters are much older than they actually look.
- Santa himself seems to be very old already. While his actual age is ambiguous, he is shown to have brought gifts to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, and King Arthur.
- The elves seem to be pretty old as well, despite looking like children. Guilfi is shown to have helped Santa in his mission to bring King Arthur a gift, and is thus probably the oldest of the elves.
- Weirdly averted for Gruzzlebeard; while he appears to be an old man like Santa Claus, in "The Memoirs of Santa Claus", his Identical Ancestor, the Viscount of Gruzzlebeard, appears as an antagonist to Santa on his quest to deliver Excalibur to King Arthur.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Dudley severely dislikes Gruzzlebeard and only helps him because he is forced to.
- Santa Claus: The protagonist of the show. He is just like children imagine him: a kind and caring old man with a big belly and a big white beard. He believes every child deserves to get a present for Christmas, and he loves milk and cookies.
- The Smurfette Principle: Thoren is the only female elf, and the only recurring female character.
- Vague Age: The non-Gruzzlebeard antagonist of "Stolen Christmas" is a thief who mentions "when [he] was little", but is also scrawny and clean shaven enough to be mistaken for a teenager at the least. He's effective at disguising as an adult like Santa, and lives alone with his pet cat in an abandoned theatre, so he's either a runaway minor or an adult squatter.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Terrible Trolls such as Dudley are rendered helpless if the steel marbles on the ends of their hair are destroyed, and these same marbles can be attracted to a large enough magnet.