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Western Animation / The Story of Santa Claus

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The other Christmas Special that explains the origin of Santa Claus. Originally aired on CBS in 1996, it continues to air annually on that network. It stars Edward Asner as Nicholas "Santa" Claus (seven years before Elf) with Jim Cummings as Santa's singing voice. Betty White as Mrs. Claus (a role which she would reprise two years later in The Noddy Shop: Anything Can Happen At Christmas) and Tim Curry as the elf wizard Nostros. It was directed by Toby Bluth, brother of Don.
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The special starts off with Nicholas and Gretchen Claus running a toy shop in old-timey Europe. Selfless to a fault, Nicholas "gives away more toys than he sells." It turns out this is not a solid business strategy, and the debt-ridden Clauses are evicted by their greedy landlord. Left with little more than the clothes on their backs, the Clauses decide to give their remaining toys to the children at the Angel's Island Orphanage, which was where Nicholas grew up, but their ship is overtaken by a storm. They are miraculously transported to the North Pole, where they encounter a magical community of elves. The ones with names are Nostros, his clumsy son Clement, and the Insufferable Genius elf girl Aurora. After Nicholas saves Clement's life, he's given one wish. Nicholas wishes that he could give a toy to every child in the world. Nostros is aghast. Even with the elves' magic, this wish is "impossible!" But Nicholas gradually wins the elves over to his dream.

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The special contains the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Time Period: An opening title reads, "Europe, a long time ago." When exactly is "a long time ago?" Late enough for accurate world maps, but still before the Industrial Revolution, apparently. The fashions worn by the human characters are vaguely Victorian.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Nostros at the end.
  • Christmas Elves: In this version, the elves live at the North Pole before the Clauses get there.
  • Cranky Landlord: Mr. Minch, who evicts Santa and Mrs. Claus due to Santa's debt, which results from giving away more toys than he can sell.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Nostros tries (and continuously fails) to stop Clement from getting involved with the Clauses' operation.
  • Gossipy Hens: Near the beginning, some are seen gossiping about the Clauses, providing us with Exposition. Mrs. Claus actually calls them, "nosy old hens."
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  • "I Want" Song: "To Give Every Child in the World a Toy" is sung by Nicholas at the very beginning.
  • The Magic Goes Away: According to Nostros, if Nicholas' wish fails, all the elves will lose their magic permanently. It almost happens, but once Nicholas and the elves return to the North Pole, they regain their magic.
  • Off the Chart: The Clauses' debt goes right off the chart in their ledger book.
  • Only Six Faces: Nostros, Clement, and Aurora are practically the only elves with a unique character design. For everyone else, there is one design for elf boys, one design for elf girls, one design for elf soldiers, etc.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The very Dickensian landlord dresses in this color scheme.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Nostros dresses this way.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Aurora wears glasses.
  • Sour Supporter: Nostros, who expresses great skepticism to Santa's wish to give a toy to every child in the world because the elves could lose their magic if the wish fails. He has a change of heart near the end.
  • Spock Speak: How Aurora talks, naturally.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Nostros is more-or-less treated as the villain, but all he does is doubt the feasibility of Nicholas' wish, which could destroy the elves' magic if not fulfilled.
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