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Western Animation / The Year Without a Santa Claus

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Did you ever hear of that terrible year
Way back before you were born?
When Santa Claus took a holiday
On the night before Christmas morn'?
Mrs. Claus, "The Year Without a Santa Claus"

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a Stop Motion puppet-animated (called "Animagic") holiday special by Rankin/Bass Productions that debuted on ABC in 1974. This time, Santa Claus (voiced by Mickey Rooney, reprising the role from 1970's Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town) decides to take a holiday from Christmas when he becomes convinced that nobody really cares anymore. In an effort to get Christmas back on, Mrs. Claus (voiced by Shirley Booth in her final appearance) sends a pair of elves out to find enough Christmas spirit left in the world to make Santa change his mind. Hilarity Ensues, contributed to in no small part by the memorable obstructiveness of the climate-ruling Miser Brothers, Snow Miser (Dick Shawn) and Heat Miser (George S. Irving).

The script was written by William Keenan (instead of Rankin-Bass stalwart Romeo Muller), with the studio's usual mixture of classic Christmas tunes with original songs by Maury Laws and co-producer Jules Bass.

A live-action remake aired on NBC in 2006, starring John Goodman as Santa, Michael McKean as Snow Miser, and Harvey Fierstein as Heat Miser.

Followed in 2008 by the non-Rankin/Bass A Miser Brothers Christmas, in which Heat Miser and Snow Miser are forced to work together to save Christmas. Mickey Rooney would later portray Santa in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, the unrelated 2005 NBC special The Happy Elf, and the 2008 live-action short film Wreck the Halls.

These tropes are too much!

The original special:

  • A Day in the Limelight: One of the few specials where Mrs. Claus is the star.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The plot of the original poem by Phyllis McGinley is just this: Santa decides to take a holiday, the world is upset, but then Ignatius Thistlewhite convinces all the children to send presents to Santa, and when he gets them he decides to make his deliveries after all. Mrs. Claus, Jingle and Jangle, their quest to prove that Christmas spirit still exists and resulting need to make it snow in the south, and (believe it or not) the Miser Brothers are all additions for the special.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: In the original poem, Santa's choice to take a holiday comes across as more selfish: he's just tired and feels entitled to a break. The special adds that he's depressed by people not believing in him and lacking Christmas spirit, and thinks no one will miss him anyway. This adds to his motive for calling off his holiday in the end, because the children's gifts and a letter from a little girl telling him how much she'll miss him this Christmas prove that they believe in him and love him after all.
  • Age Lift: Most depictions of Santa's reindeer show them all as fully grown. In this special, Vixen is just a baby, much younger and smaller than the other seven.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Vixen, while disguised as a dog, barks at a cat, which chases her. One could argue that she was really in character, but even so.
  • All Just a Dream: It's implied in the closing song that the whole story is something Santa dreamed. Though that wouldn't explain the sequel.
  • Ambiguously Related: Snow Miser casually refers to Heat Miser as his stepbrother. However, both seem to address Mother Nature as their mother. A Mister Brothers Christmas seems to retcon them as twins.
  • Anything but That!: Everyone, Elves, Miser Brothers, are terrified of the idea that Mrs. Claus would take her case to Mother Nature.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Jingle and Jangle arrive in Southtown, a police officer gives them citiations for going the wrong way on a one-way street, crossing the white line, and wearing funny-looking suits on a Sunday.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Snow Miser objects to Heat Miser melting snow whenever it enters the Southern hemisphere, and Heat Miser decides that if Snow Miser would allow a warm day in the Northern hemisphere, he would allow it to snow in the South. In real life, when it's summertime in the northern hemisphere, it's wintertime in the southern hemisphere.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: See All Animals Are Dogs, above.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Snow Miser does this when Mrs. Claus tells him that Heat Miser wants to make the North Pole warmer for Christmas Eve.
  • Blue Means Cold: The Snow Miser has blue skin.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: Snow Miser's and Heat Miser's character songs, complete with miniature helper versions of themselves as dancing choruses
  • Cain and Abel: The Miser Brothers, being representations of opposing elements, really don't like each other.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Blue Christmas" goes from a ballad about unrequited love at Christmas to a somber song about a sad little girl who misses Santa as he takes his year off.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: Invoked. The mayor of Southtown dares Jingle and Jangle Bells to prove they're Santa's elves by making it snow - and Southtown hasn't had a snow since forever - leading to the visit to the Miser Bros. When it does start to snow, the mayor is suitably stunned and amazed.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Heat Miser. He may look sinister, but he's more grouchy than truly malicious.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Mrs. Claus's plan to send Jingle and Jangle Bells on Vixen out into the world to find a reason to get Santa motivated has (as she admits) a few holes in it; the most pressing is that they have to get past the Miser Bros, and in her haste in sending the two elves off, she had forgotten all about them until Santa Claus reminds her.
  • Don't Tell Mama!: The Miser Brothers are petrified at the thought of facing their mother when she's mad at them; of course, she is Mother Nature...
  • Deus ex Machina: When Mrs. Claus can't persuade the Miser brothers to cooperate, she goes over their heads and calls on their mother. Their mother happens to be Mother Nature.
  • The Dreaded: Mother Nature; everyone is afraid of confronting her, even her sons. That said, she's shown to be a friendly, amicable old woman who can easily be reasoned with, but her domain and implied powers make this trope at least somewhat justifiable.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Heat Miser and Snow Miser are very keen on sucking up to their "mother dearest", Mother Nature. They fawn over her when she summons them to her side and are quick to obey her when she loses her temper.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Both the Miser brothers, though they aren't exactly evil. Their hamminess is even lampshaded by Mrs. Claus. (The sharp-eyed will catch Ignatius rolling his eyes at Heat Miser.)
  • Evil Laugh: While the Miser Brothers aren't evil so much as just stubborn, they are antagonists for part of the story and both have evil sounding laughs to go with their hammy personalities. Snow Miser's is a loud, almost insane-sounding guffaw, while Heat Miser's is a low and sinister chuckle.
  • Fat and Skinny: Snow Miser is thin and Heat Miser is portly. The same can be said for Jingle and Jangle Bells.
  • Fiery Redhead: Heat Miser is an example in more ways than one. Not only is he ill-tempered with reddish hair, but he literally has fiery powers and his hair is shaped like flames.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: The Miser Brothers supply the first two, of course, while Mother Nature causes bolts of lightning when she summons and scolds them.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Apparently, most children don't believe in Santa anymore. The question is, how do they explain the presents that their parents never bought? Or the fact that Santa gave interviews to several reliable newspapers who also publish photos of him (and which they were discussing literally seconds earlier).
    • Also, the doctor from the beginning of the movie. He talks about how ridiculous it is that people would believe that Santa Claus exists right in front of Santa himself!
  • Foreshadowing: An interesting example is done with the film's opening credits. Dick Shawn's name appears written in snow and George S. Irving's name appears on the sun, foreshadowing both their respective roles as Snow Miser and Heat Miser.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: After the Miser Brothers finish their musical numbers, they start feuding with each other when they hold a video conference.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The grouchy elf doctor tells Santa that nobody cares about Christmas anymore, but he sarcastically wishes him a Merry Christmas anyway before he leaves.
  • "I Am" Song: The Miser Brothers' respesctive songs, which summarize who they are and what their respective domains are.
  • An Ice Person: Snow Miser. Whatever he touches tuns to snow in his clutch.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Snow Miser is quite fond of making cold-based puns - or, "chilly humor", as he calls it.
    Snow Miser: "Well, Mrs. Claus, how's your hubby?"
    Mrs. Claus: "Well, I'm afraid he's got a bad cold, Snowy."
    Snow Miser: "Aw, that's a shame, the poor fellow. He should have come to see me. I'd have given him a good one!"
    • Heat Miser isn't above this himself, as he has Mrs. Claus make a call on "the hotline" - a phone with flames painted on it.
  • Informed Attribute: During the intro song, Mrs. Claus explains how sad the children were that Santa wasn't coming, because they thought he had died. Cue the lyric "Every eye shed a blue Christmas tear" and a shot of a child crying. However, although a tear does obligingly roll down the child's face, the child is smiling. Although that may actually be an example of Special Effects Failure.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: When Santa learns that Jingle and Jangle are AWOL in the mortal world, he says, "Poor little guys. They must be scared to death," which is followed by a hard cut to Jangle saying "I'm scared to death!"
  • It's the Only Way: When Snow Miser and Heat Miser won't learn to get along, Mrs. Claus is left with no other option at that point to pay a visit to Mother Nature.
  • Large and in Charge: The Snow and Heat Misers noticeably tower over everybody else.
  • Large Ham: The Miser Brothers are, well, too much.
    • Mrs Claus outright says so, at least for Snow Miser.
      Here he comes now, the big ham.
  • Leitmotif: The mayor of Southtown and the Miser Brothers all have one, each being an instrumental version of the songs they sing.
  • Let There Be Snow: The mayor of Southtown insists that he'll only be convinced that Jingle and Jangle are elves and that Vixen is a reindeer if Jingle and Jangle can make it snow in Southtown.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: The 2006 TV movie with John Goodman as Santa, Delta Burke as Mrs. Claus, Michael McKean as Snow Miser, Harvey Fierstein as Heat Miser, and Carol Kane as Mother Nature. Among other famous faces. Despite rather dramatic changes from the original story (such as Iggy's father and the mayor of Southtown becoming a Composite Character and Santa Claus negotiating with the Miser Brothers instead of Mrs. Claus), it still retained the songs.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Surely you're expecting a dark, gloomy song to fit in with a show about a holiday getting cancelled, right? No, this is Rankin Bass. The title song is a bright, chipper, major key melody, even as its lyrics describe "a Christmas Eve so sad" and "the worst we ever had." None of the songs aside from "Blue Christmas" give off any sadness.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Deconstructed with Vixen. Not long after Jingle and Jangle Bells land in Southtown, the poor reindeer gets sick. As Santa says when he picks her up from the pound, she's just not used to the warmer climate, as would anyone who grew up in the North Pole.
  • Mother Nature: She appears as the mother of the Miser Brothers and the only person who can control them. She's seems to be a friendly, refined old lady, but don't mess with her.
  • Mrs. Claus: In one of her rare starring roles in a Santa story, she narrates and plays a key role in the action too.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Mother Nature is actually a very kind and reasonable lady, but she clearly commands respect from her sons the Miser Brothers, whom she quickly brings into line.
  • Never Say "Die": No one explicitly says that Vixen might die if she stays too long in Southtown's heat, but Santa remarks "I hope I'm not too late" when he rescues her, and Mrs. Claus narrates that "who knows what might happen" to her if Santa didn't get her back to the North Pole quickly.
  • No Antagonist: While the Miser Brothers' bickering does bring up some conflict, they are not really villains: in fact with their mother's persuasion, they help the Clauses in the end. The only real conflict is that Santa has become bored of his endless job of giving presents to children and that Mrs. Claus and the elves are trying to get it to snow in Southtown.
  • Noodle Incident: The Spinning Paper announcing Santa's temporary retirement has an article beneath it that reads: "Panic! Menagerie breaks loose in New York!"
  • Oh, Crap!: Everyone's reaction, from the Miser Brothers to Jingle and Jangle, when Mrs. Claus decides to pull out the big guns and see Mother Nature directly to settle the disagreement between Snow Miser and Heat Miser. Even Mrs. Claus is hesitant to go through with it, having heard that Mother Nature doesn't like to be disturbed.
    Heat Miser: See what you did, you old blizzard?! She's gonna tell Mother!
    Snow Miser: What I did, you hot dog?! It's all your fault!
    Jingle: We're going straight to the top, Iggy my boy.
    Jangle: Mrs. C is through playing around... we're going to see...
    Jingle & Jangle: Mother Nature!
  • Our Elves Are Different: The elves here are rather Keebleresque, Santa's workshop assistants, and a bit shorter than the children.
  • Our Gods Are Different: The Gods in this film are depicted as elemental but physical beings, who control the world's weather. Despite their power however, they still possess human-like traits and fall into petty squabbles. That's why they're governed by an older, more powerful, and more mature Goddess.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: Snow Miser controls the world's ice and snow, Heat Miser controls heat, and Mother Nature controls the two of them.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The elves disguise Vixen as a dog by putting a pair of brown socks over her ears. This backfires though when a dogcatcher, fooled by the disguise, takes her to the pound as an unlicensed stray.
  • Physical God: Mother Nature and the Miser Brothers are each powerful enough to destroy the whole planet with ease.
  • Playing with Fire: Heat Miser. Whatever he touches starts to melt in his clutch.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: The Miser Brothers, of course. Aside from the obvious, Snow Miser seems to be more of a joker who likes the Clauses and tries to keep a cool head while Heat Miser is rather hot-headed.
  • Power Stereotype Flip: Zig-Zagged with the Miser Brothers. They form a classic Fire/Ice Duo, but Snow Miser is a fun-loving Large Ham who nevertheless keeps his cool easier, while Heat Miser, although grumpy and short-tempered, has a much more restrained and calculating side to him.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Heat Miser's red to Snow Miser's blue. Note that while Snow Miser doesn't follow the normal archetype of being stoic, closed-off, and quiet, he is by far the more amicable and friendly of the two. He's perfectly happy and even excited to help Mrs. Claus when she asks him to make it snow in Southtown, and it's only due to his brother's stubborness that he isn't able to immediately honor her request.
  • Restored My Faith in Humanity: A big part of what's making Santa take the year off is the nagging feeling that no one really cares about or believes in him and his mission, and won't notice his absence. After he gets a letter from a little girl saying how much she misses him ("I'll have a blue Christmas without you"), and starts receiving presents from the children of the world, Santa has a change of heart.
    Santa: By my maps and charts...who knew children had such big hearts?
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Upon hearing that Heat Miser would let it snow in Southtown in exchange for a concession on his part, Snow Miser sarcastically asks if the "flaming fool" wants the North Pole this time. He experiences a Wild Take and Eye Twitch when Mrs. Claus tells him that's exactly what Heat Miser wants.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The opening scene has Santa and Mrs. Claus having a conversation in rhyme. The words are taken directly from the original poem.
  • '70s Hair: One of Santa's elves has a bowl cut similar to Luke Skywalker's.
  • Sibling Rivalry: The Miser Brothers really don't like each other. Aside from representing opposite elements, they also compete for their Mothers' (Mother Nature) favor. Heat Miser in particular feels that Snow Miser is the favorite of the two.
  • Sick Episode: Santa has a cold, which, combined with the fact that he feels like no one believes in him or has any Christmas spirit anymore, makes him decide to forego his annual sleigh ride.
  • Shout-Out: A character is dressed exactly like Charlie Chaplin during the mayor's song.
    • Mother Nature's lightning and thunder when summoning the Miser Brothers can be considered a reference to the 1970s Chiffon margarine commercials, where Mother Nature sends thunder and lightning, telling the narrator "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature".
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The doctor at the beginning is responsible for Santa not wanting to deliver presents and was on screen for about a minute.
  • Standard Snippet: The beginning of the special as well as parts of the ending are accompanied by Leroy Andersson's "Sleigh Ride", and of course, there are sung renditions of "Blue Christmas" and "Here Comes Santa Claus".
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Jingle and Jangle, respectively.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: Part of the plot depends on bringing a snowy day to "Southtown, U.S.A." (partially averted in that only the mayor and the policeman sound as if they came from anywhere south of Staten Island).
  • Triumphant Reprise: "There'll be no year without a Santa Claus".
  • True Blue Femininity: Unlike most depictions, this special's Mrs. Claus wears blue, though she does try on Santa's suit when she gets the idea to try doing Santa's job in his stead until she realizes she'd be too easy to recognize.
  • The Un-Favourite: Heat Miser thinks that Mother Nature always liked Snow Miser best.
  • Villain Song: The Miser Brothers' songs, insofar as they can be considered villains.
  • Waxing Lyrical: As was common in the Rankin/Bass specials, there are references to the main song, in this case, Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus". The elves are named "Jingle Bell" and "Jangle Bell" after the line "Here those sleigh bells, jingle, jangle". And this is also why Vixen and Blitzen are the reindeer with the most prominent roles.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end of Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, it was established that Santa and the Winter Warlock still had connections, with Winter providing white Christmases from thereon out with his newly-restored magic. However, he's nowhere to be seen here, and his mantle is taken up by Snow Miser.

NBC's The Year Without A Santa Claus (2006):

  • Composite Character: Iggy's father and the mayor of Southtown are one and the same in this incarnation.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mrs. Claus has a much smaller role in this version.
  • Elemental Rivalry: The Miser Brothers are fighting when we first see them.
  • An Ice Person: Snow Miser and his Miserettes.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Miser bros' female minions in short skirts, the Miserettes.
  • Mythology Gag: A clip from the original, animated version is briefly seen on TV as the elves flip through channels.
  • Playing with Fire: Heat Miser and his Miserettes.
  • '70s Hair: The Snow Miser's girlfriends all have afros, to go along with his 70s themed style.
  • Villain Song: The Classic Miser Brothers' songs, this time sang at once.

A Miser Brothers Christmas contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Sympathy: The Miser Brothers were originally depicted as a pair of bickering brothers — one driven to make the world warmer and the other to cover it in ice and snow — who have no backstories beyond hating each other's guts. This special shows that their mutual dislike of each other stemmed from constant childhood squabbles, and it was this that caused Santa to always stick them on the Naughty List, thus never earning them any Christmas presents. It's this revelation, combined with their bickering seemingly injuring Santa in a sleigh accident and their mother forcing them to make up for it by taking over from him, that causes the two to finally reconcile.
  • Argument of Contradictions: Snow Miser and Heat Miser. "White Christmas!" "Green Christmas!" "White Christmas!" "Green Christmas!" ...
  • Big Bad: Heat Miser and Snow Miser's big brother North Wind.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The North Wind again.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the film, the North Wind drops one of his cards of himself as Santa. Later, Mrs. Claus finds it and figures out it is evidence that North Wind was the one who broke Santa's back.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: North Wind's punishment for trying to take over Christmas is to spend the next several thousand years doing chores for Mother Nature.
  • Didn't Think This Through: After North Wind seems confident that his two brothers have no authority over him, they admit that while they don't, Mother Nature does before she shows up in person on cue to teach North Wind a lesson for what he did.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While the Miser brothers are more unwilling to get along than evil, they choose to stop their quarrel when they see Santa because they do not wish for Santa to get harmed in the crossfire, but more importantly that it would get them in trouble with Mother Nature.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • A flashback where the Miser Brothers are seen as babies implies that they hate one another because of exposure to the opposite elements. To elaborate, we see baby Snow Miser react in discomfort to getting hit by a warm spark from the fireplace, and we see baby Heat Miser react negatively to having a snowflake enter his clothes. Immediately afterward, the Misers start their endless quarrel.
    • Earlier in the film, the Miser Brothers are indifferent about Santa Claus breaking his back and explain that it is because they never got any presents from him before. When they were shown flashbacks of their childhood years, they understood that Santa never gave them presents because they were on the naughty list for their endless bickering and quarreling.
  • It's All About Me: The North Wind's personality in a nutshell.
  • Jerkass: The North Wind is a narcissistic jerk who only cares about himself, to the point that he wishes to take Santa's place as the one who gives children presents on Christmas Eve. He has no problem framing his two brothers for the accident and getting them to fight after they finally learned to get along.
  • Large Ham: The Miser Brothers, natch, but their older brother the North Wind chews a lot of scenery as well.
  • Mythology Gag: Flashbacks during the Miser Brothers' childhood years depicts them wearing the clothes they wore in the original 1974 special.
  • Never Say "Die": Played with when Mother Nature informs the North Wind that Santa Claus survived the accident that broke his back. His statement of "He is? I mean, he is", along with his repressed holler of anger, implies that the accident he caused was intended to kill Santa rather than just injure him.
  • Parental Bonus:
    Heat Miser: My dear brother has been running a campaign of pure propaganda to try to give global warming a bad name.
    Snow Miser: Oh-ho, puh-leeze. How long have you been trying to scare people with reports of another ice age coming?
  • Saving Christmas: Again, only this time the problem is that North Wind has injured Santa in an attempt to take his place.
  • Subbing for Santa: What the Miser Brothers end up doing after North Wind injures Santa.
  • Symbol Swearing: When Heat Miser sees Snow Miser's new addition to his castle, he is livid and swear symbols appear in his eyes.
  • A Taste of Defeat: Happens in one of Snow Miser and Heat Miser's childhood memories that shows the two playing checkers and Snow Miser taking Heat Miser's red checker pieces, causing Heat Miser to flip the table over in anger.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Both of the Miser Brothers to a very small extent. They're not really that mean, but they are shown to be indifferent to Santa Claus' condition early in the film. They get better when they are tasked with taking Santa's place in supervising the gift manufacturing and delivering the presents on Christmas Eve.
  • Triumphant Reprise: After the Miser Brothers patch things up, they sing each other's songs.
  • Usurping Santa: The evil North Wind plots to get rid of Santa and become the new leader of Christmas simply for the adoration he'll get.
  • Villain Song: "My Kind of Christmas", where North Wind sings about his plans to take over Christmas and become the new Santa Claus.
  • Vocal Evolution: Heat Miser and Santa Claus sound noticeably older in this special, as George S. Irving and Mickey Rooney were in their 80's when it was in production.
  • You Don't Look Like You: The characters from the original special that return in this one have notable redesigns. The characters with the most blatantly different designs include Mrs. Claus and Mother Nature.

Too much!


Video Example(s):


The Miser Brothers

Heat Miser and Snow Miser are constantly vying for control over the world's weather, and often go to war with each other atop their dominions using the powers of fire and ice.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / FireIceDuo

Media sources: