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Monday, December 5, 2011


Not Rated

"Watch out for that dolly. She's a hardened criminal, I hear."
-- Kris Kringle

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is a made-for-television animated film directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass that tells the story of Santa Claus. The film opens with postal carrier (voiced by Fred Astaire) serving as our narrator as he tells us of the origins of Santa Claus. According to him, an infant Claus was left on the doorstep of the evil Burgermeister Meisterburger (voiced by Paul Frees) who immediately had the baby sent away. He ended up with a family of elves known as the Kringles who spent their entire lives making toys the could not deliver to children because the Winter Warlock (voiced by Keenan Wynn) prevented their passage across the mountain. The elves took the child as their own and named him Kris (voiced by Mickey Rooney), who vowed to take the toys across the mountain once he was strong enough to make the trek. He took the toys to the town of Meisterburger, who had outlawed toys of all kinds. As the evil lord continued to prevent Kris's ability to deliver the toys, he began to think of more and more innovative ways to succeed in his plans.

I know that I've seen this movie at some point over the years, but I figured I'd give it another go this holiday season. Considering how much I love 1964's Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I thought I might find a way to like this one just as much. It's made in the same way as the Rudolph, but despite the likability of the film, it just didn't quite resonate with me in the same manner that the former film did.

The screenplay offers an interesting tale as to the origins of good old Saint Nick. I don't know whether it's the accepted story behind his origins (although I'm sure there are dozens of stories that some would claim to be the true story), but it's an interesting look nonetheless. The writers were able to place a lot of Christmas song-infused references into the dialogue, so if there's anything to look forward to, it's that bit of wordplay here and there. In the end, the story is satisfying, and the fact that it's told to us by Fred Astaire is definitely a plus.

Strangely enough, my biggest issue with the film was the use of some of the songs. While some of the songs - such as "The First Toymakers to the King" and "Be Prepared to Pay" - seemed to fit the message and the tone of the film, there were a couple - namely, "One Foot in Front of the Other" and "My World Is Beginning Today" - that just seemed terribly out of place. They were so glaringly out there that they took me out of the film's flow. The orchestral score worked well enough, but the musical numbers were just a little too off-kilter to keep me interested and engaged.

Still, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is a classic TV special that is sure to warm the hearts of millions this holiday season. While it's not quite at the level of Rudolph, it will still manage to leave a lasting impact on the Christmas season. Just don't go in expecting the greatest television event you'll ever see. That would be quite disastrous.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: C+
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