Let’s talk about our first holiday short in Rankin/Bass month (I’ll try to mix up the holiday and non-holiday). We are talking about Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I have to say from the start this is not one I remember watching as a kid. I remember Rudolph but not this one for some reason. I’m not going to say this was my first watch-through but if I have seen it was a long time ago.
With that said, I will say- this movie is weird. It’s just the oddest assortment of strange story, characters, animation, and everything else. I don’t think that is a bad thing per say but it’s just a bit hard to write about. It’s really a very befuddling movie!
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town aired on ABC in 1970 and it is basically a Santa Claus origin story. Our narrator is SD Kluger (SD for Special Delivery) voiced by Fred Astaire who isn’t given as much to do as you might think.
Basically there is a villain named Burgermeister Meisterburger (a great name!) who hates everything. One morning a baby is dropped on his doorstep and he sends it away to the ‘orphan asylum’ and then the animals rescue the baby from him and the Winter Warlock and then take him to stay with the Kringle Family who make toys. Who knew St. Nick had such grim beginnings!
But luckily the Kringles are sweet and lovely people and Kris grows up and wants to restore the Kringle family as the official toymakers of the King (who knew the king needed such a thing?). So he sets out to make and deliver toys.
Unfortunately Burgermeister has outlawed all toys and basically any other kind of fun. Everything in Sombertown (the name of Burgermeister’s kingdom) is dark and gray and sad. He not only bans toys but declares they are ‘illegal, immoral and unlawful and that anyone who has a toy will be placed in a dungeon!’. These must have been quite the toys!
So that’s sort of the set-up and I won’t give any more away but it involves the magic of the Winter Warlock and Kris Kringle’s attempts to circumvent Burgermeister’s crazy laws. In the course of the story you find out origins for Santa’s name, his relationship and marriage to Mrs Claus, presents under the tree, Christmas trees, going down chimneys, December 24th for presents, flying reindeer etc.
I could see someone really roasting this movie. It’s just so nutty but I enjoyed watching it. It’s only an hour so it didn’t wear out its welcome and did surprise me with the strange choices. The ending is very odd in that Santa doesn’t really save the people from Burgermeister. His family rules for generation until the townsfolk come to their senses. That’s more than a little disturbing if you really think about it…
The voicework by Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn and Paul Frees is all fine and fun to hear but nothing too special.
The music is a bit of a letdown with nothing that stood out for me. Songs like ‘No More Toymakers to the King’ and ‘First Toymakers to the King’ weren’t anything special and ‘If You Sit on My Lap Today’ made me a little uncomfortable. It’s just odd for Santa to be asking kids to ‘be prepared to pay’ for sitting on his lap.
So overall it is an odd trippy little film but I enjoyed watching it. Have any of you seen Santa Claus is Coming to Town? Have you watched it recently? Let me know what you think. Thanks!