Sorry I have gotten a bit behind on my Rankin/Bass month what with that little thing called Star Wars! Luckily they have a lot of non-Christmas specials so I should be fine stretching it into January where hardly any good movies come out.
One thing I’ve learned about these Rankin/Bass specials is they all have a kooky weirdness to them. I don’t know if you notice it as much when you watch one a year like a normal person. At least it is more noticeable watching them in a block like I have been. I’ve been wondering why some of them are weird and work and others miss the mark? I’m not sure but I think the weirdness is better as an embellishment than the whole story. Like in Jack Frost the story was pretty good and so it made it better to have weird touches.
Anyway, The Year Without a Santa Claus is definitely one of their more successful entries and it is also full of strange elements. Released in 1974 it is a stop motion 48 minute special that tells the story of the year Santa decides to stay at home!
Santa, you see, is in need of a break and his doctor tells him to ‘forget delivering presents to those ungrateful kids who don’t believe in you and stay home!’ (amazing how many people in these specials hate Christmas!). Santa listens and Mrs Claus and the elves Jingle and Jangle are horrified (you think he could just take a day off and not the entire year!).
Jingle and Jangle decide to take a young reindeer named Vixen (they both ride the little reindeer like a horse which looks very strange) to find proof for Santa that someone believes in him.
They are stopped in their quest by the Miser Bros’ who rule the clouds- Heat Miser and Snow Miser who hate each other. I liked these character’s designs and behavior.
They end up in a town called Southtown where they try to find anyone who believes in Santa but Vixen becomes sick and nearly dies. Mrs Claus comes and they meet a boy named Ignatius Thistelwhite who doesn’t believe but his father believes.
Then they must go and find Mother Nature in order to convince Heat Miser and Snow Miser to work together so that the town and Ignatius will believe in Santa.
Santa then comes to save Vixen but before that we get a very melancholy version of Blue Christmas sung by a little girl with lots of stop motion tears. Rankin/Bass loves the stop motion tears!
Santa eventually see’s the error of his ways and makes everything right in the end.
I mean come on- you hear that description it’s pretty creative right? It’s wacky and nutty but very creative. In one 48 minute short we have elves, dying reindeer, Santa playing hooky, Mother Nature, Heat and Snow Miser and a girl singing Blue Christmas. That’s great!
There are also some really nice songs with good performers. I like I Could Be Santa Clause, I Believe in Santa Claus, The Snow Miser and Heat Miser Songs, Blue Christmas and Hear Comes Santa Claus. They are all well sung and some of the best writing from Maury Laws and Jules Bass.
At least to me this is just wacky, weird fun:
I also like Year Without a Santa Claus is a little less heavy-handed in its messaging than some of the other Christmas shorts. It is mostly about Santa with a thin message of believing in things and being kind.
The animation is also a little more seamless than some of the other shorts and I really liked the colors in scenes like at Heat Miser’s castle.
Scenes like this are just so nutty and silly:
It’s certainly one of my favorite of the Rankin/Bass specials. Have you seen it? What did you think?