Saturday, December 21, 2013

#1,223. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)

Directed By: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Starring: Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn

Trivia: This special is based in part on the hit Christmas song of the same name, which was introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934

Rounding out my Rankin / Bass Holiday triumvirate (along with Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus) is the 1970 animated Christmas special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town., Hosted by Fred Astaire, this 1970 musical adventure details the origins of Santa Claus himself, voiced by Mickey Rooney.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town takes us all the way back to when Santa, aka Kris Kringle, was a baby, left on the doorstep of the mean-spirited Mayor of Sombertown, Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees), who immediately ships the infant off to a family of toy-making elves named the Kringles. 

Once a man, Kris sets to work delivering his adopted family's toys to the children of the world, drawing the ire of Burgermeister Meisterburger, who has outlawed all toys. This makes Kris a wanted man, and he does his best to avoid capture while also steering clear of the evil Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn), who guards the path through the mountains.

Ever wonder why Santa wears a red suit? Why he flies around with 8 reindeer? Then you’ll want to check out Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, which provides answers to these questions and plenty more. Mickey Rooney does a fine job as the title character ( a role he would reprise four years later, in The Year without a Santa Claus), facing off against not one, but two adversaries (I used to be scared to death of the Winter Warlock, but as it turns out, Santa’s true nemesis is the Burgermeister Meisterburger). 

Along with presenting the big guy’s origin story, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town features several entertaining musical numbers, like the title song (performed by Astaire) and “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”, during which Kris Kringle shows the Winter Warlock the true meaning of Christmas and helps him become one of the good guys.

While I definitely prefer Rudolph and Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is still an entertaining Christmas special, not to mention another Holiday classic from the creative minds of Arthur Rankin Jr. and Saul Bass.

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