Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Series: a Rankin Bass Christmas Classic
Starring: Mickey Rooney, Shirley Booth, Dick Shawn, George S. Irving, Bob McFadden
Director: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Release Date: 10 December 1974
Length: 51 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
Santa (voice by Mickey Rooney) wakes up one morning and decides he is too old, too tired and too sore to deliver Christmas presents this year. Even his doctor assures him that no one will miss him if he doesn’t go out on his yearly sleigh ride to deliver presents. But Mrs. Claus (voice by Shirley Booth) knows that the children around the world will miss Santa! So she sends two elves (voice by Bob McFadden & Bradley Bolke) on a baby reindeer to find some holiday spirit. Will Mrs. Claus and the elves be able to save Christmas?
This is one of my favorite Christmas specials to watch. I look forward to seeing it every year around the holiday season and never tire of watching it. I believe that these old Rankin-Bass Productions are the best Christmas shows to watch for children young and old. This special has the old-fashioned stop-motion animation and it is the animation style that I equate with the best Christmas specials. They make the motion look pretty dang good for claymation figurines! It is a little jerky, but I think that it only adds to the charm.
The vocal talents are top-notch. Mickey Rooney spoiled every other holiday special for me as it is just not the same to hear a Santa speaking that does not have his voice. I am not very familiar with the woman who plays Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth). She narrates and sings in the special and has the perfect voice for Mrs. Claus – old, but spritely and a little mischievous. The other characters were chosen for their memorable, unique sound. Jingle (Bob McFadden) & Jangle (Bradley Bolke) are very distinct and I feel like their voices added to the charm and character of the film. And who can forget Heat Miser (George S. Irving) & Snow Miser (Dick Shawn)?! They are simply perfectly cast, as are all the speaking parts in this film. Even the children’s voices add that special touch of charm and distinctive sound.
The best part of the Rankin-Bass specials is the music. There are 8 distinctive songs in this 41-minute special, plus 1 reprise and they are all fantastic! The special begins and ends with “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” a peppy little number that has some talky/singy action to explain what is going to happen in the special. Mrs. Claus shines in “I Could Be Santa Claus,” where she sings about how anyone can be Santa if their hearts are in the right place. She is concerned that Santa won’t get up to deliver presents and is considering doing his job for him, but gives up on the idea after the elves think it’s a bad idea. “I Believe in Santa Claus” is a beautiful, heartfelt number that I did not appreciate when I was a kid. It is a ballad that talks about believing in Santa Claus like believing in love – as more of a feeling than a real person. “It’s Gonna Snow Right Here in Dixie” is a fun, upbeat song that helps move the plot along as well as pick up the pace and make you tap your toe along. The mayor is making fun of the fact that the elves promised them snow in Southtown, which is in Heat Miser’s territory and has never had a white Christmas. “The Snow Miser Song” and “The Heat Miser Song” are probably the most famous songs that came out of this special. They are such a fun addition to the show and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t get a smile on their face while these two stepbrothers are singing about their hatred of each other. The last two songs are not written by Rankin & Bass, but they are some holiday classics that I never tire of hearing. “Blue Christmas” gives the children of the world a chance to let Santa know that, while they understand him wanting to take a year off, they are going to have a sadder Christmas without him. “Here Comes Santa Claus” was the perfect ending to this special as Santa Claus comes sailing into Southtown and all of the children cheer as they realize that Santa didn’t let them down after all.
The story is absolutely wonderful and has a positive message as well as plenty of silly moments. By thinking about Santa Claus taking a year off, we realize that presents are not the most important part of the holiday. In fact, when the children realize that Santa is serious, they all send Santa gifts and let him know that they understand, which I thought was really cute. Of course, Santa saves the day in the end, but he also brings about some extra subplots that kept me smiling throughout the special. Mrs. Claus sends Jingle and Jangle, two of their dimmest elves, to find some examples of the holiday spirit, but they get into all kinds of trouble. Their baby reindeer, Vixen, ends up in the pound, where she gets really sick, and they try to ask the mayor for help, but he doesn’t believe they are really elves. To convince him, they have to make it snow in the southern US, where it never snows. So Mrs. Claus, Jingle and Jangle travel to the Miser brothers and from there to Mother Nature (voice by Rhoda Mann) to make that happen. Meanwhile, Santa Claus is trying to find the elves and the reindeer in Southtown, where he meets Ignatious Thistlewhite (voice by Colin Duffy), who is too old and too cool to believe in Santa. Bottom line is, this special touches on one of the hot spots of Christmas: are you ever too old to believe in Christmas and Santa Claus?
If you have not seen this Christmas special, you are really missing out on a special holiday treat. It is on TV every year on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas event and is also available on DVD. Even though it was made in the ‘70s, it is still a classic and has held its age very well. A must see for the December Christmas holiday!
There are a few scenes of mild peril. Recommended for viewers of all ages.