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The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) Movie Review

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

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
Language: English
Length: 51 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb86_thumb1_thumb[4]

Synopsis:

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?

Review:

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 Sick Santa Clausthat 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 00302291have 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 Heat Miser, Snow Miser & Mother Naturehow 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 00323473of 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 Children Giving Presents to Santa Claussmiling 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!

Content:

There are a few scenes of mild peril.  Recommended for viewers of all ages.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Christmas, Fantasy Movies

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004) Movie Review

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer, Shaun Fleming, Tress MacNeille
Director: Carole Holliday, Matthew O’Callaghan, Theresa Cullen
Series: sequel to Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas
Release Date: 9 November 2004
Language: English
Length: 68 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb85_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

This fun-filled holiday extravaganza features all of your favorite Disney characters in holiday cartoons created just for this collection!

“Belles on Ice” – When Minnie Mouse is introduced first on the ice-skating rink, Daisy Duck’s feelings are hurt.  Both Minnie and Daisy want to be the star of the ice-skating show, but their scene-stealing antics could end up ruining the show for everyone!

“Christmas: Impossible” – Huey, Dewey and Louie haven’t been very nice this year and they ended up on Santa’s naughty list.  Deciding it is impossible to do enough nice things to change Santa’s mind, they decide to break into Santa’s office in the North Pole and put their names on the nice list!

“Christmas Maximus” – Max is second-guessing his plan to bring his girlfriend home for Christmas.  He just knows that his dad, Goofy, will find new ways to embarrass him!

“Donald’s Gift” – Donald Duck is not feeling the Christmas spirit – especially when Daisy and the boys drag him off to the Donald Duck Trying to Get Hot Chocolatemall for Christmas shopping!  Everywhere he turns, someone is playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and it is driving Donald crazy!  All he wants to do is go home and enjoy some hot chocolate.  Can Donald find a way to show he has the Christmas spirit before it is too late?

“Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” – Mickey Mouse is upset when Pluto accidentally ruins the decorations for his Christmas party.  While Mickey goes shopping to find new party gear, Pluto runs away and ends up a pet for Santa’s reindeer!  But as wonderful as Pluto’s new home is, he just misses Mickey – and Mickey is missing Pluto just as much!  Will these two find their way back together to enjoy a Merry Christmas?

Review:

This is a great Christmas special to watch with children of all ages.  Little children will marvel at the amazing death-defying tricks that Minnie and Daisy Minnie Mouse & Daisy Duck on Iceperform on ice in “Belles on Ice.”  Teenagers will empathize with Max as Goofy does nothing but embarrass him while he is visiting for the holidays.  Parents will appreciate Donald’s struggle to find the Christmas spirit amidst all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  The entire special is created in CGI graphics and, while this is not my favorite format, the cartoons here were well-suited to the brightly colored, bubbly animation.

“Christmas: Impossible” is the longest cartoon in this collection at 20-25 minutes with “Christmas Maximus” the shortest at 5-7 minutes. I found something to enjoy in all of the segments, but I did enjoy the story and spirit of “Christmas: Impossible” the most.  It is always fun to travel to Santa’s workshop and see how the elves make all of the toys and get ready for the Christmas holiday!  In this cartoon, Huey, Dewey and Louie are definitely not playing nice Huey Dewie and Louie in Santa's Workshopand almost ruin the holiday for everyone to selfishly try to get more presents for themselves!  “Christmas Maximus” also struck a chord with me.  I can definitely remember being mortified by some of the things that my parents said or did – though they did nothing as embarrassing as what Goofy does! – and could appreciate Max’s position.  I couldn’t help but smile at the crazy things that happened to Goofy and particularly enjoyed the popcorn-popping scene in the kitchen!  This cartoon is the most similar to the classic Disney cartoons in length and layout.  There is very little dialogue, but Max is singing “Make Me Look Good” the whole time and it was a great way to present this cartoon.  If you pay close attention, you can hear how the song changes to match the way Max’s attitude changes towards his father.

“Belles on Ice” features Minnie, Daisy and the crocodiles and hippos from Disney’s Fantasia.  It seemed a little over-the-top and rather unbelievable, but I could definitely empathize with the attitude of the two divas featured here.  It is really difficult to step back and let someone else enjoy the spotlight!  “Donald’s Gift” provides a valuable lesson for all of us.  Donald Duck is one of my favorite characters and he is at his best/worst in this cartoon!  I look forward to Pluto with Santa's ReindeerChristmastime all year long and start watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music in November so by the time Christmas is actually here, I am totally over it!  Granted, it is my own fault for starting so early, but I just can’t help myself!  This cartoon makes fun of this trend by playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” everywhere Donald goes – on the radio, on the phone, at the mall, etc.  It is important to remember that, while Donald may not be feeling the Christmas spirit, that does not give him – or us – the right to spoil the holiday mood for those around us, particularly our loved ones.  “Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” has a similar message.  Pluto wrecked the decorations for Mickey’s party, but that doesn’t mean that Pluto ruined the holiday, despite what Mickey said to him.  Tensions often run high during the holidays and it is easy to overreact when something doesn’t go the way we planned, but it is important to remember how much we love our family and friends and forgive.  If Mickey had reacted differently, Pluto would not have run away and they would have been able to spend the holiday together rather than searching for each other.

There were some wonderful lessons to learn in Mickey’s Twice Upon a Disney Gang at ChristmastimeChristmas.  The best part about the lessons is that they are wrapped up in such entertaining trappings that children will not even know that they are learning!  This Christmas special is one that I look forward to seeing every year and I hope that it will become a holiday favorite in your house, too!

Content:

This movie is appropriate for viewers of all ages.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Disney, Halloween

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover Book Review

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Christmas Chronicles The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover

Author: Tim Slover
Publisher: Bantam (November 2010)
ISBN: 0553808109, EAN: 9780553808100
Page Count: 176 pages
Format: hardcover

Target Age Group: adults
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1

 

Synopsis:

In 1343, Klaus was orphaned and adopted by a guild of woodworkers and craftsmen.  Surrounded by tools and wood since a young age, Klaus became a master craftsman at the young age of 17, making a bitter enemy at the same time.  When the Black Death visited his small village shortly afterwards, Klaus was deeply grieved at the losses of others and sought a way to lift the spirits of those around him – particularly the children.  It began with 53 toys made for the children in his own village, which were blessed by the village priest and delivered on Christmas Eve.  And so the legend of Santa Claus begins…

Review:

Ever wondered who Santa Claus really is and how he came to be?  Well, look no further than this charming little Christmas tale that could easily become a classic in your home.  Not only does Tim Slover present a brief, but welcome, back story about Klaus’s mortal life, but he answers all of those questions that children ask around Christmastime.  Why does Santa Claus use reindeer to pull Santa Claus Delivering Gifts with Reindeerhis sleigh?  Because he grew up in the cold, snowy north and they were his wife’s favorite racing animal.  Why does Santa Claus deliver toys down the chimney?  Because Klaus’s mortal enemy, Rolf Eckhof, took half of the toys one year and burned them, which meant it wasn’t safe to leave the toys outside anymore. This also led to the popular belief that you better be good or you won’t get a Christmas toy as all of the parents of those toyless children used the experience as an opportunity to remember all of the things their children did wrong that year.  How does Santa deliver toys around the world in one night?  Through Chronolepsy or time stopping.  How does Santa understand all of the different languages?  By using the Lingua Franca Effect, which means Santa and his reindeer speak and understand whatever language is predominant in the region they are in.  The book also covers the concept of Tarrying (not aging and living a long life), why many believe Santa Claus is a Saint, how he makes toys, how he receives letters, how he travels, who the elves really are and so much more.  Think of a question about Santa Claus and it will probably be answered in this book!

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus begins and ends with a narrative by a person who claims to have seen Santa’s sleigh and to have had the privilege of reading The Green Book, which is a biography of Klaus.  I feel that these sections will be interesting to adults and older children, but they kind of Spirit of Christmasdrag it down a bit for little children.  I understand why Tim Slover, the author, used them here and I appreciate the challenge to spread the true spirit of Christmas in the season, but they were not my favorite parts of the book.  My favorite part was the story of Santa Claus itself.  This book is brief, succinct and there is not a lot of time and effort developing characters, describing locales or going into great depth on any particular point and I think that this was a great way to go.  I envision families around the US including this book as part of their holiday traditions.  This is a wonderful little tale to read aloud to children of all ages.  Santa’s story is only seven chapters long and, while some of the chapters are lengthy, I feel that this book could easily be shared with children over a week or two in December.  Hopefully it will spark a wonderful feeling for Christmas in readers of all ages and draw families closer together during the holiday season as they focus more on the spirit of giving than on receiving.

I have enjoyed reading this book for Christmas during these past two years.  It is He Sees You When You're Sleepinga quick, easy read that only takes an hour and, with a mug of hot chocolate close by and some Christmas carols playing, it always brings a smile to my face and gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling about the holidays.  Again, this is a simple story, told with simple words and, while there is a villain, there is not a lot of excitement or thrill in the book, but I have grown to love it.  If you are looking for a good family gift to purchase for Christmas or enjoying reading holiday books yourself, this is one for the keeper shelf!

Content:

This book has some scenes of mild peril.  Many people die from the Black Death, but there are no details provided and just a general feeling of grief and loss.  There is an attempted murder, but it fails.  There are some brief philosophical and religious questions addressed.  Appropriate for viewers of all ages, recommended for ages 6 and up or to be read aloud to anyone.

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