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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #14: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!


"Santa Claus is Coming to Town!" is one of Rankin & Bass' Christmas stop motion specials (and is less well known than their Rudolph special, which will be covered in this series in due time). It first aired in 1970 and is essentially the origin of Santa Claus, but even better, it's the origin of Santa Claus as though a modern comic book writer wrote it for the most pedantic of comic book geeks, in which even the most minor of details are given a specific background story to explain it. This thing is like the "Superman: Birthright" or "Green Lantern: Secret Origin" of Christmas specials.

Being something of a pedantic comic book geek, I rather like it. Amongst the things we learn about Santa are:

The Origin of the name 'Kris Kringle': Orphaned baby Claus is taken in by the Kringle family of toy making elves and given the name Kris.

The Origin of the Red Suit: It is the traditional garb of the Kringles.

The Origin of "Ho, Ho, Ho": Apparently, this is how seals laugh, and they taught it to a young Kris.

The Origin of Santa Claus' Omniscience: Kris is taught magic by the Winter Warlock, which allows him to transform a ball of snow into a Crystal Snowball through which he can monitor the behavior of children.

The Origin of Going Down the Chimney and Leaving Presents in Stockings: The evil Burgermeister Meisterburger, ruler of Sombertown, outlaws toys and orders all the towns' doors locked so that Kris can't make his deliveries and declares that each house will be searched for toys, forcing Kris to deliver them via the chimney and hide them in the drying stockings on the mantle.

The Origin of the Flying Reindeer: The Winter Warlock gives Mrs. Claus the last of his magic seed corn, which when eaten by reindeer, enables them to fly.

The Origin of the Beard: Once outlawed by Meisterburger, Kris grows the beard as a disguise and begins using his birth name, as the name Kringle is now dangerous.

The Origin of Christmas Eve: Once Meisterburger falls out of power and his anti-toy laws are revoked, the legend of Santa Claus continues to grow worldwide until Santa can no longer keep up with the toy requests, and cuts his toy delivering visits down to once a year. He selects Christmas Eve, which is his wedding anniversary (and is kind of a jerky thing to do to Mrs. Claus...).

7 comments:

  1. Hah! Last line FTW!

    I've never seen this before. I think i've seen little clips of it on other shows or something and i always wondered what it was and now i know!

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  2. i've never seen this, but it sounds fantastic

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  3. @Falen, Anne: Yeah, for whatever reason, this is less well known than the Rudolph one.

    It airs, heavily edited, every year on ABC and ABC Family, but I think that's a relatively recent occurrence, whereas Rudolph has been airing every year for decades.

    It's not quite as batshit insane as Rudolph, but still pretty crazy fun.

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  4. I've never seen this! Why oh why?!

    And it is a seriously jerky thing to do to Mrs. Claus but in my experience, men have shitty memories...for things they don't really care about. Zing!

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  5. @Hannah: I've never seen this! Why oh why?!

    I've always gotten the impression that a lot of people haven't.

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  6. Teebore: It first aired in 1970 and is essentially the origin of Santa Claus, but even better, it's the origin of Santa Claus as though a modern comic book writer wrote it for the most pedantic of comic book geeks, in which even the most minor of details are given a specific background story to explain it.

    LOL... Exactly! The Salkinds, producers of 1978's Superman: The Movie, actually tried to do the same sort of thing with the 1985 live-action Santa Claus: The Movie, but it wasn't as successful (as either Superman or Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town); I don't remember much about it beyond Dudley Moore and disappointment, although the geek in me wants to watch it again one year along with the Rankin-Bass special, any other origin stories lying around, and one of those History Channel specials on Santa's mythological and multicultural development.

    I love the Rankin-Bass specials, from this to Year without a Santa Claus to the cel-animated Frosty to all the Rudlophs, including the lesser known (but scary) Rudolph's Shiny New Year and one I didn't see until after college, Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. Rankin-Bass is actually on my list of 40 Favorites, to be resumed in 2011. And heresy though it is, much as I love Rudolph, I might like this one most of all, for all the reasons you cite plus the classic Heat Miser and Cold Miser sequences, as well as the fact that it's so darn fun to say "Burgermeister Meisterburger".

    How in the name of Donner and Blitzen have you gals not seen this?

    VW: falsider — A bogus hot apple drink.

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  7. @Blam: I don't remember much about it beyond Dudley Moore and disappointment

    Ha! Ditto. And I share your desire to check it out once more with a fully developed geek's eye.

    And heresy though it is, much as I love Rudolph, I might like this one most of all, for all the reasons you cite plus the classic Heat Miser and Cold Miser sequences, as well as the fact that it's so darn fun to say "Burgermeister Meisterburger".

    Yeah, I like this one more than Rudolph. I mean, I like Rudolph too, but I like this one more. At least most of the characters in it aren't asshats like in Rudolph

    The Heat Miser/Cold Miser stuff is actually in the Year Without Santa sequel, I believe, though "burgermeister Meisterburger" is indeed tremendous fun to say.

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