Saturday, December 21, 2013

Let's Review a Movie: Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)



Well the holidays are upon us and with them come endless Christmas songs, holiday specials, and nostalgia for the days of yore.  So let’s look a movie that combines all of that.

Many of the Rankin/Bass Christmas productions are staples for me around the holidays.  The animation and character designs aren’t to everyone tastes, but I really like them.  I think the doll like quality really works for these Christmas specials, because they are appealing and work with the soft friendly atmosphere that is normally associated with holiday specials.  Now as an adult I can see how the animation is a bit hit and miss.  Some movements are awkward here and there like trying to get SD to dance like Fred Astaire, who provided his voice in this picture.  It doesn’t totally work, but other things like the flying reindeer are quite smooth and the sets of Sombertown are very nicely detailed.  The opening credits with the letters are fun and the lighting of Kris and Jessica’s wedding is quite lovely.

The acting here is really great.  Everyone has a nice distinct voice they can all emote and sing on key.   Mickey Rooney brings a nice friendly likable quality to the role of Santa and I checked out his imbd page and saw that he is still working at 93.  Knock that off Mr. Rooney you’re making all the young people look bad.   

The music in this movie is also good.  The ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ rendition is nicely done by Fred Astaire and the children’s choir.  ‘Put One Foot in Front of the Other’ is catchy even though I think it comes out of nowhere and the Warlock’s turn to good is too quick, but at least it a nice life lesson for the kids.  Jessica’s song my world is beginning today is good and also a totally Disney acid sequence.  Someone got into the good stuff when they made that scene.  The only song I don’t like is ‘If You Sit on My Lap Today’ yes it ties back into the Santa mythos the story is building I just don’t care for it.

Speaking of the Santa mythos I like that they make this story an origin movie and explain all the different parts of the Santa myth in a way that’s fun and kind of clever.  No it doesn’t have historical accuracy, but It’s unique and memorable, although it does bring up the problem that if Santa can age, as he does here, then can he also die?   I guess if he can we just bring in the mythos of successive Santas brought up by other works.      

As adult watching this film I know that I ask for too many logical questions like that and about other things like how the heck the Winter Warlock loses his powers only when its convenient for the plot.  How the mayor of one town can say they’ll be no toys from sea to sea and outlaw a guy so bad he has to move to the North Pole.  Or why the kids in Sombertown keep taking their toys outside to play with them.  Keep them inside and then Burgermeister Meisterburger wouldn’t see them and thus stop burning them.

Well despite that the plot isn’t logically sound, it’s a story of a mythical character with a backstory made entirely out of nothing I should be glad that it makes as much sense as it does.  And that there are a few songs that don’t quite work and the animation is quite limited, but I still enjoy the film.  It’s a fun show to watch over the holidays for kids and adults with catchy songs, good character designs, nice acting all wrapped in a simple but still engaging story.

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