Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Top 25 Christmas Movies List: #11 Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)

    This stop-motion animated TV special from Rankin-Bass is a Christmas classic. Narrated by Fred Astaire, as the mailman, it tells the story of how Kris Kringle came to be Santa Claus.

   A baby is left on the doorstep of Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees), the cranky ruler of the gloomy Sombertown. The Mayor orders the baby to be sent to the "Orphan Asylum" but on the way, a gust of wind blows the sled carrying the little bundle away to the mountains of Whispering Winds. The animals take the baby to the other side of the mountain to protect him from the Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn). There he is found by an elf family, led by Tante Kringle (Joan Gardner) and taken in as their own. Tante and the elves adopt the baby and name him "Kris".

   Years later, Kris (Mickey Rooney) has high hopes that the Kringle family will become "the first toymakers to the King", but since they cannot travel beyond the mountain for fear of the Winter Warlock that is not likely to happen. Kris decides he will venture out to deliver the toys.

   Meanwhile back in Sombertown, the Burgermeister has outlawed all toys in the town after tripping over a child's toy duck. He threatens that anyone found with a toy in possession will be arrested and thrown into the dungeon.

   Kris finally makes it to Sombertown and tries to give toys to the children but is stopped by the schoolteacher, Miss Jessica (Robie Lester). After being warned, he shares the toys with the children anyway and the Burgermeister tries to have them arrested. Kris takes the blame for the children playing with the toys and even gives the Burgermeister a toy yo-yo. The Burgermeister is actually happy for a moment, as he recalls being the yo-yo champion of his town as a child.

   As Kris and Topper, his new penguin friend, make their way back through the forest they are captured by the Winter Warlock's magic trees. Kris offers the Warlock a toy train which melts his cold heart. He turns to human form and changes his name to just "Winter". To thank Kris for his kind gift, he gives him a magic snow globe in return. When they look into the globe, they see Miss Jessica has been searching for Kris.
   Upon finding Jessica, she informs him that the Burgermeister resumed his evil ways and destroyed all the toys that Kris had left for the children and now they are wanting more. Kris gets busy begins filling their orders, but the Burgermeister makes it more difficult for him. He orders all doors to be locked. So Kris climbs down their chimneys and hides the toys in the stockings the children have left hanging by their fireplace.

   The Burgermeister finds out and has Kris, Topper, Winter, and all of the Kringle family arrested and placed in his dungeon. Jessica begs him to release them but he refuses. She asks Winter if there is anything he can do to help but the only magic he has left is some magical feed corn and it can only make reindeer fly. Jessica takes the corn and feeds it to Kris' reindeer. The magic works, and with the help of the reindeer, Kris, Winter, Topper and the rest of the Kringles escape.

   After hiding out for months, and seeing the town of Sombertown destroyed by the Burgermeister and his troops, Kris decides to return to the woods. He grows a beard to disguise his appearance and takes back his original name of Claus. He marries Jessica and they move to the North Pole where they build their castle and workshop.

   The Burgermeister eventually dies and the people take back their town. The children hear of the legend of Kris Kringle and request tons of toys but it is too many for Santa to keep up with so he declares that he will visit once a year to grant their toy wishes. He will appear every December 24th, on Christmas Eve "The Night of Profound Love".

   The film ends with the mailman heading off to deliver a load of letters to Santa, followed by Topper, Winter and a parade of children singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

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