Santa Claus is a traditional, secular figure of Christmas good cheer, generally depicted as a jolly fat, old man in a red suit. Other nations have their own variations, such as Father Christmas in England and Sinterklaas in the Netherlands. As a character prominently associated with Christmas, Santa has been featured in more Rankin/Bass holiday productions than any other character, appearing in nine of the company's Christmas specials and even making guest appearances in two Easter specials.
Appearances in Rankin/Bass specialsEdit
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the first Rankin/Bass Christmas special, naturally also marked the company's first production to feature Santa. His design in this special is noticeably different from his later appearances, most notably having black bead eyes. The Santa in this special is also noticeably fussier and crankier than his later depictions, as he is shown to dislike the elves' performance of "We Are Santa's Elves" and even scolds Donner when Rudolph is tormented at the reindeer games. However, he is also honorable, as he upholds his promise about finding homes for the Misfit Toys after Rudolph informs him about them.
Rankin/Bass next featured Santa in Frosty the Snowman. During his journey to the North Pole, Frosty realizes he's going to need someone to not only help him get there, but also bring his friend Karen back to her home. Hocus Pocus suggests that they wait for Santa to show up so he can help. However, before Santa arrives, Frosty brings Karen into a greenhouse in which Professor Hinkle traps them. After Hocus explains the situation to Santa, who is fluent in all animal languages, they make it to the greenhouse, seemingly too late to save Frosty from melting. However, Santa explains to Karen that Frosty isn't completely dead, because he was made from magical Christmas Eve snow, and he is able to resurrect Frosty simply by letting a cold December breeze blow in. When Hinkle tries to steal Frosty's magic hat again, Santa stops him, saying that if he keeps this up, he'll never bring him another present again, and gives him a chance to repent by writing an apology letter. Afterward, Santa brings the revived Frosty the North Pole with him, dropping Karen off at her house on the way.
Rankin/Bass' next Christmas special, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, was the first one to give Santa the starring role, also providing his backstory. He is born as a baby named simply "Claus", adopted by a family of elves named the Kringles and given the name Kris Kringle. The Kringles teach him about their art as renowned toymakers. When he grows up, the young adult Kris Kringle volunteers to deliver the toys to the nearby town of Sombertown. In doing so, Kris brings joy to the children of the town, additionally winning the heart of Sombertown's schoolteacher, Miss Jessica, and befriending a wizard named the Winter Warlock. However, Kris also makes a powerful enemy in Sombertown's leader, Burgermeister Meisterburger, who declares him an outlaw and sends him, along with the Kringles, Jessica, and Winter on the run. Kris, having now grown a beard, returns to his birth name, Claus, to be on the safe side, and eventually marries Jessica on Christmas Eve. Afterward, he and his group travel to the North Pole, where they build his new workshop and castle. Eventually, Kris, now known as Santa Claus, becomes loved by more and more people, but since he cannot keep up with all the toy requests, he decides to limit his journeys to once every Christmas Eve.
Santa makes a few brief appearances in Rankin/Bass' first Easter special, Here Comes Peter Cottontail. Peter briefly encounters him when he and Antoine find themselves landing the Yestermorrowbile in December. When the evil Irontail steals Peter's Easter eggs and flies off, he accidentally crashes into Santa's sleigh, and Santa is able to return the eggs to Peter. Santa appears again at the end of the special, when Peter, now having become the new Chief Easter Bunny, delivers an egg to him.
Santa reappeared in The Year Without a Santa Claus, the 1974 adaptation of Phyllis McGinley's poem of the same name. Santa becomes ill one day and, under the recommendation of his doctor, issues a press release that he is taking Christmas off this year. But after Mrs. Claus sends the two elves Jingle Bells and Jangle Bells, along with the reindeer Vixen, to find Christmas spirit somewhere in the world, Santa goes looking for them, tracking them to the city of Southtown. After discussing his existence with the Thistlewhite family, Santa retrieves Vixen (who was at the pound because she was mistaken for a dog) and brings her back to the North Pole with him. Later, Santa is informed by his wife and the elves that people still believe in him and in the spirit of Christmas after all, especially when the world's children all send presents to him. Touched by all the evidence he has seen of caring and generosity, Santa decides to make his Christmas Eve journey after all.
At the beginning of Rudolph's Shiny New Year, which is stated to take place immediately after the events of the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special, Santa receives a message from Father Time, stating that Happy the Baby New Year has gone missing. Since it is still very foggy outside, Santa sends Rudolph to Father Time's castle to prepare for the mission. At the end of the special, after Rudolph and his companions rescue Happy from Aeon the Terrible, Santa shows up and helps the group make it back to Father Time's castle just in time for the new year.
Mickey Rooney returned to voice Santa again in the movie Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. When the evil wizard Winterbolt tricks Rudolph and Frosty into agreeing to appear at the Circus by the Sea in Florida, Santa agrees that he and Mrs. Claus will fly in to pick them right before the Fourth of July fireworks are finished. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to them, Winterbolt conjures up a hurricane, trapping the Clauses and forcing them to continue their journey on the ground. When Winterbolt is defeated at the end of the movie, the storm that had grounded Santa and his wife fades away, allowing the couple to arrive at the circus.
|Stan Francis||Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer|
|Paul Frees|| Frosty the Snowman|
Here Comes Peter Cottontail
Rudolph's Shiny New Year
The First Easter Rabbit
|Mickey Rooney|| Santa Claus is Comin' to Town|
The Year Without a Santa Claus
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
|J.D. Roth||Young Claus in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus|
|Earl Hammond||Old Claus in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus|
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