Directed by: Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Written by: William Keenan
Phyllis McGinley (novel)
Narrated by: Shirley Booth (as Mrs. Claus)
Release date: December 10, 1974
Running time: 51 minutes
Original network: ABC
Related specials: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

The Year Without a Santa Claus is Rankin/Bass's seventh Christmas television special. The story is loosely based on Phyllis McGinley's 1956 book of the same title, illustrated by Kurt Werth.


The Year Without a Santa Claus is a story told by Mrs. Claus, of the year that there almost wasn't a Christmas. Santa had fallen ill, and under the recommendation of his doctor, decided to issue a press release that Christmas was canceled so that he may take a holiday.

Humoring her husband for the time being, Mrs. Claus assigns two elves with a task. She orders Jingle and Jangle to leave the North Pole in the weeks leading up to Christmas, to find a town where they could rally up some Christmas cheer. Riding the reindeer Vixen, the dim-witted elves set off to the south, when they're immediately attacked by Heat Miser as his stepbrother Snow Miser looks on, but they fortunately, manage to escape. They soon arrive in a city called Southtown, but their troubles are far from over as they receive a court summons from a a local cop.

After they encounter an unnamed grouchy woman on the street and fail to produce the results they seek, Jingle and Jangle approach a group of nonchalant schoolchildren, including a boy named Ignatius Thistlewhite. Disheartened that no one seems to care that Christmas is cancelled, the elves fail to notice that their reindeer, whom they have disguised as a dog, has been captured by the dog catcher.

Back at the North Pole, Santa learns of his wife's plot to resurrect Christmas and sets off, accompanied by his flying reindeer Dasher, to assist the helpless elves in a dangerous world they know nothing of. He meets Ignatius, who tells him of the elves he met earlier in the day, just as the boy's mother invites the disguised jolly man into her home. As he drinks in some tea to help with his cold, the family discusses the existence of Santa Claus, never the wiser for having been in his company. Mr. Thistlewhite sings a song about when he was a boy and learned that Santa was in fact real.

Spirits lifted, Santa heads off to bail Vixen out of the dog pound, and not a moment too soon, as the little doe has fallen ill in the warm weather. Ignatius witnesses Santa leaving with Dasher and decides that there has got to be something he can do to help. So he tracks down Jingle and Jangle (who were unable to pay Vixen's bail at the pound) and brings them to the Mayor's office where they plead their case. The Mayor will only believe their story if the elves can use their magic to make it snow in Southtown.

While Santa returns to the North Pole with a sick Vixen, the elves place a call in to Mrs. Claus for help. Figuring that the mayor's request could help boost the spirits of the town and her husband as well, the woman arrives in a sleigh (pulled by the reindeer Blitzen) and takes Jingle, Jangle and Ignatius with her to see Snow Miser. After a rousing dance number with his minions, the wizard agrees to make it snow in Southtown only if his half-brother, who controls the weather in that part of the world, will allow it.

The group heads south again to visit the lair of Heat Miser and his minions to present the situation to the demonic giant. Appalled at the very idea of letting his brother allow snow to fall in his territory, Heat Miser agrees to the deal only if his half-brother will allow him to arrange a warm day at the North Pole in return. Unwilling to give in on either side after a video phone conference, Mrs. Claus goes over their heads and straight to the source - Mother Nature. The kindly woman, and mother to the elements, serves tea as she coerces her sons to cooperate for the greater good.

Meanwhile, as it begins to snow in Southtown, Santa finds out that some people still believe in him and in the spirit of Christmas after all, especially when the world's children decide they will make presents for him if he plans on taking a holiday. The children's decision sets off headlines around the world. One little girl, however, is sad to miss Santa on Christmas Eve, and she writes that she'll have a "Blue Christmas." Touched by all the evidence he has seen of caring and generosity, Santa decides to pack the sleigh and make his Christmas Eve journey after all, including a public stop in Southtown, where the mayor dedicates Santa Claus Lane just in time for Santa to parade down the streets of town.


Broadcast history

The show has been on over-the-air TV in the USA on both ABC and CBS. Currently, the rights for this special, as with much of the post-1973 Rankin Bass programs, are held by Time Warner's Warner Brothers Domestic TV Distribution, and airs on ABC Family, owned by The Walt Disney Company as part of the "25 Days of Christmas" programming block.


CBS's recent broadcasts of the special cut out part of "I Could Be Santa Claus" and "It's Gonna Snow Right Here in Dixie", as well as the scene with Jingle and Jangle meeting the unnamed Southtown Citizen.

When shown on ABC Family, the following edits were made:

  • The scene with Santa telling the elves to put away the toys they're making is shortened.
  • Mrs. Claus denying that she is "up to something" when Santa asks her about it is cut.
  • Heat Miser ordering his minions to attack Vixen, Jingle, and Jangle is shortened.
  • Jingle and Jangle's encounter with the unnamed citizen, Santa talking with the Southtown Cop, and Jingle, Jangle, and Vixen hiding up in the tree are cut entirely. As a result, the scene of Jingle and Jangle visiting the schoolyard now comes immediately after they disguise Vixen as a dog.
  • The shot of Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy leaving the Mayor's office is cut.
  • The shots of the dog catcher seeing Santa flying off into the sky are cut.
  • The first few seconds of Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy waiting for Mrs. Claus on the roof of the Thistlewhites' house are cut.
  • Mrs. Claus telling Snow Miser about Santa having caught a cold (immediately following Snow Miser's song) is cut.
  • Heat Miser complaining that he thinks Santa is being unfair to him is shortened.
  • Jingle and Jangle expressing dread about going to see Mother Nature is shortened.
  • The shot of Santa, Dasher, and Vixen arriving back at the North Pole is cut.
  • Santa's response to the news about the people of the world allowing him to take a vacation is shortened.
  • The commercial break right after "Here Comes Santa Claus" is moved to right before that sequence, and as a result, the shot of Santa and his reindeer taking off into the sky is cut.


Voice actor Character
Shirley Booth Mrs. Claus
Mickey Rooney Santa Claus
Dick Shawn Snow Miser
George S. Irving Heat Miser
Bob McFadden Jingle Bells
Rhoda Mann Mother Nature
Bradley Bolke Jangle Bells
Ron Marshall Mr. Thistlewhite
Colin Duffy Ignatius Thistlewhite
Christine Winter Blue Christmas girl
unknown Mrs. Thistlewhite
unknown Vixen
unknown North Pole Doctor
unknown Snow Miser's minions
unknown Heat Miser's minions
unknown The Mayor of Southtown
unknown Unnamed Southtown citizen
unknown Southtown cop
unknown Southtown dog catcher

External links

Rankin/Bass Holiday Specials
Christmas Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCricket on the HearthThe Little Drummer BoyFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to Town'Twas the Night Before ChristmasThe Year Without a Santa ClausThe First ChristmasFrosty's Winter WonderlandThe Little Drummer Boy, Book IIRudolph's Shiny New YearNestor, The Long-Eared Christmas DonkeyThe Stingiest Man in TownRudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack FrostPinocchio's ChristmasThe Leprechauns' Christmas GoldThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausSanta, Baby!
Other holidays The Mouse on the MayflowerHere Comes Peter CottontailMad, Mad, Mad MonstersThe First Easter RabbitThe Easter Bunny is Comin' To Town