It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Rankin and Bass.
Cast and Crew
Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus
Fred Astaire as the narrator/mailman.
Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock
Paul Frees as the Burgermeister Meisterburger and others.
Written by Romeo Muller
Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass
Santa Claus is Coming To Town originally aired in 1970.
In what may be the greatest retcon in human history, a single broadcast hour (ie. about 44 minutes, including credits) is used to tell the story of Santa Claus, explaining the red suit, the toys, the elves, the chimney access to homes, the stockings, why he only delivers at Christmas, how he knows if you’ve been bad or good, why he is known as Santa Claus and Chris Kringle, how his reindeer can fly, how he met the reindeer, how he learned such a jolly laugh, how he and Mrs. Claus met and fell in love, and probably more that I don’t remember at the moment.
Burgermeister Meisterburger with his cast and pillow is the best single moment of the show. The fact that they actually tied all of that legend together into a coherent package so well is probably the best part of it.
“If you sit on my lap today, a kiss a toy is the price you’ll pay.” Man, that song just sounds creepy.
The originality is pretty good. Yes, there was a lot of established lore to work with, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t come up with an original plot to tie it all together. I give it 5 out of 6.
The animation wasn’t bad. It’s a bit jerky, and in the DVD quality releases I can see wires I never saw in the broadcast. The cartoon snow stood out against the reality of the rest, too. I give it 4 out of 6.
The story is an amazing acheivement. I give it 6 out of 6.
The voice acting actually has some good emotion from Rooney and Wynn. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response produced is great. It’s very uplifting, with numerous amusing moments, and rewards for the viewers who watch for elements of the legend (as I’ve been doing the past few years.) It’s not as sappy as many specials, and it’s got the nostalgia bonus. I give it 6 out of 6.
The production has a great look and style, with a relatively mobile camera for this type of animation. I give it 5 out of 6.
Overall, this is great fun, delivering classic Rankin/Bass holiday fun. I give it 6 out of 6.
In total, Santa Claus is Coming to Town receives 37 out of 42.