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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970)

Santa Claus is Coming To Town
Starring: Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, Joan Gardner (II)
Directed By: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Studio: Classic Media
DVD Release Date: September 6, 2005
Run Time: 55 minutes

Starting off with a newsreel on the children of the world preparing for a visit from Santa Claus, we meet a mailman named Special Delivery Kluger. After some introductory comments from the mailman, who delivers to the North Pole in a snowcat type vehicle, we see the credits spelled out on mail envelopes, with a stamp representing the actor listed. Inside the envelopes are question from children around the world about Santa. "Where did Santa's suit come from?", and more, so that the show can proceed to show where Santa got his start and why things are the way they are. In a sad vilage named Sombertown, ruthlessly run by the Burgermeister Meisterberger, toys are outlawed. On the other side of the mountain, elves are raising a human orphan boy, learned in the ways of toymaking. But a scary Winter Warlock has prevented them from delivering toys across the mountain. Whenthe boy grows up he is givent he name Kris Kringle, and he determines to deliver the toys. Arriving there he meets Ms. Jessica and falls in love, but Kris is arrested for the toys. After his escape he runs into the Winter Warlock, and must find a way to deal with him if he is going to deliver toys. Without giving any plot away, Kris has to find creative ways to smeak the toys to the children and avoid being captured again by the soldiers. Along the way we see how traditions like hanging stockings, using the chimney, delivering at night, making reindeer fly, and a nice/naughty list got their start.

Rankin/Bass studios was the most prolific creators of holiday specials we have ever known. After the huge success of their 1964 stop motion musical Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, they created no less than 14 more Christmas specials, from a total of 35 specials of which many covered other holidays. In 1970 audiences were eager to see what the clever studio would come up with next, their last picture had been Frosty the Snowman the year before in traditional cel animation. As much as viewers enjoyed Frosty, they really liked the stop motion "Animagic" that was the specialty of the studio. The only TV specials they made this process so far were Rudolph, and The Little Drummer Boy. The new show aired on ABC on December 14, 1970 and it was in Animagic! It was a one hour special, and it recieved huge ratings. It still airs every year.

This special had the best voice casting of any they made, with Mickey Rooney as the older Santa, Paul Frees as Burgermeister, and Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock. The Mailmans voice and songs were by the great Fred Astaire, and they recreated him perfectly in a mailman figure. There are 6 wonderful songs including the title song, as well as "One Foot in Front of the Other". The Westminster Childrens Choir performs as well. Music and lyrics were by Maury Laws and Jules Bass. Writing by the great Romeo Muller who worked on so many of their projects. Character design by Paul Coker, and storyboards and continuity by Don Duga as they did on most of the studios specials.

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