Asst. Arts and Entertainment Editor
Back in 1970, Rankin-Bass Studios brought the charming stop-motion classic, “Santa Claus is Coming’ to Town,” to life. It became a triumphant return to the Rankin-Bass Studios original roots since “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” The film is about the supposed roots of the character "Santa Claus," a bizarre, fictional narrative involving a town where the mayor, "Burgermeister Meisterburger" refuses to allow children to have toys. Naturally, it's up to a younger and thinner Kris Kringle to save the day.
The film features great voice talents with Paul Frees playing a totally over-the-top Burgermeister Meisterburger and Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle. The narrator, Fred Astaire, also lends his beautiful voice and helps give the film an air of quality and class. The animation, while noticeably dated, is delightful and sophisticated which mirrors the special's innocence. The music is loaded with memorable songs, from “First Toymakers to the King” sung by Tanta Kringle to "My world is just Beginning" from the character Jessica. I couldn’t help but happily sing along to at least three of them out of nostalgia.
The characters are well-designed and diverse, who learn to grow and evolve overtime. Jessica, Kris Kringle’s love interest, is first introduced as a condescending, closed-minded woman until she is given her very first china doll, a doll that she always wanted as a child. From then on, she became one of Kris’s strongest allies. The Winter Warlock, who viewed Kris Kringle with hostility, is given his first toy, his frosty heart melting in the process. He finds it difficult to turn over a new leaf, especially when he’s known for scaring away anyone who dares to step foot on his mountain. It is Kris Kringle who helps him take that first step to starting over.
“Changing from bad to good is as easy as taking your first step!” says Kris Kringle as he teaches the Winter Warlock on how to start fresh.
Burgermeister Meisterburger is as hilarious as he is petty. He’s an entertaining villain you love to dislike or plain dislike, with a name so absurd that it belongs to a fast-food chain. He’s a complete power-crazy tyrant who strives to make life miserable for everyone for no reason.
In sharp contrast, Kris Kringle/Santa is energetic, charitable, cheerful, charismatic and sociable as he makes friends with fantasy characters; some humans and some animals. I love how his motive isn't to deliver toys just for the sake of it. His goal is to bring joy and hope to people that very much need it or are in short supply of it. His spirit can never be broken. Despite how hard things get for him as the film goes further, he never loses hope or gives up. He represents the good of mankind, what more it can be and what people can do for others.
This film has a good message about the importance of how giving to others, either big or small, can make the world a lot friendlier and kinder. This is a message that is sorely needed, even today during unspeakably dark times. And just like Santa himself, this film is timeless.