Ah, back to stop-motion animation. After dealing with Frosty’s nonsense I’m unsure as to whether or not I missed it.
Like most iconic fictional characters, Santa’s been the subject of many origin stories. My personal favorite is The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn, which combines his saintly origins with interesting tidbits about his modern portrayal and a ton of fun historical fiction (he’s helped shape events like Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, and instead of elves he has a boatload of historical figures gain immortality to help him including Leonardo Da Vinci, Theodore Roosevelt and Attila The freaking Hun! It had me at hello!) Of course, Rankin-Bass had to do their own spin on the Santa mythos (not for the last time either as one of their final specials was based on L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus) and they did it by combining it with their tried-and-true method of basing it off a holiday standard.
We open with a live-action newsreel narrated by Paul Frees detailing the world’s excitement over Santa’s imminent arrival. If you want to play a drinking game while watching this special, take a shot for every character Frees plays. He’s a Rankin-Bass regular, but he contributes quite a lot to this particular outing. Children drop off their letters to Santa and the special transitions from live-action to animation. I want to say it’s better here than Rudolph’s was, but this is still Rankin-Bass we’re talking about. These guys put the “stop” in stop-motion.
We meet the mailman in charge of delivering all those letters, and here’s something I completely ignored while watching this growing up – he has a name! Meet S.D. “Special Delivery” Kluger, voiced by talented tap-dancer and Gene Kelly’s rival, Fred Astaire.
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