There are a handful of Christmas themed specials I genuinely love. Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas is an example. It’s heartfelt, well-made, and it features every Muppet-loving kid’s expression of rebellion, The Riverbottom Nightmare Band.
Ruldoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer also has its charms, mainly because of the Island of Misfit Toys and its stalwart sentry, Charlie-in-the-Box.
But there’s one that absolutely stands out above the rest, a Christmas movie with all the presents, pathos, and warfare one hopes to find under the tree at Christmastime. It’s called “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” and its brought to us by Rankin-Bass, the very same people who gave us Misfit Toys and the animated Hobbit and Return of the King films.
And yes, I did say warfare.
I won’t give you a full synopsis, but the special tracks Santa’s early days as a boy raised by pixies and other fantasy creatures of the forest. He grows up to be a fine toymaker, but his talents cannot be shared with the children in a nearby village because Ogres rule the mountains in between and hate when the children are happy. Many of Santa’s trademarks, like his red robes, Santamobile, Santabelt, and Santa-shark repellent are all explained as tricks he improvised to get past the Ogres. Somewhere along the way, Santa becomes a favorite of the Great Huntsman(!), who sues for Santa’s acceptance amongst the Immortals. Eventually, the whole things descends into an all-out war between the Immortals and the Ogres.
Who says a fight scene don’t belong at Christmas?
This whole thing is magical, odd-ball, and charming as its realized using stop-motion puppets. This thing was made in 1985, but I didn’t become aware of it until ten years later when I chanced upon it on cable. I was just amazed by its ambition. A further shock, it’s based on a L. Frank Baum book. Yes, the same Baum who gave us Oz and founded the concept of modern whimsy. The dude brought Santa and the Great Huntsman together. Now that’s worth getting the man a beer or at least a cup of warm (non-alcoholic) cider.
Thanks to the internet, you can watch it right now on this very page. It is, indeed, a Christmas Miracle.