As an early Christmas gift, we got our toddler the Christmas Classics boxset which includes the stop-motion animated Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970). We watched these two films over the Christmas week, and here are my impressions.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
- I incorrectly assumed Santa Claus is Coming to Town came first and that Rudolph was the sequel. Turns out the opposite is true. I had thought Santa Claus would have dated in the 60s, but it squeaks into the next decade.
- The Fred Astaire intro at the beginning is easily the best part of the whole film. Although the dancing would have had far more appeal if it had been live-acted, he’s still got animated voice charm.
- The rest ends up being a strange origin story for Santa that ends up draining all of the good-hearted charity out of the character, leaving little but a desire to spread toys. Furthermore, he spends most of the film as a young man, a red-head no less, and doesn’t appear as the Santa my toddler knows and loves until the very end. Lame.
- There are two villains, one of whom is redeemed and grants Santa his magical powers. That’s the Winter Wizard, who appears to be the main inspiration for Adventure Time’s Ice King. The other is just a big old bad dictator who has to die to be vanquished.
- It was interesting that both films started with a news reel. Historical.
- My toddler was bored through most of it. So was I. I don’t think we’ll be watching it again.
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- So this is the true original, which explains its classic status. I had at least seen this one as a child, though I don’t remember seeing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
- Burl Ives doesn’t have the charm of Fred Astaire, but the song is a classic in its own right. And my toddler liked that he was a snowman.
- Rudolph is Donner’s son?! And Donner is a jerk to him!
- Santa’s a total jerk too! In fact, for a group of people whose job it is to give to people each year, the whole group is in serious need of an attitude adjustment. They’re all a bunch of bullies.
- The characters are generally more interesting in this film, including the elf who wants to be a dentist and the gold and silver prospector who’s really just searching for peppermint.
- The message is stronger in this one–be who you are and find your niche. Value people’s differences. I like that.
- I think Rudolph’s nose would be a lot easier for all people to accept if it didn’t make that super-annoying noise when it glowed.
- The Island of Misfit Toys is totally the highlight of this one, though they’re not nearly as screwed up as they could be. I would have loved a polka-dotted elephant when I was a kid.
- This also has a redeemed villain in the character of the Abominable Snowman. Actually, the secondary villains–Santa and Donner and Comet and the lot–also have a change of heart.
- My toddler was much more engaged with this one, and I could see us watching it again in subsequent years.