Tag Archives: rankin-bass

Christmas Can Be Cool – Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town

21 Dec

Santa Claus is Coming To Town

I wrote earlier that Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town is the best of the Rankin-Bass animated Christmas specials, and I stand by that assessment, even if it doesn’t have the cultural goodwill Rudolph has. What it does have is a more clever, entertaining story (narrated by a Fred Astaire-voiced mailman, no less!), and it doesn’t take itself half as seriously. Using letters from children asking for explanations to legends (“Why do they call you Kris Kringle?”) as a jumping off point, the special essentially mythologizes Santa Claus, giving him a backstory to rival the greatest of the Greek gods. The real fun of Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, however, stems from its playful tone. The villain, who some awesome writer dubbed Burgermeister Meisterburger, is magnificently ridiculous in his quest to outlaw all toys, and the most entertaining segments of the special lie in watching him and Kris try to outsmart each other. The Winter Warlock (obviously a significant influence on Adventure Time‘s Ice King) has an amusing arc, starting as the threshold guardian before becoming friendly supernatural aid. And, as always, there’s that special stop-motion animation, with its certain homespun charm.


Christmas Can Be Cool – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

4 Dec


Okay, so the first Rankin-Bass Christmas special is not the best one – that honor goes to Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – but it’s coming on TV tonight and it’s on my mind. A brief history of Rudolph: first came the story in 1939, then the song in 1949, and finally the special in 1964. By my estimation, the special is currently the most prevalent of the three (there’s a story?!), and I suspect it will remain that way. Why? For starters, the stop-motion animation is a joy to watch. It fascinated me as a kid and it fascinates me now. What is it about this flawed, herky-jerky process that remains so appealing? It helps evoke a special, somewhat indefinable, almost otherworldly quality only the best animated features possess. Second, the abominable snowman is terrifying and will always be terrifying. He’s so terrifying that even when he becomes civilized, he’s still terrifying. Third, it has Burl Ives as a talking narrator snowman. Burl Ives as a talking. Narrator. Snowman. I rest my case.