|Directed by:|| Jules Bass|
Arthur Rankin Jr.
|Written by:|| Julian P. Gardner|
L. Frank Baum (book)
|Release date:||December 17, 1985|
|Running time:||50 minutes|
The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus is a 1985 Christmas television special produced in stop motion animation by Rankin/Bass. It is based on the 1902 children's book of the same name by L. Frank Baum. It was notably Rankin/Bass's last stop-motion production, and their last Christmas special before they shut down their production arm.
A council meeting is held where the Ak tell the story of Santa Claus. It happend many years ago when the Great Ak (Alfred Drake) finds a orphaned baby in the snowy woods. He relied on a lioness named Shiegra to raise it. But a fairy named Necile, hearing of the discovery of the infant, steals the baby and hides it from Ak. The ruler agrees and Necile gets to raise the child with the help of Shiegra. She names the boy Clause.
When Clause became a man, he learned that he must live with other mortals. So Clause set up a workshop and lived in a small village with Tingler an elf and Shiegra. Clause makes toys (the first a black cat, after a kitten he found), and the children love him. One day as he was delivering toys he is attacked by some villains. Clause ends up getting the toys back. When Ak sees Clause is valuable and must live long, the council decides to give him immortality. Thus the name Santa Claus is given to Clause, who now delivers gifts on Christmas Eve to good children.
The special truncates much of the story (it ran in a one-hour time slot) and simplifies some of the motivations, but its major alterations from the book are setting up the hearing over the Mantle of Immortality as a frame story explaining just why Claus (J. D. Roth/Earl Hammond) deserves the mantle, although there is an edit that makes it difficult to realize that the scene in which Ak (Alfred Drake) calls the council when first finding the infant in the woods does not occur in the same time period as the main story.
In addition, Shiegra accompanies Claus to the Laughing Valley, in which, unlike the book, it is always Winter. A similar compromise toward popular culture is Claus's now eight reindeer, albeit unnamed. Peter Knook, a rather crusty but amiable fellow, replaces most of the other Knooks, save the Protector (King) and two strangers, and declares "only on Christmas Eve" for the reindeer without any argument or explanation. One important new character, Tingler, a Sound Imp (Robert McFadden) also accompanies Claus and gives him someone to talk to.
When the show premiered, the book was not as easily available, and many Oz fans who only knew of the book were surprised to discover that Tingler was not one of Baum's creations, so true was the character to the author's spirit. Earle Hyman portrayed the King of the Awgwas, and Leslie Miller played Necile. Most of the other voices were performed by Peter Newman and Lynne Lipton. Larry Kenney was the Commander of the Wind Demons, who initially served as a devil's advocate to Ak at the fateful hearing, but soon became the Immortal most approving of giving the Mantle to Claus. Most of the Immortals' titles were changed to alleviate them all being kings and queens.
Screenwriter Julian P. Gardner created a musical production number, "Big Surprise" as the children at Weekum's orphanage plead Santa Claus for more toy cats. Other songs include the chorus "Babe in the Woods" and the powerful chant, "Ora e Sempre (Today and Forever)" representing the immortals. Bernard Hoffer composed the music, as well as setting a quatrain by Baum inspired by Claus's famous laugh. The presentation of the Christmas tree is different; Claus, realizing his death is imminent, decorates a tree with ornaments and suggests it should be his memorial.
|Earl Hammond||Santa Claus|
|Earle Hyman||King Awgwa|
|Larry Kenney||The Commander of the Wind Demons|
|Lynne Lipton||Queen Zurline/Wife|
|Peter Newman|| Peter Knook|
Lord of Lerd
The Gnome King
|J.D. Roth||Young Claus|
|Alfred Drake||The Great Ak|
|Jamie Lisa Murphy||Child|
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus at the Internet Movie Database
|Rankin/Bass Holiday Specials|