Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)

santa claus is comin to town poster 1970 christmas special
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic story of the whys & hows behind Santa Claus

A bit long, some slow points

TV Show Info

TV Show Name:  Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town

Studio: Rankin-Bass

Genre(s):  Cartoon/Seasonal

Release Date(s):  December 14, 1970

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

santa claus is comin to town kris kringle kid

Ok, when do we learn programming to make video games?

Who is Santa Claus?  An orphaned child finds his way to Sombertown where through happenstance ends up in the car of the elf family known as the Kringles in the Rainbow River Valley.  Named Kris Kringle, Kris’s family finds that Kris is meant for bigger things.  Be it befriending the Winter Warlock, teaching reindeer to fly, or simply bringing joy to children of Sombertown, Kris is on a collision path with the Burgermeister Meisterburger, and a legend will be born!

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town is a stop-motion animated Christmas special.  The hour-long show originally premiered on December 14, 1970 on ABC and was produced and directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass.  The Rankin/Bass production quickly became a holiday classic.

santa claus is comin to town winter warlock keenan wynn

He’s not a bad guy, he’s just misunderstood

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town was a must around Christmastime…but in my mind it always ranked third.  If I had my druthers I would have rather watched Rudolph or Charlie Brown again, but it still was a sign that Christmas was coming, and I still can remember this excitement when I see it now.

The special crafts a story out of the Santa Claus mythos and tries to explain all the weird aspects of Santa Claus that you always questioned as a kid (smartly having children pose the questions in the series).  The hour runtime feels a bit long and I can remember always kind of fading out during portions of this special…but it does feel more scripted than some of Rankin/Bass’s other attempts.

With voice acting by Fred Astaire as the narrator, there is a nice comforting softness to the special. Astaire’s voice helps carry the movie and his memorable rendition of the title song also was a big hit. I actually remember being a bit afraid of the song “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” when I was young…”He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake?  He knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake”?!?!  That’s not reassuring, that is kind of scary as hell.

santa claus is comin to town burgermeister meisterburger

Oh no! It’s the Burgermeister Meisterburger!!!

In addition to Astaire, Mickey Rooney gives a peppy turn as Kris Kringle and his character is very cheery throughout the film. Robie Lester gives a nice performance as Jess (aka Mrs. Claus) and Keenan Wynn’s lends his recognizable voice to the Winter Warlock. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town also features the great named Burgermeister Meisterburger voice by Paul Frees.

While it is no Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town is an enjoyable Christmas special that can stand tall and be enjoyed by young and old. It has slow points and sometimes drags, but it keeps kids engaged by answering those common questions (and doubts) they have about Santa Claus. It was followed by The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) with the great Mr. Heat Miser and Snow Miser!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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