Another day, another unbelievably awesome Christmas special! Today's installment is a classic allegorical tale about the evils of Communism and the toy-loving goodness of Democracy.
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (Rankin-Bass, 1970)
The Main Players:
- The Narrator, a mailman who is almost certainly breaking multiple Federal laws by opening children's mail and reading it aloud to us. (Voiced by Fred Astaire.)
- Kris, a redheaded toymaker and freedom-lover with possible pedophilic tendencies and the ability to dance on air. (Voiced by Mickey Rooney.)
- Winter Warlock, an evil wizard living in the Mountain of the Whispering Winds, who may or may not represent the non-USSR Eastern Bloc countries.
- Burgermeister Meisterburger, the toy- and Democracy-hating mayor/dictator of Sombertown/the USSR.
- Jessica, a Sombertown schoolteacher with a surprising penchant for letting her hair down and singing psychedelic songs.
- Topper, Kris's adorable, scarf-wearing penguin sidekick, who is looking for the South Pole and is in for a big letdown.
Fred Astaire, the letter-opening mailman, has taken it upon himself to explain the origins of Santa Claus, with impressive thoroughness. It all began in "one of the northern countries," where Burgermeister Meisterburger finds a baby on his stoop bearing the nametag "Claus." He sends Claus to the orphanage, but the baby-bearing sleigh is blown into the Mountain of the Whispering Winds, where the animals hide him from the Winter Warlock and take him to the Rainbow River Valley. (FYI, I'm pretty sure that the same person responsible for naming everything in the Candyland game named all these characters and locations.)
The Rainbow River Valley is home to the jolly Kringle family of elves. The Kringles teach the boy, now named Kris, their profession of making toys. Unfortunately, the Rainbow River Valley lacks children, so the toys just get thrown outside onto a big pile. Once Kris is all grown up (and taught by the seals how to laugh, "Ho ho ho," riiight...), he decides to deliver the toys across the Mountain/Iron Curtain to Sombertown, coming across Topper on the way.
Meanwhile, in gray, bleak Sombertown, Burgermeister Meisterburger has outlawed toys after tripping on one. At first, the townsfolk run away from Kris, his outlandish Western clothes, and his illegal goods. But the oppressed children aren't ones to turn away free toys, and after basically speaking the lyrics to "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," Kris gives toys to all the good little girls and boys. Jessica objects, being as he's trafficking in illegal goods, but Kris gives her a doll to distract her from the weirdly pedophilic song he's about to sing. His joy at sitting children on his lap and kissing them only lasts so long, though, because he's soon on the run from Burgermeister Meisterburger.
In the mountains, Kris is captured by the Winter Warlock, who is tempted by Kris's fun Western ways when Kris gives him a toy, but thinks it'll be too difficult to change from bad to good. Don't worry, Communists! It's all a matter of baby steps! At least, according to the extremely catchy song Kris sings. Newly converted to Democracy, the Winter Warlock agrees to assist Kris, using his magic. Jessica, after finding Kris in the mountains, brings him a bunch of letters from greedy children asking for more toys. Commence toy-making, list-making, and sneaking into houses at night to deliver said toys.
Burgermeister Meisterburger is outraged at the reappearance of radicalism in the form of children playing, and decrees that doors and windows must be locked, forcing Kris to break into houses using the chimney. After a new decree that houses will be searched for toys, Kris hides them in stockings drying by the fire. Finally, Burgermeister Meisterburger manages to arrest Kris, Topper, the other Kringles, and the Winter Warlock, who has no powers to help now that he's "disenchanted." (Disenchanted with his evil, freedom-hating lifestyle, maybe.)
After Burgermeister Meisterburger supervises a toy-burning in Sombertown, Jessica realizes what life is really about, and how terrible and oppressive Sombertown is under the reign of Burgermeister Meisterburger (man, I just love typing that name). Happily, the Winter Warlock, going by just "Winter" now that he's good, has some magical corn feed that makes reindeer fly, allowing everyone to escape the Gulag.
Kris grows a beard to disguise himself, and changes his name to Claus. He and Jessica are married in the woods, surrounded by decorated pine trees with gifts placed under them. Hmm. They are forced further and further north, until they finally set up shop at the North Pole. But wait! What about the poor, oppressed citizens of Sombertown? Well, of course, freedom and Democracy triumphed eventually, as they always do. The Meisterburgers fell out of power once the people realized how ridiculous their laws were, and their portraits were replaced by the portrait of their new, Western ruler: Consumerism. I mean, um, Santa Claus. "...And that's how it all started."
- "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," of course, sung by Fred Astaire.
- "First toymaker to the King," pointless filler sung by Tanta Kringle about the heavy responsibility that comes with making toys for the king. And don't forget the reprise, "No more toymakers to the King," sung by Burgermeister Meisterburger, because Communists are anti-King as well as anti-toy. Duh.
- "If you sit on my lap today, a kiss, a toy is the price you pay," a creepily pedophilia-tinged number sung by Kris, who appears to be trading toys for kisses and lap-sits.
- "Put one foot in front of the other," a catchy song about how to slowly accept freedom and Democracy into your life, sung by Kris to the Winter Warlock. See the whole thing here.
- "My world is beginning today," a crazy psychedelic song by Jessica as she transforms from prudish schoolteacher to rebel freedom-lover, complete with groovy animations and a literal letting-down of her hair.
- "Gifts of love," a boring spoken/sung number about Christmas and various cheesy crap.
- "You are obviously a nonconformist and a rebel!" -Burgermeister Meisterburger to Kris. Damn skippy he is, you freedom-hating commie!
- You mean that it's just my election / to vote for a chance to be reborn?" -Winter Warlock, in "Put one foot in front of the other," a song that is Not At All about the freedom of Democracy vs. the tyranny of Communism.
- Communists hate Christmas, toys, and freedom.
- Behave yourselves, because Santa can look into his magic snowball at any time to see what you're doing.
- Democracy will always triumph.
- Everything you've heard about Santa can be explained in a neat, 48-minute story.
Bottom Line: USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! Catch the whole thing Christmas Eve at 5 PM on ABC Family.