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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic holiday movie is a must-see for families. The story is filled with cheery messages about caring for others and sharing our gifts, with a little touch of empowerment by way of Kris's determination to do the right thing, even when it means arguing with a mean and misguided mayor. Parents and kids alike will delight in the story's take on how established Christmas traditions (Santa's red suit, gifts under a tree, and the date of Christmas itself) came to be. There are some tense moments between Kris and Winter before the holiday spirit warms the warlock's heart, but only your littlest tots might be temporarily frightened by them.
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What's the story?
SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN! features the voice talent of Fred Astaire as the story-telling postman/narrator, S.D. Kluger, who chronicles Kris Kringle's (voiced by Mickey Rooney) journey from humble beginnings to the iconic symbol of Christmas. Left as a baby on the doorstep of the grumpy mayor of Sombertown, Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees), who promptly turned him away, Kris found a happy home with a family of elves who raised him as their own and taught him their toymaking trade. Hoping to share the fruits of their labor with the townspeople, Kris sets out to deliver the goodies to the kids of Sombertown, but he finds his efforts thwarted by Meisterburger's law banning toys from the town and his passage blocked by the mountain's coldhearted Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn). With a little Christmas magic and a lot of help from his friends, Kris is determined to get his toys into the hands of good boys and girls, laying the groundwork for an annual celebration of giving for the world.
Is it any good?
This classic tale has long been a part of families' holiday rituals, and deservingly so. It chronicles the origin of a number of Christmas traditions -- hiding gifts in stockings, Santa's entrance through chimneys, how reindeer fly, why Santa lives at the North Pole, and so on -- all while delivering uplifting messages about the real meaning of the season of giving. Even the story's "bad guy," Winter, experiences a change of heart because of Kris's generosity, which reminds viewers that spreading joy can have far-reaching effects.
It's impossible to watch this movie and not be amazed at how animation has changed since this was crafted in 1970. Wooden models and stop-animation technology are so vastly different from today's 3-D, hi-def visual experience, but this classic style has a soothing effect that somehow suits the comforts of the holidays perfectly. If you only watch one Christmas movie with your family this year, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town! should top your list of candidates.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the meaning of Christmas. Why do you celebrate Christmas? How does your family's culture or religion influence how you celebrate? What traditions do you enjoy with your family during the holiday season?
Kids: In what ways can you help other people in your community? How can you put your skills to work to make other people's lives better? Why is it important to be aware of others' needs? What rewards do you get from doing a good deed?
What did you think about this movie's animation? How does it differ from the shows you're used to watching? Does the fact that its style is older detract from the story at all? Does it add to it?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.