A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is a departure from the typical Rankin/Bass Christmas story. Based on a book by L. Frank Baum of Oz fame, this origin story has more fantasy elements like woodland elves, wizards, and immortal beings than it has of Christmas. Of possible concern for the youngest viewers are the several mentions that Santa's going to be visited by the spirit of death, some mildly scary monsters, and a sad scene in which Santa talks about his mortality fading and that he wants decorating Christmas trees to be a kind of memorial to him. Fantasy violence includes a battle with magical powers to defeat the monsters once and for all. The ending is happy and safe, but be prepared to offer reassurance and answer questions about death and immortality.
What's the story?
The Great Ak, ruler of the forest, tells THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS to the Council of Immortals in order to convince them that Claus, a mortal man who's been working tirelessly to bring joy to children for 60 years, deserves to be granted immortality. The Ak found Claus abandoned at the edge of the forest when Claus was an infant. He arranged for the lioness Shiegra, and later the fairy Necile, to care for Claus as he grew. Once he became a man, Claus decided that it was time to live among the rest of humanity, and that it was his life's work to try to bring a little happiness to children by giving them toys he makes. But the cruel Awgwas keep interfering with Claus's deliveries and hoarding all the toys in their caves. Can Claus and his friends stop the Awgwas and keep delivering toys? And will the council grant Claus immortality so that he can keep bringing happiness to children forever?
Is it any good?
As an animated Christmas movie, this adaptation of an L. Frank Baum story is a bit of an odd one and best suited for families who may be tired of the same old specials every year. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus only mentions Christmas a few times in passing, and although it certainly reflects traditional messages of the season, it feels more like a Tolkien or Narnia fantasy than a Christmas movie. That being said, families with big kids and up who are looking for something a little bit different may find it refreshing. Fans of Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation will enjoy the imaginative yet classic styling of the characters, the more advanced special effects, and the improvements in photography made in the years since the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Unfortunately, both the voice acting and the songs aren't quite up to Christmas-classic standards. Both the speaking and the songs are overwrought as the voice actors slowly and ponderously try really hard to convey the importance of the story instead of creating an emotional connection with the viewer. Lapses in editing and continuity sometimes confuse the timing of events. Be prepared to reassure little kids: Death and mortality are prominent themes, and some of the monsters might be a bit scary for young ones who haven't yet separated fantasy from reality.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the scary parts of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Was anything very scary? What makes you feel safe when you're scared?
What other movies have you seen about Santa? Which is your favorite?
What does it mean to "follow your star"? What can you do to bring more love and joy into the world?
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 1985
- Cast: Earl Hammond, Alfred Drake, Lesley Miller
- Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
- Studio: Rankin/Bass Productions
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Holidays, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 50 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love the holidays
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
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.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch