The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985) Movie Poster Image
Animated tale is heavy on fantasy, has some scariness.
  • G
  • 1985
  • 50 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

Messages are muddled, if not directly undermined, by the story or the visuals. The Great Ak says humans exist to leave the world a better place than we found it, but his journey around the world only shows examples of the opposite, like people being cruel to others or waging destructive wars. The message that all mortal life fades is undermined by the lioness Shiegra, who takes Claus in when he's an infant and is still with him 60 years later, showing no signs of age. "Follow your star" and try to bring love and joy to the world. A happy child is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Claus is a good role model for loyalty to friends and family, determination, never giving up, and working tirelessly to bring happiness to children. The Great Ak is a wise mentor, and Necile is a loving, caring mother figure. The villainous Awgwa wants ultimate power, and to keep people, especially children, miserable.

Violence & Scariness

Some scariness from monster fantasy creatures, a snake and spider with red eyes, and several mentions that Claus will be visited by the spirit of death. Fantasy violence in a battle against monsters using magic powers to make them disappear: by turning to flame and burning out, turning into a flower that withers, and by zapping with electric shock-like magic. Knights fight with a sword and mace. A child is threatened with a wooden sword and hit with it off camera. Claus and Shiegra are tied up, kidnapped, and put in a dark cave with a scary snake and large spider.

Sexy Stuff

A mom and a dad kiss under mistletoe.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

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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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love the holidays

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