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 Year Without a Santa Claus is a 1974 Rankin/Bass animated made-for-TV special for young kids. Santa, feeling under the weather and certain that the world is low on Christmas spirit, cancels Christmas. Mrs. Claus, elves, and reindeer conspire to prove that the world still has the spirit and believes in Santa. The animated characters encounter peril -- hot- and cold-blowing evil brothers and a reindeer in the dog pound -- but nothing too scary for most younger kids.
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What's the story?
THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS is a 51-minute, animated TV special exploring the possibility that Santa (with the voice of Mickey Rooney), suffering aches, pains, and a bad cold, could decide there just isn't enough goodwill and Christmas spirit in the world to make him climb in his sleigh and deliver gifts all around the world this December 25th. So Christmas is officially canceled, as headlines everywhere report. Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) puts him to bed and goes along with his wishes, all the while scheming with elves and reindeer to prove to him that Christmas spirit and belief in Santa are as vital as ever. She sends the elves to a small town in the American South to find the proof, but they immediately get ticketed for riding a reindeer the wrong way on a one-way street. To make matters worse, the reindeer poses as a dog to fit in and is hauled away by a dog-catcher. Hearing his innocent elves are struggling down in the big world, a disguised Santa hops on a sturdier reindeer to find the elves. A friendly boy named Iggy, who says he is too old to believe in Santa, invites him in and is surprised to learn that his own parents still believe in Santa. Santa goes to the pound, bails Vixen out, and flies her back to the North Pole for TLC and bed rest. The elves and Mrs. Claus negotiate with the Miser Brothers for a day of snow in a Southern town that hasn't seen the white stuff in a hundred years, and that instills spirit in many. Sad children write notes and send gifts to Santa, turning Christmas into a holiday of giving and loving rather than one of receiving. This renewed demonstration of spirit impels Santa to jump on his sleigh and un-cancel Christmas.
Is it any good?
This is a sweet piece for younger viewers, promoting "Christmas spirit" and a belief in the jolly Christmas symbol that can make the holiday memorable for kids. Older kids more used to today's seamless, computer-generated animation may find this 1974 show's stop-action movement creaky and outdated. But 4- and 5-year-olds may still be able to appreciate the way this resembles a recorded puppet show, a kind of old-style cartoon with its own set of charms. Shirley Booth has the perfect old-fashioned school teacher-y voice, having fun with a Mrs. Claus imagining herself impersonating the vacationing Santa. She jumps down a chimney in her mind, making sure everyone only sees her "from behind." The Miser Brothers provide mild scares -- the hot one singes someone's britches and calls Santa's crew a "gang of goodie-goodies." The movie uses the 1947 Gene Autry song "Here Comes Santa Claus" nicely as well as other Christmas tunes. The Year Without a Santa Claus may introduce the notion of not believing in Santa to some children for the first time, and parents may want to be ready for that discussion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Christmas means to them. Do you like getting presents? Do you think it's important also to give presents and love?
Santa always gives presents, but in The Year Without a Santa Claus, children feel bad for him and show him love by giving presents to Santa. How do you think that makes Santa feel?
What's your favorite holiday movie? Why is it special to you?
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