I don’t remember learning about his existence, nor do I recall the big discovery that he was fake. I know that I used to leave him a mince pie and a beer (my dad’s idea) before I went to bed on the 24th. But, as far back as I remember, I also know I spent the preceding week searching the house for presents (my mum’s wardrobe, far left corner). I think, for me, it was always just a nice idea. I wasn’t particularly intent on grilling my parents for details. I gathered the particulars from a pop-up book version of The Night Before Christmas and my annual viewing of this film. A very specific trio of Christmas Eve traditions was watching this, followed by a trip into town to see the lights, and eating the best part of a box of Neapolitans chocolates. Long before I ever had to worry about maintaining any kind of elaborate ruse to my kids, while drunk on brandy. They were undoubtedly simpler times.
Santa Claus: The Movie provides a potted history of the red robed gift giver, from the initial recruitment process through to the perils of modern day consumerism. Santa was hired in the 14th century by Gandalf, to distribute toys to the world’s children. It was his wife (who eventually retires to become Onslow’s missus) and not the Coca-Cola Company who decided his suit should be red. And he communicates by letter so effectively he puts the Royal Mail to shame.
We join the Claus family in the 1980s, when they are plagued by improved childhood literacy rates and the subsequent increase in demand. It is decreed that Santa should get an assistant, some 600 years after he started the job. Two elves, Patch and Puffy, compete in an Apprentice style production challenge in order to win the coveted sidekick role. Dudley Moore‘s Patch is an ambitious entrepreneur, who has big plans to revolutionise the North Pole set up. With sweatshops, mainly. His overzealous output of shoddy goods sees him summarily fired, and exiled to New York.
New York, which is mainly represented by an enormous McDonalds, is also home to ruthless toy tycoon B.Z. (John Lithgow), whose hatred of kids is such that he stuffs his teddy bears full of sand and chunks of glass just because he can. A disgruntled Patch and B.Z. launch a hostile takeover bid on Christmas, and are somehow thwarted by an incessantly hungry homeless kid called Joe, a dozen pretty wussy reindeer, and the brilliantly named Cornelia, who is unashamedly eighties and has the pink sweatshirt with red diamond elbow patches to prove it.
Santa Claus The Movie is a pretty bold title, for a film which puts a disgraced elf and an unsavoury businessman in top billing. Though the big beardy does feature heavily and, if you’re looking to educate your offspring on this vicious and all-encompassing deception, then you could do a lot worse. Among other things you will learn that the word ‘yo’ makes reindeer fly, that a little snitch named Sarah Foster and her precious cat instigated the whole naughty and nice thing. Oh, and that Santa has been known to let random kids move into the North Pole for eleven months of the year, with little in the way of parent/guardian knowledge or consent. But that’s ok, because they have a school teacher.
Don’t have nightmares.
Watch Santa Claus The Movie on Friday 21 December (3:10pm ITV3) and Christmas Eve (6:55am ITV3). Or read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far.