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Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, Joan Gardner, Robie Lester
Writing Credits:
Romeo Muller

Where does Santa's suit come from? Why does he slide down the chimney? Why does he live at the North Pole? The answers to all these questions and the origins of our favorite holiday traditions are revealed in this delightful classic about Kris Kringle, the world's most famous gift giver.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 51 min.
Price: $29.93
Available As Part of “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collection”
Release Date: 9/8/2015

• “Be An Artist and Create” Featurettes
• “Kringle Jingle”
• “Santa Special Delivery” Featurette


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town: Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2015)

For me, the most enjoyable Christmas specials were the ones that featured “Animagic”. This form of stop-motion animation from the Rankin/Bass studios created one genuine classic with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a mix of other fun shows.

One of the more enduring of those comes from 1970’s Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. The special purports to answer all of our questions about the life of St. Nick. Narrated by a postman voiced by Fred Astaire, the tale gives us a flashback look at the life of Santa (Mickey Rooney).

We go to a northern city called Sombertown. Run by Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees), a baby turns up on his doorstep. The gruff leader rejects surrogate parenthood and sends the child - marked only with a tag that says “Claus” - to the orphanage. However, before he gets there, a gust blows him into the Mountain of the Whispering Winds, the home of the evil Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn).

Some forest animals rescue the baby and deliver him to a nearby home of elves named Kringle. Elf Queen Tanta Kringle (Joan Gardner) names him “Kris” and the clan raises him as their own. There he learns how to make toys, which the Kringles do even though they have no way to deliver the goodies; they’re too small to risk going through the Warlock’s lair.

Kris learns the ropes and promises to move the toys when he becomes bigger. Once he hits adulthood, he follows through on this oath and works his way through the wilds. Kris makes it past the Warlock without too much trouble and he plods toward Sombertown.

Unfortunately, in the meantime the nasty Burgermeister recently made a decision that will negatively affect Kris. The leader slipped on a toy and decided to ban all such goods from his realm.

When he enters town, Kris doesn’t know this, so he hands out the toys. This briefly lands him in hot water with sexy but stuffy schoolmarm Miss Jessica (Robie Lester), but she warms up when he gives her a doll.

As one might expect, Kris can’t buy off the Burgermeister as easily, and the leader’s forces chase our boy out of town. His methods do work when the Warlock captures him, though. The baddie’s so delighted to get a present that he softens immediately and becomes Kris’s ally. He helps Kris and the other Kringles subvert the Burgermeister’s laws and deliver the toys. The rest of the show follows these actions along with Kris’s low-key efforts to woo Miss Jessica.

As I noted earlier, Town perseveres after more than three decades, and it’s a program that reminds us of the glory days of “Animagic”. I like the show, but I can’t say that it compares tremendously well with the better efforts in the field like Rudolph or even 1974’s The Year Without a Santa Claus. Town lacks Rudolph’s energy and rough-hewn charm, while it also fails to match up to Year’s memorable irreverence.

This doesn’t mean that Town doesn’t offer a fun and likable piece; it’s just not as good as the others. I watched it right after I saw Rudolph, and it was interesting to compare the two.

Technically, Town distinctly improves upon its predecessor. The characters move more smoothly, and the settings look decidedly more elaborate and detailed. It’s still not a dazzling piece of work, but it shows substantial visual growth.

Both shows enjoy good casts. Astaire doesn’t get a ton to do, but he offers a genial and likable presence. I never cared much for Rooney, but he does fine as Kris, and the usual supporting suspects like Paul Frees help add life to the proceedings.

Town falters somewhat due to its cuteness. I like some of the adorable elements such as the delightful penguin Topper, but the show goes for too much of a sugary tone. I was surprised to see how angry and aggressive much of Rudolph was, but any menace in Town presents little heft. It presents a less threatening affair that packs less of a punch.

Musically, the tunes of Town seem drab. Rudolph enjoyed lots of great numbers, but outside of the title track, you’ll find little to hum from Town.

Don’t expect Town to muster the charm and spark of something like Rudolph and you’ll probably enjoy it. I think it’s a perfectly likable show with some good moments. It simply doesn’t stand as one of the best of the genre.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C-

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though it showed its age and origins, the image seemed pretty good.

Sharpness was usually fine. A bit of softness interfered at times, but not to a substantial degree. Instead, the show mostly came across as fairly well-defined. I noticed no jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to appear. Town demonstrated natural grain and largely lacked print flaws; I saw a few minor blemishes but nothing severe.

While most Christmas specials utilize broad palettes, the design of Town meant it went with substantially more restricted tones. That’s because the dank setting of Sombertown as well as the icy realm of the Winter Warlock dominated the program. When brighter elements appeared, however, they looked nicely vivid and concise. Blacks were dark and tight, while the occasional low-light shots looked fairly clean and visible. This became a pleasing presentation.

Taken from the original monaural source, the show’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack lacked ambition. Indeed, if the audio ever did much to broaden past its single-channel origins, I couldn’t detect it. The mix focused heavily on the front center, and that was fine with me. I’d have preferred a “dedicated mono” rendition, but this was close enough.

Audio quality seemed fine for its age. Speech occasionally came across as a little edgy, but the lines were usually fairly concise. Music lacked much range but showed reasonable clarity, and effects offered acceptable accuracy. This became a decent representation of the 45-year-old source.

When we move to extras, we open with Be An Artist and Create. This splits into three tutorials: “Topper the Penguin” (9:57), “Santa Claus” (10:47) and “Crafts with Santa” (). In the first two, DreamWorks Animation Director of Character Art Joe Vance teaches us how to draw Topper and Santa from Town. For the final segment, Vance’s wife Joanie joins him to show how to make various arts and crafts. All three offer some fun material.

Kringle Jingle goes for a whopping 56 seconds. It shhows a bunch of tone-deaf urchins as they attempt to sing the special’s title song. Their parents may enjoy this, but I don’t.

Finally, we get the 17-minute, 23-second Santa Special Delivery. It mixes comments from kids about Santa and related elements as well as Claus facts and production notes. The kids’ remarks get tedious, but the info about the special becomes good.

I can’t call Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town one of the best Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. It plays things too safe and cutesy to really excel. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly enjoyable and pleasant. The Blu-ray offers pleasing visuals along with acceptable audio and a few decent supplements. Town remains a likable show.

Note that you can find Town on Blu-ray in a couple of releases. The one I reviewed comes from a package called The Original Television Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition. That box packages Town with Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, The Cricket on the Hearth, and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. With a list price under $30, it’s a good deal.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN

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