18 December 2012

santa claus is comin' all over the place.

Well, we're already waist-deep in the Christmas season, and I haven't gotten around to watching even one of the classic stop-motion animation Christmas specials. Many wonderful childhood memories of the magic and materialism of the holiday season are stored for safe-keeping with these corny Rankin-Bass productions. Whenever I watch them again, it's like laying flowers at the graveyard of my innocence—a ceremonial which, as you might guess, occasions a lot of conflicting emotions, including but not limited to nostalgia, melancholy, giddiness, comfort, and mortal dread. I already discussed in my Love Boat blog entry how rituals or artifacts from our childhood, when revisited in our adulthood, tend to lead us to all sorts of realizations and reveries, some of which are ill-advised without prescription medication ready-to-hand. In this entry, I want to talk about my memories of some of these stop-motion animation specials and my impression of them today—from the vantage of my cynical middle age. It goes without saying that this might not be a very pretty adventure...

1.  Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970)



I can't think of a much more disturbing pairing than Mickey Rooney's voice and the body of a young ginger Santa. While it of course didn't strike me at the time, Rooney's Santa is awfully gruff and authoritarian—and when he performs the song 'Be Prepared to Pay' (a.k.a. 'If You Sit on My Lap Today'), it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to the darker intimations of Santa drinking cheap sherry straight from the bottle in his wood-paneled basement and barking at six-year-old boys to take off their shirts and oil themselves up for playtime. In other words, I'd check the sex offender registry before I'd leave my kids with this Santa. (I'll bet you he wears those polished jackboots even in the off-season, if you catch my drift.) 

Claus's love interest (or beard, depending on your interpretation) is a corseted little minx named Miss Jessica, who has roughly the proportions of Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) from Mad Men. Her ample rack and generous, spankable booty are strung together by a totally impossible waistline that could only be achieved by some manner of sartorial torture. As a bookish sex kitten, Jessica no doubt embodies the physical ideal and/or fantasies of her animators—and if I were a woman, I can't say I wouldn't be offended by this stop-motion yule log raiser. After all, she's a funhouse mirror version of the traditional hourglass figure, while Santa is just some lanky, waifish dolt with little to offer in compensation for her sexual allure. (Unless he has a freckled horsecock underneath that red flannel. We know he doesn't have any money—so that rules out the Anna Nicole angle.)


But don't get too worked up, fellas, because you know the last act to this story: like Santa, Miss Jessica ends up fat and probably diabetic. This is the kind of couple that eats fried chicken in bed together and finds leftovers wedged under their teats a few weeks later. One or both of them will probably have to have their feet amputated, and it goes without saying that the sleigh will have to be made scooter-accessible. 

But for me, the real star of this special was was its comic villian—a Bismarck-era (?) despot called the Burgermeister Meisterburger, obviously a none-too-subtle riff on 20th century Germany's penchant for militarism and authoritarianism. Short, squat, and outfitted in the latest in Bavarian kitsch, the Burgermeister Meisterburger bans toys in Sombertown because he trips on one and injures himself. (Yes, the logic is a little shaky here, but what better way to teach the youngins about the dangerous caprices of totalitarianism?) 

There's also a secondary villain in this one called the Winter Warlock, but he turns out to be a giant pussy and is quickly co-opted by Santa into his band of communist rebels. One thing that always really bothered me about the Winter Warlock is that you can tell he is very spindly but somehow he manages to fill out that glittery robe pretty well. I call steroids. I mean, come on... his hands are Rose Kennedy's, but his shoulders are Vin Diesel's. 


13 comments:

  1. I haven't seen them in ages, but I used to love these Christmas specials as a child. I even liked the one with the freaky-ass New Year baby with the giant ears.

    And now I'm going to have the Heat Miser/Snow Miser song stuck in my head all afternoon. He's too much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You DO know that this isn't the Heat Miser/Snow Miser special, right?

      Delete
    2. Yes, but it's the same people, right?

      Delete
  2. Fuck all this materialist diversionary authoritarian propaganda. There's a place in hell for people who make childrens' Christmas specials.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, wouldn't you just be a fun dad?

      Delete
  3. "his hands are rose kennedy's" - :)

    very evocative.

    aw, good old fred. love that guy... mickey rooney was kind of a staple in our household growing up ("let's put on a show!") so i never found him creepy as kris kringle. just familiar. but i can totally see your point! P

    i love rankin and bass. especially their highly suggestive song, "where there's a whip, there's a way" from a tolkien adaptation they did called the return of the king. roddy macdowall is the whiniest samwise gamgee ever. :)

    i have a heat miser that i sometimes serenade. i'm not going to give you details on the concert we had the first night i brought him home. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you don't like the Heat Miser more than the Snow Miser—because we will have a major disagreement about this. I hope we don't come to blows. (I had a college professor who looked strikingly like Snow Miser—and I wasn't the only one to notice it.)

      Mickey Rooney is such a dirty old man. Even when he was young, he was a dirty old man. (It's shocking to me each time I remember that he's still alive.) But on this particular special, his voice sounded much too old to play the young Santa Claus...

      Delete
    2. i partly want to say i like heat miser more because i could use some rough and tumble, and the idea of two book nerds battling over the ascendancy of the misers really diverts me at this point in the dark night of my soul. :P

      but the simple answer is, snow miser is more popular because they didn't have any of his action figures left when i got poor heat miser -- i would've brought home both.

      if mickey wasn't dirty he wouldn't have had a shot with ava gardner, right? i mean, she had to amp it up to sinatra, and then bullfighters after that! i now wish i could read her diary. david, could you please write ava gardner's diary for me?

      hi david! it is almost christmas! i tried to read some other dude's blog earlier, and i got bored of his shtick really quickly. baby, you're the best! :)

      Delete
  4. Yes, the "if you sit on my lap today" is quite uncomfortable to watch as an adult, but my tremendous love for these Christmas specials overshadows any pervey undertones. I wish I could turn this on right now.

    The warlock has the same body as the tall, skinny old guy on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel - Frank Deford. He has those oddly large shoulders and is completely bony everywhere else.

    A Year Without a Santa Claus was possibly my favorite as a child - especially with Vixen and the Miser brothers, but watching it as an adult I found it a bit boring (except for that stellar musical number). I can't wait for your next entry - I love taking this trip back in time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You CAN turn these on right now or any time at all—when you own them all on DVD—like I do.

      There's really none of the stop-motion Christmas specials that I don't like. (I even like the lesser ones like Jack Frost and the Christmas in July one with Rudolph AND Frosty—together at last!) But my favorite is probably this one...

      This Christmas ones are inevitably released every Christmas and shown on television, but the most difficult Rankin-Bass holiday stop-motion special to see is the Easter Bunny one... I haven't seen that one since i was a kid.

      The thing that bothers me about A Year Without a Santa Claus is that Mrs. Claus is such a dumb shit in it. First she sends the two retarded elves out on a mission, and then LATER she is complaining that they got themselves in trouble again. (What a bitch.)

      Delete
  5. BTW, The Family Channel is running a bunch of these Saturday afternoon. I know what I'll be doing that day.

    ReplyDelete
  6. They're selling a mini-jigsaw puzzle of Santa and Jessica at CVS, in case you're interested.

    ReplyDelete