Dec 9, 2021
Book Vs. Movie: The Year Without a Santa Clause
The Rankin/Bass 1974 Classic Special Based on a Light Verse Book
For many 70s kids, the Rankin/Bass specials with their catchy music and stop motion animation were high art. From Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Santa Clause is Coming to Town their specials garnered big ratings and helped popularize holiday music. One of their most iconic specials was based on a 1956 Phillis McGinley book The Year Without a Santa Clause which told the story of a burnt-out Kris Kringle who wanted to take leave for one Christmas.
McGinley (1905-1978) was a master of the “light verse” and used humor to describe everyday life. Throughout her writing career (as a poet and children’s author) she loved to talk about humility and living a simple, suburban life. She was not aligned with Sylvia Plath or Betty Friedan who questioned the purpose of being a woman in the 20th Century. McGinley was a lonely child who married at 32 (late for the time) and lived a Mad Men kind of life in Larchmont, NY.
The Year Without a Santa Claus was first printed in Good Housekeeping magazine and was later published as a book. Boris Karloff recorded a version for Capitol Records shortly before his death in 1969. In the story, Santa has a bad cold just before the holidays and feels as if he is not important to kids anymore. When the children of the world learn this, they gladly send him their toys to finally give him the Christmas of his dreams. Knowing he is loved sends him back to his old Santa ways.
The TV special adds elves Jingle & Jangle who along with reindeer Vixen look for children who still care about Santa. They are shot down (!) by competing Snow & Heat Misers who want to control the weather. In the southern part of the United States, they get into all kinds of trouble with some incredibly catchy tunes and performances by Shirley Booth, Mickey Rooney, and Dick Shawn. Does the spirit of Christmas win out? Duh!
So, between the original story and the classic TV special--which did we prefer?
In this ep the Margos discuss:
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