The Year Without a Santa Claus

Hey kids! Unkle Lancifer here and boy have I got a treat for you, it’s an early Christmas present from Kindertrauma legend Mickster! Our dear pal was kind enough to send us her views on one of our all time favorite Christmas specials, THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS. Is there any greater holiday gift than having a friend who is as cool as Mickster? Not in my book! Take it away Mickster….

The title alone of this 1974 RANKIN/BASS classic sparked terror in the hearts of children. Like all RANKIN/BASS stop-motion specials, it features the voices of stars from the past. SHIRLEY BOOTH (TV’s HAZEL) voices Mrs. Claus and MICKEY ROONEY (ANDY HARDY Movies) once again voices Santa Claus. The special begins with Santa, who has a terrible cold, being advised by his doctor, who acts suspiciously like Ebenezer Scrooge, to stay home this Christmas. Santa proceeds to call the elves to “cancel” Christmas. Okay, how many Christmas specials over the years have frightened children by claiming that Christmas could be canceled? Of course, as adults we know this is ridiculous, but as a child, it is a traumatizing idea.

Sparked by an idea from Mrs. Claus, who does an awesome dance number in drag, those super intelligent elves Jingle and Jangle set out to find people that still believe in Santa. Jingle and Jangle bring Vixen along with them. All three end up in South Town and begin their search. The genius elves pretend that Vixen, who is suffering in the Southern heat, is a dog and she is thrown in the pound. Jingle and Jangle question a group of children to see if they believe in Santa, which they don’t. They do, however, meet one nice kid named Ignatius “Iggy” Thistlewhite. In the meantime, Santa finds out that Jingle, Jangle, and Vixen have traveled into the “cruel world.” Santa races to bring them back and meets Iggy. Iggy is promptly put in his place on the subject of Santa through a wonderfully sad song sung by Santa (in disguise as Mr. Klaus) called, “I Believe in Santa Claus.”

Excuse me, I have to wipe the tears from my eyes just thinking about this song. Mrs. Claus comes to get Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy. They all travel to see Snow Miser. Mrs. Claus requests that the Snow Miser let it snow in South Town, USA. What follows is probably the best remembered sequence in the special.

As a child, I found characters of Snow Miser and Heat Miser frightening. I think it was because they were so much larger than Mrs. Claus and the fact that they had creepy miniatures following them around. At the same time, Santa retrieves Vixen and returns to the North Pole. He receives a special letter from a little girl (singing “Blue Christmas”) that changes his mind about Christmas.

Sorry, I have use some more tissues as this song makes me weepy too. Let’s stop for a commercial break. Take it away Mother Nature!

With the intervention of Mother Nature, Heat Miser allows snow in South Town. All is well again as Santa goes out on his yearly trip. This special premiered in 1974 and I am sure I watched it then, but I was too young to be traumatized. However, I remember specifically being traumatized by it two years later in 1976. I was so upset at one point that I left the room crying. I was convinced that Santa was not coming. My mom had to bring me back to the living room to finish watching.

  • “I could be Santa Claus”
  • Iggy feels the guilt of not believing
  • “The Snow Miser Song”
  • “The Heat Miser Song”
  • Don’t mess with Mother Nature!
  • “Here comes Santa Claus!”

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13 years ago

Ahhhh yes, one of my favorites! I think the Heat Meiser spooked me (he sorta represnted HELL, Folks!) but his little mini-me minions were sorta CUTE, so it balanced things out.
I always thought Jingle and Jangle looked like the guys from AIR SUPPLY. And Iggy’s father sort of reminded me of Michael Gross, the father from FAMILY TIES.
Santa is on his deathbed in this one, but at least he’s pleasant. Anyone remember RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER? What a bastard he was in that one! The elves rehearse their butts off to sing a Christmas ditty to him and he watches it and then says “Needs work!” and storms out of the room. Mrs Claus follows him around saying “eat, Santa, EAT” and he just has a snarly borderline-abusive attitude toward her (I swear there must be a stop-motion b!tch-slap on the RANKIN BASS cutting room floor somewhere) and to Rudolph’s “deforimity” he is totally un-sympathetic. UNTIL he realizes Rudolph can save his ass…THEN he starts being nice to Rudoplh! What a great message for the kiddies: Treat anyone different from you like a freak until you find out they can help further your career, THEN kiss their ass!

Amanda By Night
13 years ago

Rankin/Bass are some of the greatest filmmakers ever. I have most of these movies and watch them every year. My favorite of them all is Nestor, The Long Earred Donkey. OK, talk about a Kindertrauma! When Nestor’s mom dies because she froze to death so she could keep him warm STILL makes me blubber like an idiot. I have a friend who hasn’t seen Nestor since she was six because it’s STILL too upsetting! 

It’s such an effective movie and that song that goes “Don’t laugh and make somebody cry” is just stunning. It’s a beautiful film, although a good portion of my friends don’t like the religious message. I think that’s sad because their missing the point of this beautiful film…

Btw, talking about the minatures and such, if anyone gets around to watching Nestor, check out the part where the evil soldier guy comes for the donkeys and gives the guy some silver. It’s a nickel which is bigger than the man’s hand. Those puppets were tiny. It amazes me to think of how they made these films. Anyway, it will help you scale the Heat and Snow Miser.

Also, does anyone have the Rankn/Bass dolls they released a few years ago? I have a few of them. Why no Nestor? Like an old boyfriend said to me after I showed him the movie, “Nestor doesn’t get dick!”
This is a great write-up Mickster. It’s reminding me to get out my Rankin/Bass collection! Will there be more of these?

13 years ago

Mama, I couldn’t agree with you more on the subject of Santa in Rudolph. He is an intolerant douche bag. Calling everyone that is a little different “misfits” indeed! Amanda, I also love Nestor, but I tend not to watch it every year because it makes me cry so much. I am sorry that you have friends that don’t like the religious message since it is a wonderful example of the fact that we all have a purpose in life (even if you have super-long ears there is a reason). Thanks for the kind words. I would be happy to write about more Rankin/Bass specials if Unkle L. and Aunt J. approve.

unkle lancifer
13 years ago

Approve? We’d be honored! As a card carrying misfit, I want to hear more about this intolerant douche bag Santa Clause!

13 years ago

AMANDA, I have a lot of the “RUDOLPH” Christmas ornaments. Yukon Cornelious’s nose is broken off but I keep him anyway. I think I have Rudoplh, Hermes, “Bumble”, Yukon Cornelious,Sam The Snowman and maybe Santa? I don’t have Rudolph’s girlfriend Clarice- have always wanted that one so might have to hit eBay after this.
I have a stuffed Rudolph that’s nose lights up and a “Bumble” that roars. I also have a stuffed Clarice my daughter made at BUILD A BEAR last year, complete with red dress and all the trimmings (Cant have a NUDE doe runnin’ around!)
Every so often in COSTCO or something I see the other figurines and stuff (example – “Misfit Toys” stuff and **** and I want to buy it but my cheapskate husband who never had a childhood wont let me. But – yeah, I so far havent seen Nestor stuff. What up with THAT???? Nestor is a Big Favorite around here…and I too always well up when his mother dies so he can live. (sniff sniff)

Professor Von Whiskersen
Professor Von Whiskersen
13 years ago

I can take a lot of gore in movies, but I always cringe at the thought of the Bumble getting his teeth ripped out by Yukon Cornelious.

I own it (Nestor) on DVD but I refuse to watch it.  I just like knowing that I COULD watch it if I wanted to.

13 years ago

Year without a Santa Claus and the old Mother Nature Tv spots? OH HELL YES!!!!!

13 years ago

Anyone remember the live-action remake? Well, not quite a remake. Despite having a boffo cast (And even a fetish goth elf who tries to sell Santa on delivering Bleeding Edge toys), the ending was just so unbelievable. I’m sorry, but I don’t think that canceling a project that could create jobs for a community just because your family is all upset that you don’t spend time with them is really a good idea. And having a “Our town is fine the way it is” mentality is not a good idea in a climate where people are losing jobs. (I would go on about a similar story about a similar thing that happened in Plymouth, MA recently, but I’ll stop there.)

But, on the bright side, there is a sequel to the original being broadcast this year called “A Miser Brothers Christmas” where both Heat Miser and Snow Miser have to help Santa out of a jam. And they’ve even gotten Andy Rooney and Robert Morse back. 🙂