Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (film)

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
Written by Romeo Muller
Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr.
Jules Bass
Voices of Fred Astaire
Mickey Rooney
Keenan Wynn
Joan Gardner
Paul Frees
Robie Lester
Narrated by Fred Astaire
Music by Maury Laws
Jules Bass (lyrics)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Cinematography Kizo Nagashima
Running time 51 mins
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass Productions
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network ABC
Original release December 14, 1970
Followed by The Year Without a Santa Claus

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is a 1970 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The film stars Fred Astaire as the narrator S.D. Kluger, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, and Paul Frees in various roles. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song of the same name, which was introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.

The special was created in Japan using stop motion animation called "Animagic", in which all the characters are made out of wood and plastic and animated via stop-motion photography. The special was originally telecast December 14, 1970 by ABC and continues to air every year on sibling channel ABC Family (now Freeform) though both channels have at times edited the special to make room for commercials (ABC has cut two key songs, as well as two other songs in half; ABC Family/Freeform has cut several scenes that might be traumatizing to younger viewers, like Kris climbing, and leaping to escape to prevent children from doing dangerous stunts, Winter Warlock knowing Kris will return, & telling him he'll never escape including the scene where the Burgermeister torches the seized toys in front of the children of Sombertown).


Mailman Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger (voiced by Fred Astaire) is introduced after a newsreel prologue, telling the viewer how children around the world are preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus. When his snowmobile/mail truck breaks down, he tells the story of Santa Claus, answering the children's letters to Santa.

The story begins in the gloomy city of Sombertown, ruled by the ill-tempered Burgermeister Meisterburger (voiced by Paul Frees). A baby arrives on his doorstep with a name tag reading "Claus" and note requesting that Burgermeister raise the child. He instead orders his lawkeeper Grimsley (also voiced by Paul Frees) to take the baby to the "Orphan Asylum". On the way there, a gust of wind blows both sled and baby to the mountain of the Whispering Winds, where the animals hide him from the Winter Warlock (voiced by Keenan Wynn) and convey him to an Elvish family by the name of Kringle. Led by Tanta Kringle (voiced by Joan Gardner), the elf queen, they adopt the baby and name him “Kris”. A few years later, Kris hopes to restore the Kringle family as "The First Toymakers to the King".

When Kris is old enough, he volunteers to deliver the elves' toys to Sombertown. Meanwhile, Burgermeister has outlawed all toys in the town, and declares that anyone found possessing a toy will be arrested. On his way to Sombertown, Kris meets a lost penguin whom he names Topper (also voiced by Paul Frees). In the town, he offers toys to two children washing their stockings by a water fountain. He is stopped by Miss Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester), their lovely school teacher; but she softens toward Kris when he offers her a china doll as a "peace offering". As Kris gives more toys, Burgermeister arrives, and Kris gives him a yo-yo. Burgermeister at first happily plays with it; but when Grimsley (not knowing that Kris is the baby Claus) reminds him of breaking his own law, Burgermeister orders Kris' capture.

As Kris and Topper return to the Kringles, the Winter Warlock captures them; but when Kris gives him a toy train as a present, the Warlock befriends Kris. To repay him, he re-unites Kris with Jessica, who informs him that Burgermeister has destroyed all the toys and the children now request new ones. When Burgermeister hears that Kris means to bring more toys, he orders all doors to be locked, before their houses are searched; but Kris enters by the chimneys, and the children hang their stockings by the fireplace to conceal the toys therein.

Thereafter Burgermeister sets a trap for Kris as he makes another delivery, and thus captures the Kringles, Topper, and Winter. Jessica pleads with Burgermeister to release her friends, but he refuses, and Jessica requests Winter Warlock to break everyone out; but Winter refuses, on grounds of having little magic except some feed corn enabling reindeer to fly. With the reindeer's help, the Kringles, Kris, Topper, and Winter escape. After months as an outlaw and discovery that their home was destroyed by Burgermeister's guards, Kris returns to the woods, where he grows a beard as a disguise. After Tanta suggests that he return to his birth name "Claus" for safety, Kris marries Jessica. After the ceremony on December 24, the group travels to the North Pole to build their own castle and workshop. As the years pass, Kris travels only at night to evade Burgermeister's enforcers, until the Meisterburgers died out and their laws were abolished. Kris' legend goes worldwide. Having become Santa Claus, he is unable to fulfill all the toy requests throughout the year, and reserves his efforts for Christmas Eve.

At the end, S.D. Kluger remembers that he still has to deliver letters to Santa and leaves for the North Pole (joined by Topper, Winter, the Kringle family, and a parade of children singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town") during the credits. Santa steps out of his castle and waves to the viewers.



© 1970 Videocraft International, Ltd.

Musical numbers

CD cover
  1. "The First Toymakers to the King" sung by Tanta and the Kringles featuring the Mike Sammes Singers
  2. "No More Toymakers to the King" sung by Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsley
  3. "Be Prepared to Pay" AKA "If You Sit On My Lap Today" sung by Kris and the Westminster Children's Choir
  4. "One Foot in Front of the Other" sung by Kris and Winter featuring The Mike Sammes Singers
  5. "My World is Beginning Today" sung by Jessica
  6. "Wedding Song" AKA "What Better Way To Tell You" sung by S. D. Kluger and The Mike Sammes Singers
  7. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" sung by S. D. Kluger and the Westminster Children's Choir

Released by Rhino on October 1, 2002, the soundtrack for Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is available along with that of Frosty the Snowman, the Rankin-Bass special produced the previous year in 1969. This edition contains the full dialogue and all songs for both specials.

Home video releases

Beginning in 1989, the special has been released numerous times on VHS and DVD. The 2005 DVD release included a CD single of Mariah Carey performing the title song. The special is also available as part of a DVD box set with other Rankin-Bass Christmas titles including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Frosty Returns. In 2010, the special was released in the same box set on Blu-ray Disc. In 2015, both the special and Frosty the Snowman was released on Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo packs in the 45th Anniversary Collector's Edition.

Video game

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town!
Publisher(s) IGN
Distributor(s) DreamWorks Classics
Director(s) Jules Bass
Series Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
Platform(s) Wii
Nintendo DS
Release date(s)

‹See Tfd›

  • US: November 8, 2011
Genre(s) Christmas
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer

The video game, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town!, was released on November 1, 2011 for the Nintendo DS and Wii.




A novelization (an oversized children's hardback) of the special was published by Running Press Book Publishers in 2008. The script was adapted by Sierra Harimann with watercolor illustrations based on the original show by Mike Koelsch. There are some additional details in the book, although it is unknown if they are from the imagination of the author or were based on the original script. The Dismal Forest is at the foot of the Mountain of the Whispering Winds. The little girl and boy Kris meets when he arrives are named Annette and Andy. The Sombertown Dungeon was built like a fort with a courtyard in the center, and it is there that the reindeer land to rescue everyone.


  1. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town!". IGN. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  2. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town!". IGN. Retrieved 8 November 2011.

External links

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