A few weeks ago, I talked about how we spent our Christmas watching a delightful Rankin/Bass Christmas special marathon, which included Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, and Frosty the Snowman, all four of which were part of a VHS set that I used to watch a good deal back when I was a duckling. Having not seen these movies (save for Rudolph) in probably twenty years, I was engulfed in a wave of nostalgia for the simple joys of childhood. With the wonder of youth reignited within my soul, I decided to seek out another Rankin/Bass Christmas special, The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), which I had never seen before. A small bit of research prior to watching the movie made it very clear that the Miser Brothers were the highlight of the special and the main reason why people who had seen it back in the day remembered it so fondly.
Well, dear readers, just this morning, I actually had my second viewing of the movie (a proper one, too, that didn’t include text in the middle of the screen), alongside the sequel that was released decades later, A Miser Brothers’ Christmas (2008). With both movies fresh in my mind, I wanted to write a little review about both. (The latter movie’s review will be published in my next post.) Before I begin, I just wanted to mention that I recently discovered with utmost horror that The Year Without a Santa Claus also had a, gulp, live-action remake in 2006. Morbid curiosity compelled me to watch a few clips online. I feel like a part of me has since died. Don’t go seeking this out, dear readers. For the sake of your own sanity, I implore you!
Seriously, don’t do it.
Anyway, my review begins with The Year Without a Santa Claus. To summarize the first half of the story, Santa Claus (voiced by Mickey Rooney, who will always be the voice of Santa Claus, as far as I’m concerned) ends up confined to bed with a bad cold (not to be confused with a good cold…joke courtesy of Snow Miser). To top it off, his grumpy doctor causes him to fear that no one even cares about Christmas anymore, leading the poor, disheartened Santa to decide he just won’t bother delivering any presents this year. Mrs. Claus (voiced by Shirley Booth, who also played the titular character in the sitcom Hazel), as expected, isn’t too pleased by this news. She considers taking over Santa’s job herself this year, then decides instead to send the elves Jingle and Jangle out into the world beyond (along with the adorable baby reindeer, Vixen) to prove to Santa that the Christmas spirit is still alive and well.
It turns out Santa’s fears might indeed be true, after all, because when the elves question some school children they meet in Southtown, none of them believe in Santa Claus or care what happens to Christmas. Also, Vixen gets mistaken for a dog and taken to the dog pound. Because she apparently made for a pretty convincing canine once socks were placed over her antlers. I mean…what about the hooves? I’ve never seen a dog with hooves before, have you? But I digress.
Worried about the elves and Vixen, the latter of which is “just a baby”, Santa visits Southtown (creatively undercover as a man named Klaus), and, in the process, manages to convince Iggy, one of the school children that we saw previously, that Santa Claus is indeed real after singing “I Believe in Santa Claus” with Iggy’s parents, Iggy’s father in particular recalling a time when Santa Claus appeared to him one night when he was a child after he had ceased to believe in Old Saint Nick’s existence. (I’d like to pause for just one moment and ask a quick question, dear readers. If Santa Claus appeared in your room one night and started serenading you, how would you react? The comment section is open for your input.)
After this song, Iggy visits the mayor, of all people, along with the elves, in order to try and get Vixen released from the dog pound. This is the messiest part of the story, to be honest. You see, the mayor ends up agreeing that he’ll release Vixen from the dog pound if it snows in Southtown, which hasn’t happened in at least 100 years. Apparently this would also convince him that Jingle and Jangle are real elves, and in turn, Santa Claus himself is real, as well. The whole plot thread involving Vixen getting sent to the dog pound was completely unneeded, especially when Santa himself simply pays to have her released. If their visit to the mayor was solely for the purpose of restoring belief in Santa Claus, then this would have made a lot more sense.
This was probably my one and only nitpick, and one which is quickly forgotten because we’re finally getting to the best part, the Miser Brothers! You see, these two control the weather, with Snow Miser being responsible for the cold weather in the north and Heat Miser being responsible for the warm weather in the south. (Let’s just forget the fact that the Earth has northern and southern hemispheres, mm’kay?) So Santa returns home with Vixen, who is sick from spending so much time in the warm weather of Southtown, while Santa himself resumes wallowing in the fact that he is sick and unappreciated.
This is when Mrs. Claus devises a new plan. A cunning plan. She’s going to show that mayor a little Christmas spirit, and in order to do so, she, the elves, and Iggy visit Snow Miser, who quickly agrees to make it snow…or at least he would have, if it wasn’t for the fact that Southtown is in his brother’s territory. So they visit Heat Miser next to try and work out some sort of compromise, but he refuses to allow it to snow in the south unless he can have one spring day in the North Pole, a notion Snow Miser doesn’t like one bit. With neither brother willing to work together, Mrs. Claus is left with no choice but to visit their mother, Mother Nature herself, who is able to force her “nasty boys” to compromise. You wanna know the secret to making unruly children behave? It turns out you simply need to threaten them with lightning.
Thanks to Mother Nature’s intervention and questionable parenting methods, it snows in Southtown, belief in Santa Claus is restored, and…Santa still ends up delivering presents because he is so touched by the fact that the world’s children decided to send him gifts in appreciation for what he does for them. Also, there is a song called “Blue Christmas”, and is it just me, or is there something a bit…passive aggressive about it? Hey, Santa Claus, we hope you have a nice holiday all to yourself this year. Just know that all the children of the world are miserable and crying because of your absence. Anyway, take care!
Though certain aspects of the story are in need of some help, this was really a delightful Christmas special, and I’m only disappointed I never got to experience this one as a child. The story is sweet and heartwarming, the music is memorable, and I loved the fact that Mrs. Claus played a greater role than she normally does. Furthermore, this is certainly the portrayal of Santa Claus we all know and love. (I don’t know who that imposter in Rudolph was….)
Of course, the absolute best part is the Miser Brothers, and it didn’t take me long to understand just why they’re so universally loved by everyone who’s seen the special. Their song is by far the catchiest in the whole movie, and their personalities are wonderful, made even better when we get to see them interact. Snow Miser is the friendlier, more chill (pun intended) of the two, while Heat Miser is more of a hothead (pun intended again). While Snow Miser is really charming and charismatic, I also got a big kick out of Heat Miser’s more disagreeable personality, such as when he initially refuses to do Mrs. Claus a favor because “no one ever does anything for me”, while also complaining that Santa Claus is unfair because Christmas tends to put everyone in the mood for some cold weather and snow rather than heat and rain. I also find it rather odd that the Miser Brothers were having video chats decades before the invention of Skype!
As if it wasn’t already more than clear, I fell in love with the Miser Brothers the moment I saw them, and that’s why I was also curious to watch the sequel, A Miser Brothers’ Christmas, released in 2008. (There was definitely nothing released in 2006 that relates to this topic. Nothing at all.) But since this post is running pretty long, I’ll be reviewing this movie in the next post. Until then, don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below! What did you think of the movie, dear readers? And which Miser Brother is your favorite?