Bet you didn't know Santa was a total ginger!
You'd think after the near merciless beating I delivered to Rudolph, I'd be ready to take out old Saint Nick as well but I think you'll be surprised how much I enjoy this special. This was the one along with Rudolph that I watched many a time when I was very young regardless of the time of year, and it's aged very well in my memory. Though I doubt it's the first, I do say this is the best Christmas special that tells the story of how Santa Claus came to be. The story takes every pre-known fact about Santa and interweaves it into a lovely little story, starting when he was just a wee baby and adopted by a family of elfs who parent him and teach them their ways of toymaking. As he grows up he decides to take the toys he and his family made to the children of a small and rather quite depressing looking town, which brands him as an outlaw and forces him to be more elusive in his delivering of toys to the good kids. There he meets a schoolteacher named Jessica and a very sweet relationship starts between them, and they continue on with their lives while still delivering gifts. Unlike the Rudolph special that took barely a darn thing from the actual song it was based on, this special covers just about everything with hardly anything added on besides a penguin in a scarf and a warlock turned babyface but even then it works very well. Mickey Rooney is our Santa and honestly I never realized how absolutely southern he sounds in this special, and it is glorious. It's just a cherry on top of an already very good performance where most of the story focuses on when Kris Kringle was still a young man and he brings such a legitimate joy and niceness to a world known and beloved person. Robie Lester is such a sweetie in this movie as Jessica and quite possibly has the best song in the whole special, in fact the songs are quite sparse compared to the last special but are done way better. They're more memorable, fun to listen to, and are even songs I wouldn't mind hearing on the radio this time of year. One Foot In Front Of The Other is an incredibly upbeat and catchy tune, and serves basically as an inspirational song while My World Is Beginning Today is a slow little ballad that's quite lovely to listen to and Robie Lester slays the singing. The more I think about it, just the entire quality of the production is improved since Rudolph, the animation while still stopmotion is more fluid and looks nicer, the songs are definitely a gigantic improvement, the story and characters feel natural, and it can have it's sweet moments that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And again my favorite character is the warlock who Kris meets and convinces him to be a friend to his journey, I don't know if it's Keenan Wynn's voice or what but he's a joy to watch and it's funny to think he legitimately scared me when I was younger before he became a good guy but honestly I was one step above being afraid of my own shadow at that point so I'll give myself some credit. And we even have Fred Astaire as the narrator and it's always nice to see him in a movie. So yeah, kinda surprising that I love this special so much but it's hard to argue with decent material and fine actors that make it all work so well. Now this is a definite recommendation for the holidays with your youngins' or just if you're curious from how much praise I showered it with. No wonder I used to watch it a lot as a kid.