The Life of Claus

Aside from The Wizard of Oz, the L. Frank Baum book that likely receives the most adaptations in other media is The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, likely because Santa is such a popular character in his own right. The best-known audiovisual version is the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation special from 1985, but there’s also a traditionally animated take on the story that came out in 2000. I hadn’t seen it previously, but I recently came across it on YouTube.

I’m not sure how much longer it will stay up there, but I’m pretty sure it’s also out on DVD. It’s a pretty faithful adaptation, in some ways preserving the structure of the original story more than Rankin-Bass did. (To be fair, though, it IS more than twice as long, so can incorporate elements that couldn’t be fit into a half hour minus commercial time.) While there’s a definite charm to the stop-motion that a regular cartoon can’t necessarily capture, the animation really is quite good. It’s crisp and features realistic movement. I do have to say this one is a little less creative than Rankin-Bass in how it portrays some of the creatures Baum didn’t describe in much detail, particularly the Awgwas, which in this version appear to be made of rock.

Most of the Immortals on the council are barely shown at all, although we do see a fair amount of Bo, and there are also a fiery guy and a purple woman who don’t seem to match any of the attendees described in the book.

Wisk, who in the book is a mischievous fairy helper to Santa, here becomes a shape-shifting pixie who serves as the talkative comic sidekick. It’s largely the same role Tingler the Sound Imp has in the Rankin-Bass version, only Wisk is more annoying.

I can see why they’d want to add someone for Santa to talk to, since the book isn’t particularly dialogue-heavy, but I can’t help but see him as essentially the Jar Jar Binks of the film. I also have to wonder why so many characters in this American production had British accents, but I suspect it’s because we Americans tend to think of people in the ancient world as being British, as little sense as that might make. The Knooks all having Scottish accents was an interesting choice.

The movie changed some of Baum’s names, particularly Bessie Blithesome becoming Natalie, which of course means “Christmas.” Then again, maybe her full name is something like Natalie Elizabeth Blithesome of Lerd. The King of the Awgwas, unnamed in Baum’s text, is called Mogorb. And another little girl is named Mayrie, which is pretty close to Trot’s real name. Santa himself is called Nicholas, even though Baum stated that this was actually a corruption of his true name Neclaus, but the bit about “Claus” meaning “little one” in fairy language is retained. The first two reindeer are given neither Baum’s names nor any of the more traditional ones, but are instead named Mistletoe and Holly.

Speaking of audiovisual adaptations of this book, Jared Davis recently offered some thoughts on the 1994 anime miniseries Shounen Santa no daibôken, or “The Adventures of Young Santa.”

The IMDB lists a 2015 version of the story as well, but there’s very little information given.

This entry was posted in Characters, Christmas, Holidays, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Life of Claus

  1. marbpl2 says:

    There have been several unmade versions as well (the 2015 one listed may end up being one of them). Filmation had it on a list of projects, as did Filmation head Lou Scheimer after that studio folded. There was one planned about six years ago as well as a Claymation one from Will Vinton in the 1990s.

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