Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

This article is about the 1974 Rankin/Bass special. For the 2006 live-action TV-movie, see The Year Without a Santa Claus (2006).

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a 1974 stop-motion animated television special, produced by Rankin/Bass. The story is loosely based on Phyllis McGinley's 1956 book of the same title, originally illustrated by Kurt Werth.


Santa's doctor recommends that he stay home this year.

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a story told by Mrs. Claus, of the year that there almost wasn't a Christmas. As the story begins, Santa Claus has fallen ill and hurt and doesn't quite feel like making his annual Christmas Eve trek. Under the recommendation of his doctor, Santa decides to issue a press release to announce that Christmas was cancelled so that he may take a holiday.

Heat Miser and Snow Miser in one of their typical battles.

Humoring her husband for the time being, Mrs. Claus assigns two elves named Jingle Bells and Jangle Bells with a task. She orders them to leave the North Pole in the weeks leading up to Christmas, to find a town where they could rally up some Christmas cheer to convince Santa to still perform his annual journey. Riding the baby reindeer Vixen, the dim-witted elves set off to the south, when they get caught in the crossfire of the ever-feuding Miser Brothers - Snow Miser, who controls the cold, northern weather, and his foul-tempered brother Heat Miser, who controls the hot weather in the south. The elves and Vixen are immediately attacked by Heat Miser and his minions as Snow Miser looks on, but they fortunately manage to escape.

The elves soon arrive in a city called Southtown, somewhere in the United States of America, but their troubles are far from over, as they receive a court summons from a local cop for committing numerous violations. To avert suspicions, they disguise Vixen as a dog. After they encounter a grouchy woman and her cat on the street and fail to produce the results they seek, Jingle and Jangle approach a group of nonchalant schoolchildren, including a boy named Ignatius Thistlewhite. Disheartened that no one seems to care that Christmas is cancelled, the elves almost fail to notice that Vixen has been captured by the dog catcher.

Santa has tea with the Thistlewhite family.

Back at the North Pole, Santa learns of his wife's plot to resurrect Christmas and sets off, accompanied by his flying reindeer Dasher, to assist the helpless elves in a dangerous world they know nothing of. After arriving in Southtown himself, he meets and befriends Ignatius and, calling himself "Mr. Klaus", asks him if he's seen the two elves. The boy's mother, overhearing their conversation, invites the disguised jolly man into her home. As "Mr. Klaus" drinks some of Mrs. Thistlewhite's tea to help with his cold, the family discusses the existence of Santa Claus, little realizing that they are in his company that very moment. Mr. Thistlewhite sings a song about when he was a boy and learned that Santa was in fact real, leading Iggy to admit that maybe he's not too old to believe in Santa himself, lifting Santa's spirits.

Iggy then tells Santa that the two elves went to go get their dog out of the pound, so he heads off to bail Vixen out himself, and not a moment too soon, as the little doe has fallen ill in the warm weather. Iggy, witnessing "Mr. Klaus" leaving with Dasher, figures out that was the real Santa Claus he and his parents were just having tea with and decides that there has got to be something he can do to help. Under his father's advice, he tracks down Jingle and Jangle (who were unable to pay Vixen's bail at the pound themselves) and brings them to the Mayor's office where they plead their case. Unfortunately, the Mayor will only believe their story if the elves can use their magic to make it snow in Southtown.

Trying to figure out how to get snow to fall in Southtown, the elves place a call in to Mrs. Claus for help. Figuring that the mayor's request could help boost the spirits of the town and her husband as well, the woman arrives in a sleigh, pulled by the reindeer Blitzen, and takes Jingle, Jangle and Iggy with her to see Snow Miser. After a rousing dance number with his minions, the wizard says he is willing to make it snow in Southtown, but can only do it if his stepbrother, who controls the weather in that part of the world, will allow it.

Mother Nature calls her sons to her home and orders them to cooperate.

The group heads south again to visit the lair of Heat Miser and his minions to present the situation to the demonic giant. Appalled at the very idea of letting his stepbrother allow snow to fall in his territory, Heat Miser refuses, saying he will only agree to the deal if Snow Miser gives him control over the North Pole's weather in exchange. Unwilling to give in on either side after a video phone conference, Mrs. Claus goes over their heads and straight to the source - Mother Nature. The kindly woman, and mother to the elements, serves tea as she coerces her sons to cooperate for the greater good, if they don't want to face her wrath if they refuse.

The children of the world line up to give presents to Santa.


Santa and his reindeer.

As it begins to snow in Southtown, Santa has just brought Vixen back to the North Pole. He soon finds out that some people still believe in him and in the spirit of Christmas after all, especially when the world's children decide they will make presents for him since he plans on taking a holiday; the children's decision sets off headlines around the world. One little girl is especially sad to miss Santa on Christmas Eve, writing to him that she'll have a "Blue Christmas." Touched by all the evidence he has seen of caring and generosity, Santa decides to pack the sleigh and make his Christmas Eve journey after all, including a public stop in Southtown, where the mayor dedicates Santa Claus Lane just in time for Santa to parade down the streets of town.


Broadcast history

The distribution rights for this special, as with much of the post-1973 Rankin Bass programs, are currently held by WarnerMedia's Warner Brothers Domestic TV Distribution.

The show was broadcast on over-the-air TV in the United States on ABC and later on CBS. On cable, the special was aired on the Disney Channel in the early-to-mid 1990s, and again in 2015, and on Freeform (as part of the annual 25 Days of Christmas programming block) from 1998 to 2017. In 2018, the special began airing uncut annually on AMC as part of their Best Christmas Ever block. It also appeared on AMC's sister network IFC in 2019, and was shown on TBS and Cartoon Network (which are oddly not sister networks of AMC) in November 2021.


CBS's later broadcasts of the special cut out part of "I Could Be Santa Claus" and "It's Gonna Snow Right Here in Dixie," as well as the scene where Jingle and Jangle talk to the grouchy Southtown woman.

When shown on ABC Family/Freeform, the following edits were made:

  • The scene where Santa tells the elves to put away the toys they are making was shortened.
  • Mrs. Claus denying that she is "up to something" when Santa asks her about it was cut.
  • The scene where Heat Miser orders his minions to attack Vixen, Jingle, and Jangle was shortened.
  • The scenes of Jingle and Jangle's encounter with the grouchy woman, Santa talking with the Southtown cop, and Jingle, Jangle, and Vixen hiding up in the tree were cut entirely. As a result, the scene of Jingle and Jangle visiting the schoolyard came immediately after they disguise Vixen as a dog.
  • The shot of Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy leaving the Mayor's office was cut.
  • The scene of the dog catcher seeing Santa flying off into the sky was cut.
  • The first few seconds of Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy waiting for Mrs. Claus on the roof of the Thistlewhites' house were cut.
  • Mrs. Claus telling Snow Miser about Santa having caught a cold was cut.
  • Heat Miser's complaining about Santa being unfair to him was shortened.
  • Jingle and Jangle expressing dread about going to see Mother Nature was shortened.
  • The shot of Santa, Dasher, and Vixen arriving back at the North Pole was cut.
  • Santa's response to the news about the people of the world allowing him to take a vacation was shortened.
  • The commercial break right after "Here Comes Santa Claus" was moved to right before that sequence. As a result, the shot of Santa and his reindeer taking off into the sky was cut.

TBS's broadcast was mostly uncut, removing only the first establishing shot of Mother Nature's home (right before the commercial break).


The Year Without a Santa Claus was first released on VHS by Lightning Video in the 1980s, and later by Vestron Video in 1991. In 1992, the distribution rights for the post-1974 Rankin/Bass specials were acquired by Time Warner; as such, all of the special's subsequent home video releases were distributed by Warner Home Entertainment. The special's DVD releases also included Rudolph's Shiny New Year and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey; the 2007 DVD release also included two retrospective featurettes, and was also released as part of the Classic Christmas Favorites box set in 2008 and the Santa's Magical Stories box set in 2011. Warner released a Blu-ray version, containing the same contents as the 2007 DVD, on October 5, 2010, making the three specials the first Rankin/Bass productions to be released on that format.


The painting from Santa Claus is Comin' to Town hanging on Santa's wall.

  • The painting of Santa in his sleigh from the end of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town can be seen on Santa's wall.
  • Snow Miser's mouth doesn't move when he says "Cooperate!?" during the phone call scene with Heat Miser.
  • This special shows Vixen, who is portrayed as female, with antlers, which real-life female reindeer have, unlike most animated Christmas productions that feature reindeer, where only the male reindeer have antlers.


Main article: A Miser Brothers' Christmas

A sequel produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Toronto-based Cuppa Coffee Animation, A Miser Brothers' Christmas, premiered on December 13, 2008 on ABC Family. Mickey Rooney and George Irving reprised their original roles as Santa Claus and Heat Miser, while Catherine Disher portrayed Mrs. Claus and Juan Chioron played the voice of Snow Miser.


Voice actor/actress Character(s)
Shirley Booth Mrs. Claus
Mickey Rooney Santa Claus
Dick Shawn Snow Miser
George S. Irving Heat Miser
Bob McFadden Jingle Bells
Bradley Bolke Jangle Bells
Colin Duffy Ignatius Thistlewhite
Ron Marshall Mr. Thistlewhite
The Mayor of Southtown
Southtown dog catcher
Rhoda Mann Mother Nature
Mrs. Thistlewhite
Christine Winter Blue Christmas girl
unknown Vixen
North Pole Doctor
Southtown cop
unknown Snow Miser's minions
Heat Miser's minions
unknown Unnamed Southtown citizen


External links

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCricket on the HearthThe Little Drummer BoyFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to Town • "A Christmas Tree" • 'Twas the Night Before ChristmasThe Year Without a Santa ClausThe First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas SnowFrosty's Winter WonderlandRudolph's Shiny New YearThe Little Drummer Boy, Book IINestor, the Long-Eared Christmas DonkeyThe Stingiest Man in TownRudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack FrostPinocchio's ChristmasThe Leprechauns' Christmas GoldThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausSanta, Baby!