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.
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.
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 are immediately attacked by Heat Miser and his minions as his stepbrother 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. After they encounter a grouchy woman 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 fail to notice that Vixen, whom they have disguised as a dog, has been captured by the dog catcher.
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 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 maybe he's not too old to believe in Santa himself.
His spirits lifted, Santa is told by Iggy 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.
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.
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.
- "The Year Without a Santa Claus"
- "I Could Be Santa Claus"
- "I Believe in Santa Claus"
- "It's Gonna Snow Right Here in Dixie"
- "Snow Miser"
- "Heat Miser"
- "Blue Christmas"
- "Here Comes Santa Claus"
- "The Year Without a Santa Claus (reprise)"
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's 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, and also appeared on sister network IFC in 2019.
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 with Jingle and Jangle meeting the grouchy woman.
When shown on ABC Family/Freeform, the following edits were made:
- The scene with Santa telling the elves to put away the toys they're making was shortened.
- Mrs. Claus denying that she is "up to something" when Santa asks her about it was cut.
- Heat Miser ordering his minions to attack Vixen, Jingle, and Jangle was shortened.
- 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 shots of the dog catcher seeing Santa flying off into the sky were cut.
- The first few seconds of Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy waiting for Mrs. Claus on the roof of the Thistlewhites' house were skipped.
- Mrs. Claus telling Snow Miser about Santa having caught a cold (immediately following Snow Miser's song) was cut.
- Heat Miser complaining that he thinks Santa is 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, and as a result, the shot of Santa and his reindeer taking off into the sky was cut.
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 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.
|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|
|Christine Winter||Blue Christmas girl|
North Pole Doctor
|unknown||Snow Miser's minions|
Heat Miser's minions
|unknown||Unnamed Southtown citizen|
- The Year Without a Santa Claus at the Internet Movie Database
- The Year Without a Santa Claus at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Year Without a Santa Claus at TV Tropes