Top 12 Santa Clauses
December 3rd, 2013
(Shortened version of the opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. (Silence; he raises his fist slolwy before he slams down on a button and flies through the roof and into outer space) CHRISTMAS! (clips of Christmas celebration from Santa Clause: The Movie play)
NC (vo): The freaking best time of the year is back! Christmas! God, I love it! If I could find a way to kidnap Christmas, tie it up in my basement, visit it every night and chop off a little bit of its body to consume it so I could slowly BECOME Christmas...
NC: I wouldn't because that's gross, but nevertheless, I fucking love it!
NC (vo): This year, I'm not only doing top 12 lists and editorials, but I'm reviewing some of the worst holiday specials ever. (question mark appears) All building up to what many decree the worst holiday special of ALL TIME.
NC: But we'll get to that when we get to that. Let's talk about one of the most important parts of the holidays: Jolly Old St. Nick himself, Santa Claus!
("Santa Claus is Coming to Town" performed by Fred Astaire plays as various images of Santa Clauses appear)
NC (vo): There's been so many Santa Clauses over the years and we all have our interpretation of what we think makes the best one. Which has the most unique take, the most enjoyable performance, which one do we look at and say without any doubt, "THAT'S Santa Claus."
NC: Everyone has their personal picks and we're gonna look at my Top 12 favorite today. Why Top 12? (shakes his hands excitedly) BECAUSE IT'S CHRISTMAAAAS!!! This is the Top 12 greatest Santa Clauses!
(Title for Top 12 Best Santa Clauses)
(For each interlude, "Deck the Halls" is playing in the background and we see Norman Rockwell's painting of Santa Claus at his table reading mail)
NC (vo): Number 12 -- "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town". Yeah, so, as many of you know, I'm not really a Rankin/Bass fan. Which is not to say I don't understand why people enjoy the specials, they're just a little too awkward and... creepy for me. But, I'll give this one credit, not only it does create a decent and kind-loving Santa Claus, but it mostly shows a rather young man, which is actually pretty rare.
Kris Kringle: You tell those young'uns there'll be plenty of toys, but only if they behave themselves.
NC (vo): That's Mickey Rooney doing the voice and he hits just the right amount of gentleness and sincerity.
Kris Kringle: (to the Winter Warlock after he becomes human) Why, look here. Changing from bad to good is as easy as... Taking your first step.
NC (vo): He's full of energy and wants to do all he can for the world. The only thing holding him back is the budget of how much movement the animators are allowed to give him. Whoa, watch that hand there, buddy! That's thirty dollars per finger bending! I know it's cheap, I know it's underwhelming at times, but you give the studio credit for what they got. And what they ended up with may not look glamourous, but it still at least is very heartfelt. I don't know. Even as a non-Rankin/Bass fan, I can't find myself leaving him off the list. And maybe that's for the best. How's that song go again, you creepy mailman with slits on the side of his mouth?
S.D. Kluger (singing): Santa Claus is coming to town.
The Joker (from "The Dark Knight"): You wanna know how I got these scars?
NC (vo): Number 11 -- "A Christmas Story". Okay, you know I had to at least have one traditionally BAD Santa Claus in there. And this one is, by far, my favorite. But that's not to say there's hasn't been certainly a ton of entertainingly bad Santa Clauses over the years, including (pictures of) "Futurama", "Home Alone", "Bad Santa", and "The Santa Clause". And while those guys were all fun, this is the one I always think of when I think of the traditional jerky Santa Claus.
Santa Claus (played by Jeff Gillen): And what do you want for Christmas, Billy? A toy truck?! Get him off my lap.
NC (vo): It's not that he's the meanest, it's just... It's clear all he wants is his paycheck at the end of the day.
Santa Claus: Oh, I hate the smell of tapioca.
NC (vo): But at the same time, he puts on just enough of a show so that he can technically keep his job. Look how quickly he switches back and forth.
Santa Claus: (to "elf") If Higbee thinks I'm working one minute past 9:00, he can kiss my foot. (to a kid) Ho-ho-ho-ho!
NC (vo): Admit it, there's a part of us that can really identify with this Santa, because he doesn't want to start anything, but at the same time, it's a job, a job he's not very fond of, but he might as well exploit because people think he's good at. How many of us haven't been in a position like that? But at some point, even he can't stay in character the whole time and shut the slide-climbing Ralphie up with his foot. It might be one of the best uses of a wide angle shot ever.
Santa Claus: Ho, ho, ho. (pushes Ralphie with his foot, he goes down the slide)
NC (vo): Hey, how many Santa Claus exhibits had a slide, by the way? I never forget to go on a slide. I'd love to go on a slide! (a screaming kid goes down a slide) Shut the fuck up, kid! You're on a slide in the mall after seeing Santa! You've got it good! Anyway, despite the fact that there's a lot of the Santa scrubs out there, this one, by far, is my absolute favorite.
Santa Claus: And what's YOUR name, little boy?! HO, HO, HO!
NC (vo): Number 10 -- "Rise of the Guardians". Nothing like a Santa who kicks ass to be thrown in the mix-up. While this movie can be clunky at times, there's no doubt that the best part is Alec Baldwin as a Russian Santa Claus.
North: Hey, there he is! Jack Frost!
Jack Frost: I love being shoved in a sack and tossed through a magic portal.
North: Oh. Good. That was my idea.
NC (vo): Who'd even have thought to have Alec Baldwin in that part, but you know what? You can't even tell! He's absolutely perfect for it!
North: (to Man in the Moon) It's been a long time, old friend!
Jack Frost: Am I on the naughty list?
North: Ha! ON naughty list? You hold record. But no matter. We overlook. Now we are wiping clean the slate.
NC (vo): I admit, I was kinda torn between this Santa and Father Christmas from "Narnia" (clips from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe") as both are sword-wielding fighters, which is not usually the role you see Santa take. Yeah, hand out those dangerous weapons to kids, you blood-hungry psychopath. (back to "Rise of the Guardians") But with this Santa, it feels okay. He seems like a crazy eccentric who would only really attack if he needed to. Or at least, if it's a lot of fun. He's just so energized and so addicted to what he does. Even in the scene when he has to do other people's job like the Tooth Fairy, he just seems to enjoy doing it so much. Listen to how he talks, look at how he jumps up and down! This guy's enjoying it and it's just contagious!
North: A race? Is it a race? This is going to be... epic!
NC (vo): He's a person who just loves his work. But, when evil comes calling, it's good to know he can also open up a merry can of fuck-your-ass-up whenever he needs it. How can you not love this guy? He's strong, he's a hardworker, he's a fighter, he loves what he does, and he's voiced by the asshole from "30 Rock". That's a pretty awesome Santa in my book.
North: Give me break.
NC (vo): Number 9 -- Jack Skellington from "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Now, some might call bullshit on this as Jack is not technically Santa Claus. In fact, this movie even has a Santa Claus, and he kidnaps him so he can take over his job. But, truth be told, I kinda think he makes a better Santa Claus than... the real Santa Claus does in this version. This Santa Claus is always kind of grumpy and pissed off, which... is understandable: he is being kidnapped and held hostage. But at the same time, look at how much fun Jack is having in his place.
Jack Skellington: (as he is shot upon by cannons) They're celebrating! They're thanking us for doing such a good job. Whoa, careful down there! You almost hit us!
NC (vo): Even when's Santa's released, he still seems kinda cranky when returned to his job, but Jack, he's just happy to be back to his old job again. In fact, he's happy to have even got a chance to be Santa for one night, even though it didn't work.
Jack: (singing) And for a moment, why, I even touched the sky! And at least I left some stories they can tell. I did!
NC (vo): There's just something about his passion for it. He clearly loves what he's doing and appreciates it to no end.
Jack: You're welcome, one and all!
NC (vo): And, I'm sorry. That Christmas was awesome! I don't care if it's out of place! A crazy-ass Christmas celebrating the dark and insane parts of humanity might be welcomed!
NC: You know, apart from the Christmas celebrating the dark (crowded store clip is shown) and insane parts of humanity we're already aware of.
NC (vo): Even though he got the wrong idea, you can't deny his heart was in the right place and that he put all his might into making something he thought was so special. He's an example of being in the right attitude in the wrong place. But hey, you still can't fault him for having the right attitude.
(clip of Jack riding Santa's sleigh and laughing is shown)
NC (vo): Number 8 -- "The Twilight Zone: The Night of the Meek". Yeah, I know what you're thinkin', a Twilight Zone episode, really, in the top 12 Santa Clauses? Well, this is a very different kind of Santa Claus from a very different kind of source. The Twilight Zone, often known for dealing in the creepy unknown, gives us a really aggressive but very heartwarming take on the origins of a very unique kind of Santa.
Henry Corwin: Someone should remind her that Christmas is more than barging up and down department store aisles and pushing people out of the way.
NC: Again, going back to the dark and insane (crowded store clip is shown again) parts of humanity that we're all sadly very aware of.
Henry Corwin: Christmas is another thing finer than that. Richer, finer, truer.
Henry Corwin: Drunk? Of course I'm drunk! I'm intoxicated with the spirit of the yule! Drunk with the spirit of the yule! Intoxicated with the magic and wonder that is Christmas Eve! I'm inebriated with joy and delight! Yes, officer, I'm drunk! (everyone laughs)
NC (vo): Yeah, a little corny and silly but Carney's performance as well as that brilliant writing from Rod Serling makes this impossible not to feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Narrator: There's a wondrous magic to Christmas, and there's a special power reserved for little people. In short, there's nothing mightier than the meek.
NC (vo): Number 7 -- Paul Giamatti in "Fred Claus". A lot of people probably want me to put Ed Asner from Elf in this category as the hard-working Santa who clearly shows the exhaustion of what he's going through, but for me, that goes to Paul Giamatti's Santa. Not that I can back this up as a good movie, I can't, it's pretty stupid! But still, Giamatti gives the performance of a kind of Santa we don't see too often: the overworked Santa. He's not a jerk or cranky or anything like that. He's just having trouble keeping up with his nitwit brother, his stress inducing job and constant notes from upstairs saying if he doesn't get back on track, he could lose Christmas forever.
Fred: I'm filled with kindness.
Santa: No, no, no, no, you don't have to do that. Love, kindness, it's coming off you like, like, radiation or something.
NC(vo): Some might say this is kind of a depressing Santa to watch, but I think it works because you see how much effort he's putting into it and reminds us not to take advantage of those who are kind enough to do such nice things.
Annette Claus: The efficiency expert arrives in 15 minutes.
Santa: We're gonna be fine.
Annette: I know we're gonna be fine, I know it, I know...
Santa: We're fine. It looks...
Annette: Yes, I know.
Santa: Yep. (Kisses Annette) Here we go.
NC(vo): You feel his pain and want to help them even when you're watching it. I would gladly shoot Vince Vaughn, sir, just give me a bullet.
Santa: Alright, I got a hustle 'cause I gotta... meet somebody right now, okay?
Fred: Aye, aye, captain.
Santa: Uh-huh, yeah...
Fred: Rest assured, my man!
NC: When it looks like he may have lost Christmas forever, he doesn't just shake his head and look disappointed, he looks downright destroyed, like all the good things he's valued in life has all amounted to nothing! It just tears him apart!
Santa (whispering): It's ridiculous for anybody to expect that kind of thing. No, you can't, it's too huge, believe me, I know. (chuckles sadly)
NC(vo): Which, of course, makes us all the more happy when things go right again. Yes, he loses his cool at times, but he clearly shows anyone would in this situation. It's a much more human and relatable Santa and in the end, nobody can blame him for what he does and how hard he works doing it. It's a great portrayal by a great actor.
(Clip of Santa walking into the workshop to see Fred partying with the elves.)
Santa: HO, HO, H-gah!
NC (vo): Number 6 -- Santa the 20th from "Arthur Christmas". This is one of those movies I hope is catching on and, once again, delivers a unique kind of Santa. Played by (image of a person NC describes is shown) that British guy whom you always seen in everything, but never bothered to remember his na--
NC: Oh, fuck it. It's Jim Broadbent! I'm ending that joke.
NC (vo): This is a very forgetful Santa and I don't mean that as in the character's forgetful, I mean that as in the character is forgetful... He has a bad memory!
Mrs. Claus: This one's to me, dear. (hands his husband a present and the cards. Santa takes the cards and gives the present to his wife)
Santa Claus: Oh. Happy Christmas, Margaret.
Mrs. Claus: Oh, thank you.
NC (vo): He has trouble keeping up with technology, and so the elves end up doing most of the work for him. Some might say that this makes him lazy, but, really, it just makes him old and inadaptable. But it's obvious he's still trying. It's just hard for him to follow all the new technology and the new gadgets and such, as happens with a lot of people who get older.
Santa Claus: Forgot the PIN code.
Elf: Just crossed into Germany, sir.
Santa Claus: Germany? (yawns) So many countries these days.
NC (vo): There's still the sense that this Santa doesn't want to stop helping or giving toys. He just doesn't know the best way to do it anymore. As the writing starts to hit the wall, he can see more and more that he may give it up to somebody else. But he's in such denial because he loves giving so much that he doesn't want to leave it.
Santa Claus: I'm not just the fatty in the suit, am I?
Mrs. Claus: Of course not, dear.
NC (vo): Yes, he does have a selfish moment here or there, but you realize that's because he's been in a bubble for so long, because he's always been on top. And, eventually, in the end, he does realize the right direction everything should go in, even if it is hard for him to accept. It's hard to explain. There's just kind of this quiet, gentle kindness that you can't help but really enjoy with him. You want to see the job done right, but at the same time, you don't wanna see it taken away from someone so nice and so likeable. You get the feeling this is the guy who's been doing it the longest. And you don't want to see him stop, even though you know, at some point, he has to. Even though he's slow, even though he's forgetful, you can't help but feel for him the same way he obviously feels for everyone else.
Santa Claus: I'm Santa. The children... (takes the Christmas wrapping papers) rely on me.
NC (vo): Number 5 -- "The Wonder Years: A Very Cutlip Christmas". As you could see, I couldn't get any video footage for this one, but that's not gonna stop me from still talking about one of the greatest Santa Clauses ever. It's the gym teacher, Mr. Cutlip. Yeah, remember him? The tight-ass jerk off that all the kids hated? Well, in this episode, it turns out he actually sneaks out in secret to play a mall Santa and of course Kevin, played by Fred Savage, is the only one to find out. The result is Cutlip being extra nice to Kevin in exchange for not sharing his secret which gets all the other kids really angry at him. But when Kevin accidentally tells some of the boys about the secret, they claim they're gonna go to the mall and make fun of him, humiliating him in front of the school and in front of the whole mall. But the best part is as soon as they get there, they don't see the coach under the Santa beard, they just see, well, Santa himself. I mean, they know it's him clearly, but they don't care, they just saw a cool guy sharing and giving to a bunch of kids and for no other reason except that he really likes to do it and the transformation of die hard cynic to charming holiday icon is so strong that even the high school boys can't bring themselves to break it apart. It's a really great moment watching someone again literally and figuratively become Santa Claus and the strength of good intentions winning over the hearts of those who were originally looking to share misery. It's well paced, well directed, and of course, well performed. The coach's ability to go from such an unlikable jerk into someone who really does care for kids and just wants to see them enjoy the holidays is really something to see. And you're definitely not gonna see it in these stills, so see if you can manage to find the episode and check it out. It's definitely worth the search.
NC (vo): Number 4 -- Richard Attenborough from "Miracle on 34th Street".
NC: Insert Mara Wilson revenge joke here.
(a clip of Mara Wilson laughing evilly is shown, scaring NC)
NC (vo): A lot of people have mixed feelings about this remake and I'd be lying if I said I kinda did, too. It has both good elements and bad elements that you can nitpick on, especially in comparing it to the original. But the one element that is particularly flawless is Attenborough as Santa. Again, we just see what an upbeat kind sweetheart of a man the real Santa Claus could be.
Ed Collins: I'd like the court to see Mr. Kringle make the reindeer fly.
Kris Kringle (played by Richard Attenborough): He only flies on Christmas Eve!
NC (vo): I love the detail of his costume, I love the smile he constantly has, and I love how he's always giggling unless he has something to be concerned for, like the well-being of others. We still get all the things we associate with Santa: his joy, his kindness to kids, his love for his work, and his ability to win over others with the sheer passion of what he does.
Deaf Girl's Mother: She's deaf. You don't have to talk to her. She just wanted to see you.
Kris Kringle: (signing to the girl) You... Are... A very... Beautiful... Young lady.
NC (vo): Admit it, you're smiling just looking at this guy right now, aren't you? When he's happy and upbeat, it never feels like a performance. He seems really genuinely happy and upbeat. And when he's concerned, he looks and feels really concerned. Again, it never seems like he's reading a script and he's acting it out. He looks totally in there! It's a good performance that definitely deserves to be recognized. For me, this is one hell of a great Santa.
Judge Henry Harper: He thinks you're Santa Claus.
(after a beat, Harper and Kris laugh. Kris then bends forward to Harper's grandson)
Kris Kringle: I am.
NC (vo): Number 3 -- Edmund Gwenn from "Miracle on 34th Street"! Yeah, don't act like you didn't see this one coming. Nothing beats the original, and this one is proof for that. There's nothing wrong with Attenborough's giggling and bubbliness, but Gwenn's version is much more reserved and dignified, which again, you don't see in a Santa that often when you think about it, but it's definitely welcomed as we figure a man who does what he does for so long would carry a lot of proud weight on his shoulders.
(Cuts to the real Santa talking to a fake Santa on a parade float.)
Santa: Don't you realize there are thousands of children lining the streets waiting to see you? Children have been dreaming of this moment for weeks! You're a disgrace to the tradition of Christmas and I refuse to have you malign me in this fashion!
NC(vo): But it's leveled out perfectly with how much he just gets along with others, especially children. There's a sense that he doesn't talk down to them, he speaks to them as if he takes every word they're saying seriously.
Susan Walker: He said, "What kind of an animal are you?" and I said, "I'm not an animal, I'm a girl".
Santa: Why didn't you tell him you were a lion or a bear?
Susan: Because I'm not a bear or a lion.
Santa(chuckles): Yes, but the other children are other children and they were pretending to be animals.
Susan: That's what makes the game so silly.
Santa: Well, I don't think so.
NC(vo): You can tell that he listens to everything being said by them and never disregards any of it.
Santa: Well, the only important thing is to make the children happy whether Macy's or somebody else sells a toy, it doesn't make any difference. Don't you feel that way?
Doris: Well, I didn't know Macy's did.
Santa :As long as I'm here, they do.
NC(vo): But that said though, it's nice having two Santas as different as these two versions and truly comparing them is like apples and oranges, but let's face it, that's what we're here to do and since we gotta, Gwenn I do think is a little bit better. He's got the stature, he's got the pride and he's got it for all the right reasons: to help and delight all little children who come before him. He's one of America's classic Santas for a reason.
Santa: Oh, go ahead, pull it.
(Susan does and Santa gives a little "ouch" ,making her realize it's the real Santa.)
NC (vo): Number 2 -- "Santa Claus The Movie". Now, of course, I've made fun of this movie before in my review of it, and I still stand by it's a pretty goofy flick. But I still can't bring myself to say that David Huddleston as Santa brings anything less than pure Christmas joy. He has so many of the elements needed for a good Santa: the hard worker, the jolly laugh, the weight of his importance, as well as, well, the weight, his love for children...he's just got so much going for him.
Santa: Did you see their faces, when they saw the toys?
Santa: They love their Uncle Claus, huh? Ha-ha-ha-ha!
NC (vo): I also give credit that the movie does take the whole Santa Claus mythos very seriously. There's a lot of quiet moments and even dramatic moments that really make you feel like you're watching something big and important go down.
Ancient Elf: From this day on, now and forever, you will bring our gifts to all the children in all the world.
NC (vo): And his performance is right in the center of it. I think "Polar Express" tried to do something similar with its buildup, but the Santa we saw wasn't on screen that long, and...I don't know, I never felt like I really got a chance to know him. This Santa, we most certainly did. We know he's funny, we know he's kind, we know he'll risk anything just to make the world a little bit of a better place. It's funny because his voice is not the traditional voice you would think of when you think of Santa. It's more high-pitched and less "ho-ho-ho-ey", but he's just so cheerful and happy whenever he speaks with it that it's almost contagious. You just want to laugh every time he laughs.
Santa: We did it! We did it! Ha-ha-ha!
Joe: Well done, Donner!
NC (vo): It's also great that even before becoming Santa, he makes and gives toys to begin with. In fact, he nearly dies in a storm just to give kids who have no toys something to play with that year. It's a performance he made all his own and we're thankful that he did, because it's truly one of a kind.
NC (vo): And the Number 1 greatest Santa Claus of all time is... "Ernest Saves Christmas".
NC: I don't care! I DON'T CARE! I don't care if this movie is stupid! I don't care if it's completely goofy and idiotic! THIS HAS THE BEST SANTA CLAUS EVER!
NC (vo): Played by the late Douglas Seale, this guy captures the constant thrill, the constant kindness, the constant joy, the constant love, the constant... just... Christmas! You just look at this guy, you hear his voice and you just think, "Christmas"! Listen to him!
Santa Claus (played by Douglas Seale): Well, you don't get rich by doing a once-a-week children's program on local television. You've got to do it... for other reasons. And that's why I'm here.
NC (vo): He makes friends with complete strangers, he has an immediate connection to children without even talking to them. He's just... oozing with Christmas goodness and... d'awww, he's just... he's so lovable! This actor brings to life a man who's been doing what he's been doing so long that he's actually endangered at ever being done again by anyone else, all because he loved it so much. He loved giving, he loved being Santa, he loved being the voice of kindness. But at the same time, you can hear the urgency in his voice that it might all go away forever. He feels guilty for loving his job so much that he might have put everything in danger. It's a situation where, literally, the guy was too nice. And... I don't know! Isn't that sort of what Santa Claus should be? It just breaks your fucking heart when you see him trying to put things right, but then it all falls apart. Even the guy he wants to take over the position, who clearly doesn't believe in Santa Claus, has a hard time not believing in Santa Claus after talking with him. And you would, too! Just listen to his genuine sincerity!
Santa Claus: You know, I've carried this torch for more seasons than I should have done. Because I loved it so much. But now... (starts sobbing) I've taken to making notes! Well, you can't do it that way! It shouldn't be done that way! It can't be done that way.
NC (vo): Did you even notice that he actually said "It can't be done that way" twice in the same sentence? That's not a good writing! And yet, he pulls it off so flawlessly that most people don't notice. They're just too engaged in his performance. He's also good at showing older kids that obviously don't believe that he's aware of their troubles at home and that he still cares about what happens to them. That they always have somebody who listens and would be on their side.
Santa Claus: My mistake. I mixed you up with someone whose parents that had some problems last year and, well, they got so wrapped up in themselves that they forgot that she needed a little attention too.
NC (vo): That voice is the kindness you could find. That face is the kindness you could find. Even in a jail cell full of killers! Within minutes, he has them all singing Christmas carols!
Convicts: (singing) Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves...
A Lone Convict: (singing) And a partridge in a pear tree!
(a bunch of hands pop out of their cells and start applauding)
NC (vo): They even stand up for him when somebody doesn't believe he's the real thing.
Ernest: My good man, you are not Santa Claus.
Santa Claus: I tell you, I am!
Ernest: Are not!
Santa Claus: Am, too!
Ernest: Are not!
Convict: Excuse me, but he really is Santa Claus!
NC (vo): That is fucking hardcore. And who can blame them? He may not be chubby, he may not have the deep voice, but you take one look at this guy and you just say, "Santa". Yes, it comes from a dumb movie, yes, there's tons of things about that don't make sense, but it also has the best Santa Claus I have ever seen, and I'll believe in him all over again every single time I see him.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it BECAUSE IT'S CHRISTMAAAAAS!!! (leaves his chair while dancing to the hard rock rendition of "First Noel")
(And we come to the credits)