The Year Without a Santa Claus is a 1974 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The story is based on Phyllis McGinley's 1956 book of the same name, illustrated by Kurt Werth. It was originally broadcast on December 10, 1974 on ABC.
The film was Shirley Booth's final acting credit as she retired from acting after its completion.
Santa Claus wakes up with a cold after Thanksgiving but "not quite yet Christmas"—according to Mrs. Claus. He is told by his doctor—who thinks that nobody cares about Christmas any more—that he should make some changes to his routine. Santa decides to take a holiday instead of delivering gifts, and leaves it to two elves, Jingle and Jangle, to find proof that people still believe in Santa Claus. The elves take Santa's youngest reindeer Vixen, but they are shot down between the two fortresses of the Miser brothers; the Snow Miser is a supernatural being in charge of cold weather, while his brother the Heat Miser is in charge of warm weather.
Traveling on, they become lost in Southtown, a small town in the Southern United States. They receive a citation from a policeman for "riding a vixen the wrong way on a one-way street, crossing the white line, and wearing funny-looking clothes on a Sunday." They try to disguise Vixen as a dog, but Vixen is captured and sent to the dog pound where she becomes very sick. They befriend a boy named Ignatius "Iggy" Thistlewhite and visit the skeptical Mayor of Southtown. The Mayor laughs hysterically at their story but agrees to free Vixen if Jingle and Jangle prove that they are elves by making it snow in Southtown on Christmas Day.
On their behalf, Mrs. Claus visits the Miser brothers to ask Snow Miser to make it snow in Southtown. Snow Miser declares that the town is under Heat Miser's control. Mrs. Claus proposes a compromise: Heat Miser will agree only if Snow Miser will surrender the North Pole to his control. When Snow Miser refuses, Mrs. Claus decides to "go over their heads" by speaking to their mother. Mrs. Claus arrives at Mother Nature's house where she persuades Heat Miser and Snow Miser to compromise if they don't want to face their mother's wrath if they refuse.
Santa, dressed in civilian clothes, arrives in Southtown to rescue Vixen. He discovers that some people still believe in him and in the spirit of Christmas when all the world's children make him presents. This sets off headlines around the world.
One little girl is saddened by Santa's decision to skip his Christmas Eve journey, and she writes that she will have a "Blue Christmas". Touched by all the caring and generosity, Santa decides to pack the sleigh and make his Christmas Eve journey after all, including a public stop in a snowy Southtown. On Christmas Day, the children of Southtown were very happy with their presents they found under their trees; even Ignatius has his own bicycle and gives his parents their presents as Mrs. Claus explains that for "yearly, newly, faithfully and truly", Santa somehow always comes. The special ends with a reprise of the title song in the present as Santa got up from his bed to dress himself, and with his reindeer hitched up and his sleigh loaded with gifts, he took off to bring the joy of Christmas to the children of the world.
- Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus, the narrator
- Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus
- Dick Shawn as Snow Miser
- George S. Irving as Heat Miser
- Bob McFadden as Jingle Bells, Additional Voices
- Bradley Bolke as Jangle Bells, Police Officer
- Rhoda Mann as Mother Nature, Mrs. Thistlewhite
- Ron Marshall as Mr. Thistlewhite, Mayor of Southtown
- Colin Duffy as Ignatius "Iggy" Thistlewhite
- Christine Winter as the Blue Christmas Girl
- The Wee Winter Singers as the Children Choir
- Produced and Directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass
- Teleplay by William Keenan
- Based on the Novel by Phyllis McGinley
- Music and Lyrics by Maury Laws and Jules Bass
- Design: Paul Coker, Jr.
- Continuity: Don Duga
- Sound: John Curcio, Don Hahn
- Production Supervisors: Akikazu Kono, Ichiro Komuro
- Musical Director: Maury Laws
- "Sleigh Ride" (instrumental)
- "The Year Without a Santa Claus"
- "I Could Be Santa Claus"
- "I Believe in Santa Claus"
- "It's Gonna Snow Right Here in Dixie"
- "The Snow Miser Song"
- "The Heat Miser Song"
- "Blue Christmas"
- "Here Comes Santa Claus"
- "The Year Without a Santa Claus (reprise)"
The special premiered in 1974 on ABC, and still airs on Freeform. Warner Bros. is the show's current distributor, through their ownership of the post-1974 Rankin/Bass Productions library.
On September 5, 1991, the special was first released on VHS by Vestron Video in the Christmas Classics Series line, which is distributed by Family Home Entertainment. Warner Home Video released the special on VHS on September 2, 1992 and also re-released it on VHS on September 28, 1999. The special was then released on DVD on October 31, 2000, and re-released on the Deluxe Edition DVD on October 2, 2007. Warner Home Video released the special on Blu-ray on October 5, 2010, making it the first Rankin/Bass production to be released on that format.
- Main article: The Year Without a Santa Claus (2006 film)
A 90-minute 2006 live-action remake of the Rankin-Bass classic The Year Without a Santa Claus premiered on NBC December 11, 2006. A widescreen DVD was released on December 12, 2006 (UPC 085391115120).
This remake follows the same basic concept as the original: Santa, disillusioned by children's lack of belief in him and in the spirit of giving, decides not to deliver toys this Christmas Eve, despite the arguments by Mrs. Claus and two of his helper-elves, Jingle and Jangle. They decide to provide Santa with some proof that children still believe and that they still deserve toys from Santa, so the elves visit the United States in search of Christmas spirit.
- Main article: A Miser Brothers' Christmas
This 2008 sequel used stop-motion animation like the original. It was animated by Cuppa Coffee Studios. Mickey Rooney, at age 88, reprised his role as Santa Claus; and George S. Irving, at age 86, reprised his role as Heat Miser. Snow Miser, originally voiced by Dick Shawn, who died in 1987, was voiced by Juan Chioran. Mrs. Claus, originally voiced by Shirley Booth, who died in 1992, was voiced by Catherine Disher.
- Christmas Specials Wiki: The Year Without a Santa Claus
- Review by critic Jayson Harsin at Blogcritics Magazine