The Year Without a Santa Claus

The Year Without a Santa Claus

Based on a children’s story published in Good Housekeeping in 1956, The Year Without a Santa Claus imagined every child’s worst nightmare – what if Santa decided to take a year off? The story might have faded into obscurity, except stop-motion animation gurus, Rankin-Bass decided to give it new life in 1974, with a star-studded television special that won the hearts of many a kid.

Poor Santa is feeling under the weather on Christmas Eve, so much so that he visits his doctor who advises the jolly man that it would be wise to take some time off. Feeling a bit depressed and questioning whether the world’s children still believe in him, Santa decides to let his helpers, Jingle and Jangle, take over the rigorous responsibilities while he gets a little rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, the two helpers aren’t the most adept. Traveling with Vixen, one of Santa’s prized reindeer, they are shot down over Southtown, a small town located between the fortresses of two competing brothers who control the weather, Heat Miser and Cold Miser. Lost in Southtown, Santa’s helpers disguise Vixen as a dog, but that only makes matters worse when Vixen is apprehended by the local dog catcher and sent to the pound.

The mayor is skeptical of their story, but agrees to free the reindeer if the pair can prove they are elves by making it snow in the perpetually warm town. Since they are unable to pull off such a feat, Mrs. Claus intervenes on their behalf and tries to get Snow Miser to work his magic in Southtown. Unfortunately, that region is under the control of his brother, who refuses to help unless his frigid sibling gives up control of the North Pole. Unable to negotiate a deal, Mrs. Claus takes her case to the mom of the bickering brothers, better known as Mother Nature.

Meanwhile, dressed in street clothes, Santa decides to travel to Southtown to get his reindeer back. Along his journey, he learns that all the world’s children still adore him. In fact, they have decided to show their love this year by making him presents for a change. Heart suitably warmed, Santa decided to venture out on Christmas Eve after all.

The Year Without a Santa Claus first aired on ABC in 1974, featuring Mickey Rooney as the voice of Santa Claus and Shirley Booth as his loving spouse. Veteran actors, George Irving and Dick Shawn brought the Heat Miser and Snow Miser to life. Their respective songs are one of the best remembered parts of this special.

In 2006, a live-action remake aired on NBC, featuring John Goodman as St. Nick, but it failed to capture the charm of the original. Two years later, a sequel to the 1974 version aired, called A Misers Brothers’ Christmas. The stop-motion animation was back, along with Mickey Rooney and George Irving who both reprised their original roles.

Still, it is the original that continues to resonate with former kids who made The Year Without a Santa Claus part of the regular holiday viewing for many years. It may not have quite earned the popularity of such mainstays as Santa Claus is Coming to Town or Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and as a result, broadcasts have become less frequent in recent years. Thankfully, however, it is included in most Rankin-Bass Holiday compilations on the market so future generations can continue to enjoy this beloved special.

Did you curl up in front of the television to watch The Year Without a Santa Claus each time the holidays rolled around? Do you still remember the Heat Miser song? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this classic special in our comments section below.

2 Responses to “The Year Without a Santa Claus”

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  1. Bonnie Ritter says:

    I have always loves this show, It was always my favorite. I even used the song on my land line back in the day, around the holidays. Is it going to be on Tv this year?

  2. Bonnie Ritter says:

    Thank You

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