Father Christmas (1991)

Absolutely charming. Father Christmas is an animated special based on two more of Raymond Briggs’ children’s books. It features a very stereotypical-looking Santa Claus who acts very un-stereotypically.

Father Christmas is exhausted, and decides to take a holiday in the off-season. He first tries France, only to be put off by the food (the resulting bathroom humor, while extremely tame by today’s standards, is not for everyone. Then goes to Scotland, only to be put off by the weather. He finally stays in Vegas for most of the summer months.

This is a very grounded Father Christmas. He’s old and crotchety, and prone to using ‘blooming’ as an all purpose word in every sentence. He loves Vegas because he can swim and tan, gamble, drink and watch the showgirls. But eventually he has to fly his homemade camper (pulled by reindeer, naturally) home, retrieve his pets from boarding, and prepare for Christmas.

The special follows him all the way through Christmas deliveries, with a side reference to The Snowman, as he greet the boy at the snowman party. (Technically this little scene breaks the logic of the Snowman in a not dissimilar way to The Snowman and the Snowdog, but it was just a side note and didn’t bother me nearly so much.)

The main gift delivery sequence features a fun montage and a catchy song: Another Bloomin’ Christmas.

Finally he gets home for some well deserved rest. I found this special so endearing not just because Father Christmas was amusingly grumpy, but because he was so real and also so… Santa. He was grumpy, and annoyed when people recognized him, and cranky, and he cared very much about his work, and about the kids, and his dog and cat and reindeer.

He was a bit lonely and tired, but he had purpose. It’s a very warm feeling, for the dark time of the year.

You can track this one down on Youtube, but BE WARNED, there is apparently a terrible American version loose somewhere. Make sure you’re getting the British cut. (26 min, copious use of the word “bloomin’”).