Distributed By: Universal Pictures (UK)
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
So there I was again, looking for an animated film for Christmas that I haven't seen when I found one on YouTube called Father Christmas. The cartoon first aired in the UK on December 24, 1991 and is based on to books written by Raymond Briggs. Having never even heard of the animated film before, but seeing the pleasant reviews that were attached, I decided to check it out.
As Father Christmas begins, we see Santa returning from delivering his Christmas gifts. He appears a tad grumpy as he goes about his chores, feeding the reindeer and packing up the sleigh, feeding his dog and cat, taking off his suit and boiling water for tea. When he realizes that we are staring at him in surprise, he responds, telling us that he isn't living the "Life of Riley" as we believe.
Flashback to Santa's year before the big event on Christmas Eve. First, he plans out a vacation road trip, outfitting his sleigh to look like a camper. Not only will this disguise his sleigh from the curious, but it will also help protect him from inclement weather. He packs away his dog and cat at the kennel, wiping a tear from his eye to let us know that he has a sentimental side. Then, he proceeds to travel all over, from France to Scotland to Las Vegas and has quite a few interesting adventures, always leaving as soon as he is recognized.
When he finally returns to his home, it is time to go through all of the letters he receives from all over the world and make preparations for his big night. There are millions of letters and tons of lists to pour over and items to pick up. When the night finally arrives, Santa's in a much jollier mood, but there are adventures yet to be had as the night flies by.
This is not the Father Christmas I was expecting. We've all been raised to believe that Santa Claus is this jolly guy who longs for nothing all year but to make toys for little children and deliver them just in time for Christmas. In this animated special, we learn that Santa is an average bloke, overdoing it on the food and drink...and boy, can Santa ever pound away the alcohol. He has a taste for the finer things in life while still talking and acting like a down to earth fellow.
Sure, there are some things I could do without, like seeing Santa's bum repeatedly and Santa using the toilet, but if the creators of this cartoon were trying to depict the real Santa as being just like everyone else, well, then these things are necessities of life. Comedian Mel Smith supplies the voice for Father Christmas, establishing that cockney accent to tell the world that Santa is just like you and me.
Overall, I found myself chuckling at Father Christmas and recommending it to my friends as an cartoon geared more for the adult Santa-believers out there. But be forewarned, apparently, when this cartoon was released in the United States, it was Americanized. That means they used someone else to do the voice-over and a great deal was cut from the film, such as Santa's time in Las Vegas, his bum and more. At twenty-six minutes long originally, I can't imagine that the Americanized version of Father Christmas was much more than a mere fifteen minutes long. Some things are better left unedited. The original British version of Father Christmas is available for all on YouTube - that would be the one I would recommend watching.