Review Date: 12/11/19
Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
On the eve of Santa Claus's death, The Great Ak calls a meeting of the Immortals to convince them to grant the mantle of immortality to Santa. Santa's deeds are recounted through flashbacks, and we learn that he was an orphaned child raised by a fairy and a lioness. He grew up to be a great toy maker, and learned of Man's Inhumanity To Man through his immortal family and friends. We also learn that the Immortals went to war with the cruel Awgwas that stood in Santa's way and utterly annihilated them. The council is finally swayed by Santa's kindness and humility, and bestow eternal life upon him so that he can continue making children happy.
Based on L. Frank Baum's 1902 children's book, it's definitely one of the oddest Santa Claus tales I've seen. While I found it admirable that it's completely Pagan and doesn't acknowledge Christianity at all, I also found it unsettling, overly preachy, and too bizarre to fully comprehend. It definitely feels like thinly veiled social commentary in the guise of children's literature, which leaves a bad taste. The animation is excellent and the music score is surprisingly bold and mature for a Rankin-Bass production. It's also the only Rankin-Bass holiday special that doesn't have a celebrity narrator, which sets it even further apart from its peers. I thought it was enjoyably weird, but not overly memorable.