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Santa on TV & Films

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus – and watching Santa themed films has become essential for children the world over as they await that magical night.

From the very start of film history, Santa has been a key character. Over 100 years ago in 1898, a magical black and white, British short film entitled The Visit of Santa Claus showed Santa arriving via a fireplace to leave presents for some sleeping children.

Since then, Santa has become a film star in his own right, appearing in countless films and animations, and always stealing the show whether he is the main character or not! Just think of Polar Express, one of the most popular of all Christmas films. The story of a children who join a magical train and only encounter Santa at the very end – yet everyone remembers those scenes, even when it is just a little bell ringing.

As how filmmakers portray Santa, the answer is simple. The traditional red outfit is very much in evidence, as is the white beard, white hair, metal rimmed spectacles and lots of booming Ho Ho Ho’s, but beyond that anything goes. Over the years, this genial present bringer has been homeless, kidnapped, sent into Space, foiled a plot by Martians who wanted to kill him, reared by mythical creatures, encountered numerous imposter Santa’s and even turned into a serial killer. Not surprisingly, the BFI has had to create a list of family friendly Santa films.

Some titles have been remade several times such as the classic Miracle on 34th Street. First made in 1947, it comprises a blend of realism and spirit lifting fantasy telling the story of a little girl who visits Macey’s department store, and encounters Santa. She is very disbelieving and takes a lot of convincing before accepting that he really is Santa.

The Santa Clause movies have become another perennial favourite involving a man who accidentally causes the death of Santa and has to take his place. There have already been three films in the series and a fourth is currently being made.

Santa has also made signature appearances in many films. In The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Santa’s arrival marks the dawning of the end of the White Witch’s rule and he gives the Pevensie children the tools they will need in the forthcoming battle with the White Witch. He has even appeared in Doctor Who such as the 2014 episode entitled Last Christmas.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Naturally too, there have been numerous animated versions, most notably Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer telling the story of Rudolph, the reindeer with a glowing red nose. Santa is shown as a caring person, who tries to give Rudolph confidence, eventually recognising how Rudolph can help steer the sleigh through the worst possible storms so that presents can be delivered to children around the world. Even Mickey Mouse has taken the role of Santa.

Yet it is the Santa of the Polar Express who really takes centre stage now for many children. The dramatic Polar Express trains which run on various heritage lines provide one of the most spectacular and unique Christmas experiences any child could wish for during the festive season, bringing elements of the film to life in the most magical way possible.