‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ review: Does the film work in 2020? - Deseret News clock menu more-arrow no yes

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Does ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ work in 2020?

‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ still works in 2020 — except for one song that makes you a little uncomfortable

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN - “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the classic animated one-hour holiday special that has delighted generations, will air on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Rankin and Bass)
A scene from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”
Rankin and Bass, ABC

Editor’s note: Do the Christmas classics still hold up in 2020? We take a look.

Rankin and Bass’ “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is a classic stop-motion animated film and creative Kris Kringle origin story, based on the song of the same title, that has been a staple of every holiday generation.

The TV movie from the creators of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” attempts to answer children’s questions about Santa Claus and gives explanations for how traditions like Christmas trees came to be.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” which stars Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney and Keenan Wynn, premiered in 1970 and aired on ABC this year for its 50th anniversary.

But is it something you can still watch in 2020?

I’d say yes, for the most part. It’s an all-around fun family film with lessons that remain important and relevant today.

One of the best moments shines with positivity. I was touched by a scene in which the Winter Warlock captures Kringle, who in turn gives the villain a toy, an act of kindness that melts his cold heart.

This is followed by the song “Put One Foot in Front of the Other,” which teaches that changing one’s outlook and behavior from bad to good is a choice that is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. We could certainly use more positivity and kindness in 2020.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN - “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the classic animated one-hour holiday special that has delighted generations, will air on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Rankin and Bass)
A scene from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”
Rankin and Bass, ABC

However, watching this movie now, it’s obvious the world has changed quite a bit since the film was made 50 years ago. Like other Christmas traditions that have brought about controversy as they have aged, such as the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” there is one questionable part of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the song “Be Prepared to Pay.”

Here are some of the lyrics:

“If you sit on my lap today, a kiss a toy is the price you’ll pay. When you tell what you wish for, in a whisper, be prepared to pay. ... When you sit on my left knee, don’t be stingy, be prepared to pay.”

I would hate for children to watch this and think it’s OK for a stranger to pressure them for a kiss or to sit on his or her lap in exchange for a gift. I don’t think this is the way the song was originally intended; it was probably meant to encourage children to love others, which is a noble goal.

But the song did make me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for parents to have an age-appropriate discussion with their children about what kind of behavior is acceptable from others in the real world.

Overall, the movie still promotes good values, aiming to show the effects of selfishness versus selflessness and inspire viewers to serve others. “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” remains a Christmas classic in 2020.