Little Albert Mouse doesn’t believe in Santa Claus so he writes a blustery letter to the editor in his local newspaper, angering Santa into ignoring Albert’s friends and neighbors. In this 1974 Rankin-Bass special, Father Mouse (George Gobel) attempts to set his son straight, but before he can intercede, the young mouse also destroys the special clock built to sing Santa a song in hopes of changing his mind. Can Albert redeem himself, and his town, before it’s too late?
I don’t remember catching this particular special before, and I’ve seen most of them. The animation is crude by today’s standards in some places: I didn’t particularly care for the depiction of Santa, but the animation of the mice is much better. There’s somehow a difference in the way that the town’s humans are drawn (like Frosty the Snowman or Frosty’s Winter Wonderland) that sets Santa apart in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Kids will enjoy the short special, and learn about the impact that our decisions have on everyone else. They’ll even hear about how saying that we’re sorry doesn’t always fix the problem, that we have to take responsibility for the consequences as well. But they’ll also learn again that faith means believing in things that we can’t see, that just because we “know” something doesn’t mean we’re actually believing it with our whole heart.
Surprisingly, I found Santa being angry to be a bit offputting. While Christmas is “obviously” related to the New Testament, because of the birth of Jesus, the way that Santa could be angered by one person/mouse and their opinion, and therefore would stop showing love and affection to a whole town, seemed awfully similar to the way that the Israelites understood God’s “mood” in the Torah. That’s not the kind of attribute we normally afford Jesus, or in most situations Santa. It makes for a good story, and it’s reasonably entertaining, but it’s not the “normal” vibe we get from the regularly Christlike Santa.
Besides catching this in high definition, you’ll also enjoy the still-shot animation tour of the North Pole and the explanation of different, worldwide Christmas traditions in “Christmas: A Global Holiday,” the sole special feature.