FATHER CHRISTMAS – Another British Christmas Classic

By Marty Mulrooney

Father Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of AMO’s readers! Last year on Christmas Day I did a post about The Snowman, a wonderful British animation from 1982. This year, I thought it would be fun to take a look at its spiritual successor, the 1991 animated film Father Christmas!

  • Father Christmas was first shown on Channel 4 in 1991, nine years after the debut of The Snowman on the very same channel.
  • It is based on two books by Raymond Briggs: Father Christmas (1973) and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (1975).
  • Here at AMO we love alternative ideas, and this film is full of them! Father Christmas is shown here as a grumpy (yet kind-hearted) old man living in contemporary Britain.
  • As a result, there is no Mrs. Claus to be found, with Father Christmas instead happy in the company of his cat, dog and two reindeer.
  • However, eagle-eyed viewers will notice a picture on the wall in Santa’s hallway that could very well be Mrs.Claus, complete with a white beehive hairdo!
  • The story involves Father Christmas deciding that he needs a holiday. He converts his sled into a camper van and then travels to France, Scotland and Las Vegas!
  • Ernest the milkman from Ethel and Ernest (another graphic novel by Raymond Briggs) can be spotted at one point delivering milk to the Royal Family on Christmas morning. Also, Jim and Hilda Bloggs from When the Wind Blows (again a graphic novel by Briggs, which was also made into an animated feature in 1986) can be seen enjoying a drink in the Scottish pub.
  • English comedian, actor, film director, writer and producer Mel Smith voices Father Christmas to great affect, saying “blooming” a total of 72 times.
  • However, this won’t apply to the American English-dubbed version of the film, which features a jollier (and therefore rather untrue to the original) interpretation of the character as voiced by actor William Dennis Hunt.
  • As well as some light swearing, Father Christmas is also seen ogling the ladies and having a rather violent spout of diarrhoea, as well as gambling and enjoying the occasional drink and cigar!
  • This film manages to slightly soften the tragic ending of The Snowman, by featuring a cameo from the boy in his dressing gown who is once again partying at the north pole.  Father Christmas cheekily mentions to the boy that he “managed to make it again”, hinting that he eventually rebuilt his friend the snowman!
  • The boy can also be seen wearing the scarf Father Christmas gave him in the previous film.
  • This strongly suggests that both films take place within the same universe. Indeed, the animation is practically identical and both films were created by very similar production teams.
  • Father Christmas is dedicated to the late actor John McGuire.

I strongly recommend checking out this film, it is the perfect Christmas treat for viewers of all ages! Merry Christmas!

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