Well known in the 1970s for their animated specials, Rankin/Bass completed their last holiday special in 1985 with The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Based on the 1902 book by L. Frank Baum (best known as the author of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), the story was adapted for the small screen by Julian P. Gardiner.
The story focuses on the origins of Santa – a babe found in the Forest of Burzee, the Great Ak allows the wood nymph Necile to raise the human among the Immortals, and she names him Claus.
When he becomes an adult, the Great Ak tells Claus to make the mortal world better. He moves to the Valley of Hohaho, becoming a toymaker and delivering gifts to the children of the valley.
But the Awgwas don’t like that Claus is trying to spread joy and try to prevent him for delivering toys. They kidnap him, but he escapes, focused on spreading joy, especially to the children who live in the Weekum orphanage.
As he gets older, he uses reindeer to help him deliver toys farther and has the Immortals come to his aid to continue his good works. But will he be able to continue as the Awgwas plot against him?
the Immortals consider granting Claus immortality? What will happen?
Released on December 17, 1985, the CBS TV Christmas special was typical stop motion animation and a highly edited story to keep to the 50 minute deadline of the hour special.
Breaking from tradition, this is the only Rankin/Bass special that doesn’t have a celebrity narrator – and one of the few that didn’t gain a strong audience. The book wasn’t readily found in bookstores at the time, a story that had faded out of publication.
But the story wanted to explain the origins of Santa Claus, how he became someone who wanted to bring joy to children, how he delivered his gifts and in the end, how a Christmas tree was tied to his legacy and how he gained his immortality.
The show didn’t grab ratings nor any notable critic support, and sadly became the last Christmas special done by Rankin/Bass.