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Christmas, that time of year that brings out the child in all of us and we get to watch our childhood favorites. To many people who grew up in Britain in the early to mid 90s the Channel 4 26-minute special Father Christmas brings nostalgic memories.
Based on Raymond Briggs’ illustrated novels Father Christmas and Father Goes on Holiday, the animated short looks at Father Christmas (Mel Smith) live his daily life, go on a well deserved holiday, prepare for Christmas and make his deliveries. The twist is this Father Christmas lives a normal live in a small terrace house in England.
This version of Father Christmas/Santa Claus/St. Nick/whatever else you want to call him, is not your traditional Father Christmas, he is a grumpy old man who is nowhere near as jolly as most other versions. The late Mel Smith performance was key, being great at being this curmudgeon fella, yet still makes him likeable and has excellent comic timing as he works mostly by himself.
Father Christmas is split into two halves, the first being the holiday where we follow Father Christmas’ misadventures in France, Scotland and Las Vegas. The second is the preparations for Christmas Eve and the night of delivers. The animation team brilliantly translate Briggs’ art style and bring scenes into motion. It is a simple, yet quaint style of animation we do not see as much of these days.
The humor in Father Christmas is soft and genteel, relying on Father Christmas’ gruff persona and his few inactions with people, some based on international stereotypes, visual gags and playing on the mix of life and Father Christmas’ duties, such as mail deliveries. This is humor that is more likely to raise a small smile then big laughs, though Smith’s rendition of ‘It’s another Bloomin’ Christmas‘ will always be a delight.
Father Christmas is a family comedy yet ends on a sweet little note as a young child sings as dawn breaks on Christmas Day.
The adaptation of Briggs’ books is a delightful piece of Christmas viewing that many 20 and 30-somethings hold dear to their hearts. It is a great Christmas tradition viewing.