Santa ‘Klaus’: The Origin


The groundbreaking animation technology used in ‘Klaus’ makes the two dimensional characters leap off the screen. (Photo Credit: Sergio Pablos Animation Studios, Netflix)

Benji Huether, Contributor

Even though there are scores of full-length Christmas movies, shockingly few of them are animated (not counting half-hour specials like Frosty the Snowman and The Little Drummer Boy). Even among these films, almost none are 2D animated. This year, though, a full length, 2D, well-made Christmas movie with a great cast arrived on Netflix, providing Christmas cheer while also pushing the very boundaries of animation: Klaus.

The story focuses on Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), the rich and pampered son of the Postmaster General, who is sent to the remote town of Smeerensburg with the mission to establish a working post office by the end of the year. Even though his task seems hopeless, with the Ellingboe and Krum clans keeping the town divided and unhappy because of their centuries-long feud, he finds a solution when he comes across Klaus (J.K. Simmons), a reclusive woodsman with a gift for making toys and a mysterious past to uncover.

While watching the movie, viewers may notice similarities in style and tone to films like The Emperor’s New Groove and Despicable Me; this is because Segio Pablos, the director, was an animator on those films, along with many classic Disney films in the nineties. One of the movie’s strong points is feeling very much like one of these Disney cartoons, while simultaneously seeming like something that studio would never make, featuring humor that, while still family-friendly, is much more in the vein of a DreamWorks movie like The Road to El Dorado or Shrek. Klaus combines the strong suits of both these studios, but also creates a whole new style of deeply shaded, nearly 3D looking animation like nothing seen before, to bring the audience an excellent experience.

Besides the talent behind the movie and its status as a technical marvel, it also provides a funny and genuinely heartfelt narrative perfect for the Christmas season. Rather than simply paying lip-service to the holiday (the word ‘Christmas’ isn’t even mentioned until at least two-thirds into the movie), the film lives and breathes Christmas spirit, showing how “a true act of goodwill always sparks another”. All of the rolls are well acted, but Simmons is the standout. The combinations of his distinctive voice with Klaus’s unique design create a version of Santa Claus that can be both extremely charming and amazingly intimidating. The characters who are more comedicly animated, like Will Sasso’s and Joan Cusack’s villains, show off just as much of the team’s talent as those with less exaggerated motions and expressions, like Alva, a main character played by Rashida Jones.

This Santa Claus origin-story is one of the best Christmas films in years, and may be one of the best children’s Christmas movies of all time, combining top-tier storytelling, stellar animation, and great voice acting to create an adventure that will doubtlessly be enjoyed by families and re-watched for many years to come.