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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Year Without A Santa Claus

Sometimes, I get inspiration from some of the strangest places. And in the case of today's edition of The Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar, I ended up getting the inspiration from several people on my Facebook friends list.

Occasionally, I will come across some rather interesting photos that are posted on my News Feed right around this time of year. There are lots of photos that wish people a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, and there are also some photos that are rather sarcastic, with a biting wit to them.

And, then I saw photos of these two charming characters.

Do you recognize these two? It's okay if you haven't. I must admit that I was completely confused myself. As it turns out, these two are named Heat Miser and Snow Miser. The two men are stepbrothers, and both of them were literally polar opposites of each other. Their mother? Mother Nature, of course!

Anyway, as their names describe, Heat and Snow basically live up to their descriptions. Heat Miser has his base around the Southern United States, and he has the power to make hot summer days and perfect beach weather any day you want it.

On the opposite side of the world, Snow lives near the North Pole, making sure that every place he goes is covered with tons of snow, ice, and frost. The temperatures are always biting cold...just the way he liked it.

Now, you'd think that with two bi-polar personalities as Heat and Snow had that they would not exactly find common ground. And,'re right. Both of the Miser brothers seemed to have an extreme case of jealous sibling rivalry. Heat Miser would try to melt Snow Miser with heat rays, while Snow Miser constantly kept giving Heat the cold shoulder...and then some.

Why, it would take a Christmas miracle for the two brothers to reconcile with each other. Like, say...if one of the key figures at the North Pole decided to take a vacation and the children of the world lost their faith in him. If there was only one way to convince this person to come back to work, and that one way for that to happen was for two sworn enemies to work together. Will Christmas be saved?

That's the question that has to be answered in the 1974 Rankin-Bass television special “The Year Without A Santa Claus”.

Now, part of the reason why I have never heard of the Miser brothers is the fact that I have never seen this television special until now. It initially debuted on ABC on December 10, 1974, and aired annually on that network until Christmas 1980.

Problem was...I wasn't born until 1981.

Now, reportedly it airs on the television cable channel known as ABC Family...but I don't get that channel on my TV, so I went years not even realizing that this television special even existed.

Thank goodness for YouTube!

Now, I imagine that a lot of you are like me, and have never seen this television special before. So, I'll post the links to the whole show HERE, HERE, HERE, and...oh yeah, HERE. I figure that we can watch it together while I talk a little bit about the storyline.

By the way, this Rankin-Bass special differs from previous ones, as the narration is entirely done by a female. In this case, the narration is performed by Mrs. Claus herself, voiced by the late Shirley Booth. To round out the voice cast is Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus, George S. Irving as Heat Miser, the late Dick Shawn as Snow Miser, the late Bob McFadden and Bradley Bolke as Jingle and Jangle Bells, and Colin Duffy as Ignatius Thistlewhite.

Ignatius Thistlewhite. What a mouthful. Better call him Iggy from now on.

So, our story begins at a time before any of us on Earth were born (well, I suppose in my case, this was definitely the truth). It was Christmas Eve in the North Pole, and all the little elves were busy working away on toys for every boy and girl, and all was going well.

Until Santa got sick.

You know that nasty winter bug that is going around that is causing some people to develop a serious cold that can turn into pneumonia (the only reason I know about this bug is because everyone else in my family seems to have gotten it except myself)? Apparently Santa ended up coming down with it, and the end result forced him into bed. Mrs. Claus called in the doctor to give him a check-up, and the doctor forces him to make some changes in his Christmas Eve activities. Apparently all of that riding around in an open sleigh through heavy snow and sleet has done a number on Santa's body.

Is Santa upset about this? Of course...just not for the reasons you might have expected. Santa doesn't seem to think that the people of Earth care about him anymore, nor do they believe in Christmas anymore. Mrs. Claus tells him that he's being foolish, but Santa is set in his ways, and feels that maybe a holiday will do him some good.

Enter the elves known as Jingle and Jangle, and their baby reindeer, Vixen.

Mrs. Claus seems to believe that if Santa Claus was confronted with the truth that the people do love him, and that they do care about Christmas, it may snap him out of his depression. So, she sends Jingle, Jangle, and Vixen out to find people who truly do believe in Christmas.

It was all supposed to go flawlessly...well, until poor Vixen got distracted by the fighting between Heat and Snow, and ended up getting zapped by one of the Heat Miser's rays. The impact sent all three of them crashing down towards the village of South Town, USA, a place where it feels like summer vacation all year long.

To make matters worse, Jingle and Jangle end up getting ticketed by a police officer for riding a Vixen down the wrong way of a one-way street, crossing the White Line, and wearing strange clothes on a Sunday! Even worse, Vixen's temperature seems to be spiking up, and she is getting a bad fever. And, on top of all that, when Jingle and Jangle try to disguise Vixen as a dog, the local dog catcher takes her to the pound!

With help from a young boy named Iggy, Jingle and Jangle make an appeal to the mayor of South Town, begging him to release Vixen so that she can get better. But the skeptical mayor laughs in their faces when they claim that they are Santa's elves. Nevertheless, he agrees to free Vixen on one condition...that they make it snow in South Town on Christmas Eve.

A challenge, considering that South Town hadn't had a single snowflake appear in the town in well over a century.

Still, the elves did have one chance. Mrs. Claus was sort of a figure of neutrality between Heat and Snow, and both Heat and Snow held her in high regard. All they would have to do is recruit Mrs. Claus's help to get Snow Miser to make it snow in South Town. Problem solved.

Or not. Apparently, South Town is out of jurisdiction for Snow Miser. South Town is a community Heat Miser has had under his watch for a hundred years, and there was no way that he would allow Snow to bring a frosty chill over the community, even for one day. Although, he did wish them luck in trying to convince Heat to let Snow play in South Town for one day.

Needless to say, when Mrs. Claus asked Heat to let snow fall in South Town for Christmas Eve, the reception that she got wasn't the warmest. The only way that Heat Miser would agree to let it snow in South Town would be if Snow Miser would allow Heat Miser to create a lovely Spring day in the North Pole. Since neither brother would allow the other one to do what they wished, they found themselves in a stalemate, and it seemed like there was nothing that could be done.

But, Mrs. Claus still had one more ace up her sleeve. The question is, would her plan work?

Meanwhile, Santa is getting restless, and decides to disguise himself as an average resident of South Town, and he ends up getting a bit of an epiphany over the impact that he has on the people in town...particularly from one little girl who likes to use blue crayons...

I suppose that I could tell you how this special ends...but then what would the point be of posting a link to the television special within this blog? Click on it, and watch it for yourselves! Trust me, you won't be disappointed.  And, believe it or not, there was a sequel made that starred the Miser brothers that was released 34 years after the original!  Even better?  Mickey Rooney and George S. Irving reprised the original roles they played in the original television special!  Definitely be on the lookout for that one!

Coming up on Day #23 of the advent calendar...two weeks ago, we looked at a Christmas song by the late John Lennon. This time around, another Beatle will be featured.

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