Premiered December 10, 1974.
Today, “Oscar Takes A Holiday” pays tribute to Shirley Booth, who voices Mrs. Claus, narrates this special and sing its theme song. While her name may not be familiar to younger audiences, Booth was a highly-acclaimed performer during her lifetime. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1952 for her role in Come Back, Little Sheba, which was also her film debut. Booth previously won a Tony award for playing the same role on Broadway.
In addition to Sheba, was best known for playing the title role in the TV series Hazel, which earned booth two Emmy awards. The Year Without A Santa Claus was Booth’s final performance. She retired from acting afterwards and lived until 1992. Let's get to our review:
Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney) is feeling sick, tired, and sore all over. His doctor tells him he shouldn’t bother delivering toys this Christmas because no one believes in him and Christmas spirit is dying. Santa takes this to heart, says Christmas is cancelled and decides to stay home to take a holiday. Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) thinks this is terrible idea, but she can’t change his mind.
However, Mrs. Claus isn’t ready to give up hope. She sends two elves named Jingle (Bob McFadden) and Jangle (Bradley Bolke) on a mission to search for Christmas spirit and believers in Santa Claus, hoping evidence of it will convince Santa to deliver toys on Christmas Eve.
Mrs. Claus and her husband worry that the elves will run into trouble with Heat Miser (George S. Irving), who controls the weather in the southern portion of the world...
...and Snow Miser (Dick Shawn) who controls the weather in the north. They're known collectively as the Miser Brothers.
Their problems get worse when Vixen is mistaken for a dog and taken to the pound. Jingle and Jangle go to mayor (Ron Marshall) and ask him to release Vixen. The mayor will do this if the elves use their elf magic to make it snow in South Town, where it never snows.
In order to make it snow, they'll have to get permission from Heat Miser to let his brother make it snow in the south. This won't be easy, since the brothers don't get along.
Compounding matters, Vixen is sick because she's not used to the warmer climate of South Town. Santa learns of this and decides to rescue Vixen himself.
In South Town, Santa, using the name Klaus (rhymes with "mouse") meets a boy named Ignatius “Iggy” Thistlewhite (Colin Duffy) and his parents. Iggy initially expresses skepticism about Santa’s existence.
Iggy's father (Ron Marshall) and Santa tell the boy that they still believe in Santa, just like they believe in love. Iggy figures if adults aren’t too old to still believe in Santa Claus, then he also believes Santa exists.
Will Santa really skip Christmas? Can Mrs. Claus and the elves convince the Miser Brothers to set aside their differences and help them?
J.A. Morris says:
When I was a kid, A Year Without A Santa Claus was my favorite Rankin-Bass special. I still love it, but I no longer consider it to be R-B's best offering. Mainly because there’s A LOT going on in this special. There’s Santa’s desire for time off, the elves trip to South Town, the Miser Brothers, the Mayor’s song about getting snow in South Town, a sick reindeer, Mother Nature…, etc. There’s a bit too much going on.
However, it’s very enjoyable in spite of being a bit overstuffed. One reason I loved the special as a kid was because the Miser Brothers are so much fun. Their songs are very catchy and memorable, and the brothers are likable and interesting characters. I find myself humming the Misers' songs year-round.
Speaking of songs, “I Believe In Santa Claus Is” is very touching and it’s one of the best songs written for Rankin-Bass specials. It gets to the heart of what Santa and Christmas mean to us as we grow up and grow older. Jules Bass and Maury Laws really hit home runs on all the songs they wrote for this special.
Booth is great as Mrs. Claus. Building a special around Mrs. Claus was a great idea. She's a character that has lots of potential that is rarely utilized. While Santa’s name is in the title, Mrs. Claus is definitely the hero and protagonist of this special.
Mickey Rooney previously played a younger Santa in Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. He makes a great Santa and would go on to voice the character in three animated specials and also played him in a live action short.
Some background on the Miser Brothers' voice actors:
Snow Miser is voiced by character actor Dick Shawn. He’s best remembered today for playing Lorenzo St. Dubois (“Hitler” in “Springtime For Hitler”) in The Producers. Shawn appeared on dozens of TV shows and also worked as a stand-up comic and toured in a one-man show until his death in 1987.
George S. Irving plays Heat Miser. Irving was primarily a stage actor, he won a Tony award in 1973 for his role in a revival of Irene. His career began in 1945 and Irving continued to act until 2008. He passed away in 2016 at age 94.
A Year Without A Santa Claus is very entertaining and features great songs and interesting characters. This special was also a nice bookend to Shirley Booth's distinguished career.
J.A. Morris’ rating:
3 and a half candy canes.