It is perhaps one of the most continuously unsolved riddles in this or any age: Who is Santa Claus? Is he man? Is he myth? Is he legend? Is he all these things? Or is he something more --- something beyond any person's comprehension?
These questions, and many others, represent some of the concepts and ideas tackled by David and Leslie Newman, Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler, when the four of them sat down once upon a time in the early 1980's to conceive what ultimately became Santa Claus: The Movie. The resulting story was prepared by the Newmans, with David Newman assuming sole screenplay credit. And it all begins in an unspecified period that one might estimate as being midwinter in the Middle Ages, a desolate, far-off time when, in the winter months, the dangers were many and the hardships unnumbered.
Yet even during these harsh conditions and backward times, families often gathered together for telling tales --- and at this particular period, somewhere during the 14th Century, even storytime is an essential part of life. We thus see Granny, these children's favorite teller of tales (Aimee Delamain) recounting one of her favorite stories:
"If a traveller came to that cold and freezing place --- and no traveller ever did," says she, in describing this "magic kingdom at the Top of the World," "all he would see would be ice --- mountains of ice and snow. But on certain nights, when the stars of the sky shone like jewels, a wondrous light appeared in the heavens, and then many lights..... in all the colors of the rainbow --- and some colors never seen before. And 'way on top, the North Star sparkled...... And suddenly, the ice mountains cracked open, and beautiful, beautiful lights pierced the sky --- and then, out came the Vendequm, hundreds of them..... all in their brightly-colored clothes!"
"Granny, what's a Vendequm?" pipes up the littlest child, Else by name.
"Ah! Those are the little men who live in the ice mountains, just under the North Star," Granny explains. To a few of the older youngsters, this is basically a rerun of the same tale Granny told last year, and the year before, and so on. All these children know for certain is that they are waiting for someone very special.
At that moment, another child cries out: "It's them! Here they come!"
Sleigh bells are heard as the vessel's two occupants disembark from their oddly-crafted conveyance. The man is a stocky, grey-bearded fellow in his late fifties; the woman, almost a decade younger than her husband, with a round and rosy face.
Pulling a huge, hefty burlap sack from the sleigh, and settling it upon his left shoulder, the woodcutter enters the barn, Anya his wife at his side as always. Immediately, the children begin gathering around their big, burly friend. "Wait!" he admonishes them. "Don't I get to hear something first?"
All at once, the throng of kids remember their manners. And with one joyous voice, they shout: "Happy Christmas, Uncle Claus!"
Wasting little time, Claus (David Huddleston) begins taking from his sack, one at a time, a huge assortment of hand-carved wooden toys, which he passes to each child, who in his or her turn responds with a happy thank you.
Anya (Judy Cornwell) watches this scene with wonder and love in her heart. She and Claus have lived happily together these 30 long years; yet both their spirits remain unfulfilled. For they have no children of their own. Their fondest, dearest wish --- to share their love with at least one child --- has been heard in their prayers many times over the years, but somehow, those prayers have never been fully answered. So Claus has had to make do with giving his gifts to those families in his village that do have children. Consider little Else, whom we briefly met earlier. Claus has apparently saved his most special gift for her.
She smiles delightfully, Granny looking on tenderly, as the big-sized, big-hearted man gives Else her gift:
"What is it?"
"It's the Vendequm," Granny replies. "Just as I was telling you."
Sometime later, the last present having been given, Claus and Anya prepare to take their leave. But though they are warned to remain --- especially in light of an oncoming blizzard --- they must go nonetheless, for there are other children who need their toys on the other side of the forest. Within moments, our friends and their faithful reindeer, Donner and Blitzen by name, are on their way..... and swiftly find themselves in thick of this mighty blizzard!
It is at this point that Claus suddenly begins to sense that something is dreadfully wrong. So ferocious is this storm that neither Claus nor his animals can make a trace of, or even recall, any kind of familiar landmark, despite the fact that they have travelled through these woods for years! "I can't find it, Anya! I can't find the road!" Claus shouts. The situation becomes even worse when, first Donner, then Blitzen, begin to weaken. Though Claus tries his hardest to encourage his faithful companions, it does no good. Little by little, second by second, the outcome is becoming obvious: the two humans and the two animals are about to freeze to death.
But still, Claus does his darndest to encourage his companions. "Now listen!" he shouts over the howling wind. "Over there, there's food and a bed and straw and hay and everything a smart team of reindeer would like! But here --- here is where you freeze to death! Now come on, my good boys!"
"Claus! Come back! I can't see you!" Anya screams desperately; and almost too late, Claus races back to her side, and holds her ever so tightly. But still, it is all in vain. The four friends are done for.
Or are they?
We next see Donner, awaking with his usual snort, and raising his head.....
....Surely, something's wrong here. The last I remember, we were all freezing to death. But....exactly where are we?
Slowly, Donner gets to his feet, and nudges Blitzen. Before long, both reindeer are snorting loudly; and that's just enough to time to allow Claus and Anya to re-emerge from their own stasis.....and witness the incredible scene before them. Somehow, the sleigh and its passengers and crew have been positioned on a frozen plain, completely devoid of trees.....and far, far above them, the most amazing twinkling stars shine like precious jewels in that vast sea which is outer space.
The questions, and there are and will be many, begin to surface in the two humans' minds: How did we get here? Why were we brought here? And by whom? And --- is that the North Star far above us?
It most definitely is. And that's not all.
As Claus and Anya, along with Donner and Blitzen, continue to reassess so-called reality, they are greeted by a most unusual experience: literally hundreds of men, some bearded, some clean-shaven, some old, some young, all of them wielding a wild and unique assortment of specially-shaped Christmas candlesticks --- are slowly, deliberately marching toward the sleigh and its occupants. The leader of this strange welcoming committee, an elderly fellow with a gentle sort of face and wearing a mutton-chop style moustache, is the first to bid Claus and Anya welcome.
"It's the Vendequm!" gasps Claus.
"The little people?" his wife whispers in wonder.
"We prefer to be called Elves, if you don't mind," says the kindly old Elf. And thus are Claus and Anya introduced to gentle-hearted old Dooley (John Barrard), who has been such a wonderful person in terms of helping us guide you through KringleQuest.com. "We've been expecting you," says he.
"Expecting us?" asks a confused Claus.
"For a long, long time," Dooley nods. "We almost gave up hope."
"But where are we?" Anya wonders again.
Dooley's response: "Home."
As the conversation continues, four of these Elves notice Claus' old, antiquated sleigh. The leader of this odd quartet is Patch (Dudley Moore), a wide-eyed, impulsive young Elf with big dreams. Very big dreams. His three colleagues --- Boog (Tim Stern), Honka (Peter O'Farrell) and Vout (Christopher Ryan) --- kneel on the ground as Patch examines the oldness, if you will, of Claus' semi-remarkable (at least, in his eyes) sleigh. The examination is cut short when Claus and Dooley notice the young rogue suddenly.
"Well, welcome aboard, sir," he begins. "Speaking for the boys and myself, I ---" He does get a bit flustered, but is immediately reassured by Anya's gentle smile. Then, however, Dooley decides that the time has come for Claus and Anya to see their new home. He orders Patch and Company to look after Donner and Blitzen, and then returns his kindly gaze to the two humans.
"I don't understand," says Claus. "What new home? There's nothing here."
"Look again," replies Dooley, raising his eyebrows ever so slyly as he smiles...... And then, the magic really begins!
An entire village has just materialized before their --- and OUR --- disbelieving eyes!
"Where did it come from?" Anya wonders yet again.
"It was always here," Dooley explains, "but it can't be seen by just anyone, y'know." Then, with a merry flourish, wise old Dooley orders: "Come, fellow Elves! Take them to their new home! Lead and follow, follow and lead!" And thus, we see a joyous procession of Elves --- and the two humans whom they will eventually come to call friends and leaders --- on their way into the incredible universe of North Pole Headquarters!