Welcome to the unofficial transcript of the Santa Claus: The Movie™ making-of documentary. For those of you who don't know, "Santa Claus: The Making of The Movie," introduced by David Huddleston, in character as Santa, and hosted by Dudley Moore, originally aired in the U.S. on the ABC Television Network, on Christmas Eve, 1987. As with the previous Salkind making-of documentaries, the executive producers were Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler; Maria Gatti de Monreal produced; and co-directing were Iain Johnstone, writer/director of three previous Salkind making-of's (Santa Claus: The Movie™ editor Peter Hollywood having written, directed and edited the Supergirl making-of documentary), and Danny Huston, younger son of John and brother of Anjelica. Some of the text has been corrected for grammatic purposes. Enjoy!
(New York City. As Sheena Easton's song Christmas All Over the World kicks in, Santa lands his sleigh on what is presumably the rooftop of Cornelia's townhouse. Cut to the Jolly One popping up at us from a chimney on the rooftop. Facing us directly, he speaks.)
SANTA: Hi there! My name is Claus --- Santa Claus --- and in case some of you don't know me, what I do is bring joy and toys and good will to millions and millions of children of all ages all over the world. In fact, that's exactly what I'm doing right now. Not too long ago, some very nice people here in this real world invited me to help them make a movie about my life. So, along with my wife Anya, and most of my loyal Elves, I journeyed from the far North to do precisely that. The movie is a story about some of the adventures I've had during my centuries and centuries of lifetime here on Earth.
DUDLEY MOORE: I must confess I was a bit surprised when my agent called me to say that the producers of Superman wanted me for this new, multimillion-dollar, no-snow-spared movie about Santa Claus. I mean, I've experienced the old grey hair a lot recently in the mornings (I suppose it happens to most of us who are in our late 20s), but --- Santa Claus? Not just grey --- white! And the face --- red! And the stomach --- enormous! I mean, I've heard of typecasting, but I thought this might be something of an insult at first, but then, my agent explained that Santa Claus was going to play himself in the movie (Well, who else?), but that they needed someone to portray the wily elf Patch. So, for the next hour, we're going to let you in on a few secrets as to how they made Santa Claus: The Movie™. We'll meet Santa, of course; his wife, Anya; and a few four-legged friends like Dasher and Dancer and Donner and Blitzen (Do those names ring a bell?); and, down on Earth, young Joe and Cornelia; and lastly, wicked old B.Z. --- plus some of the people who spent four years working behind the scenes to get this film together. For, as you know, unlike Christmas presents, movies are not elfmade.
(Insert commercial here.)
TED MAYNARD, Narrator: In bringing the true story of Santa Claus to the screen, once you've engaged The Man Himself, and then signed two major international stars to help him out, an even bigger casting challenge awaits you: the reindeer. Our story begins long before the official start of principal photography, when a team of L.A.-based animal experts braved the snowy wilderness of Norway in pursuit of the perfect herd. Although the finished movie will feature just the eight deer, at least 20 animals in peak condition were needed, ensuring plenty of backup for the team.
The animal trainers found a Laplander who owned no less than 4000 deer. Although the man in question was reluctant to part with his best animals, they eventually agreed upon a corral of 30. From these 30, the final selections --- Team A, Team B and four extras --- would be made.
They needed reindeer in prime condition, and, more importantly, deer that could be capable of being taught to pull a sleigh. These Californian trainers, led by David McMillan, have had loads of experience with animal actors. It was not long before auditions were soon underway. As you may have noticed, all of these deer are missing something very important. But let's let David McMillan tell you what that something is.
DAVID McMILLAN: They lose their antlers every year, and then they grow a whole new set. It takes about 3 months for the growth cycle to be completed.
MAYNARD: Growing antlers quickly is no problem. But deer are not used to being trained, and it was imperative that they find ones capable of working together as a team. Several months later, during late August 1984, in a field beside the Pinewood lot at Iver Heath, the antlers have begun sprouting nicely..... and the careful training has begun to pay off.
As the folks here in Buckinghamshire, England, will tell you, Alexander and Ilya Salkind are no strangers to Pinewood. They made the Superman films here --- and in this case, they'll once again use the set where they usually make those movies about that secret agent (I sort of forget his number).
McMILLAN: They said we would never put together a team of eight deer to drive together. You never see even two deer pulling a sleigh. They operate almost like chickens: they have this pecking order, where there's one honcho deer who's the top man, and then the rest of them fall underneath him, and each one picks on the one below them until the lowest deer.
MAYNARD: With the antlers fully grown, and weeks of trying various combinations behind them, the big day finally arrives for the first team. Now, they must take on the frightening experience of standing on an actual film set, where unfamiliar faces and strange noises could combine to make the deer freeze up.
DEREK CRACKNELL, 1st Assistant Director: Stand by! STOP!
JEANNOT SZWARC: All right, let's go again. (Indistinct chatter.)
MAYNARD: The first scene shot with the live reindeer proves successful, and David McMillan has good reason to be proud of his fellow wranglers and their reindeer.
DEREK C.: Well done, you guys!
MAYNARD: So ends this spectacular start to Santa Claus: The Movie, which is being directed by a longtime veteran of directing movies for both film and television: Jeannot Szwarc.
SZWARC: Here was a golden opportunity not only to do a film which, from a visual standpoint, would have poetry and beautiful imagery and, y'know, originality, and things which had never been seen --- but also, it was a chance to do a film that had enormous amounts of warmth, and also humor.....
MAYNARD: Filmmaking, as the deer soon learned, doesn't consist of one take. You have to do it again and again from every angle.
DEREK C.: Stand by. (Indistinct chanting.) STOP!
MAYNARD: The experienced producers of the film --- Pierre Spengler, on the right of your screen; and Ilya Salkind --- are young men, still in their 30s.
ILYA SALKIND: I think that the ideas that I had had were in a very simple way, was that there was an establishment of a Legend, which is something logical, but then that it should fall into a real adventure of today.
PIERRE SPENGLER: We are telling what we feel is the true Legend of Santa Claus, and we are putting all these vignettes in so that it is recognizable for all the audiences.
MAYNARD: Meanwhile, at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, an airborne armada soars across the skies to let the world know that Santa Claus has begun principal photography. And that can only mean ONE thing: Alexander Salkind has returned! But there aren't that many individuals who are prepared to risk tens of millions of dollars on one motion picture. So why is it so expensive?
ALEXANDER SALKIND: Because of its magnitude, and in order to interest all kinds of public, it must be done in the way that it should be done, and in order to do it in that way, you unfortunately have to spend a lot of money.
MAYNARD: And not many producers would dare reveal how much they spent.
ALEXANDER: We spent around $50 million.
MAYNARD: Put your money on the screen, they sometimes say --- and that's exactly what they did in this case. The cost of special effects on a movie like this can often run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
SZWARC: (off-screen): Very good --- PRINT!
McMILLAN (to his wranglers as they move the deer): Quick as you can, please.
MAYNARD: For some scenes, it was simply impossible to use the real live deer, so Co-Art Director Malcolm Stone was called upon to supervise the building of full-sized model reindeer. This new cinematic science, 'animatronics,' requires an expertise unheard of in the ancient Hollywood.
The animals that are man-made have to be more than simply life-like. They almost have to be alive.
Various operators will move various parts of the animal's anatomy for various shots.
And an artificial skin has been meticulously shaped to cover the frame with the elasticity of real skin.
Special effects in this kind of film require exacting workers with the finest craftsmanship in every detail. Some of the technicians even need a little expertise in the field of dentistry, so that these artifical teeth and jaws can chew food with the same kinds of mouth movements as those of the real animal.
MALCOLM STONE, Co-Art Director: I suppose Walt Disney coined the term animatronics mainly in terms of theme parks, whereby he took his animated characters and tried to electronically make three-dimensional, moving, believable creatures. Since then, in the last few years in the film industry, that sort of technique has developed to give believable creatures --- fantasy creatures, mostly --- and the science, if you like, has developed for the needs of films to make more believable creatures by applying more technology, but also applying the element of human control. In other words, the old art of puppetry is vital to the subject in order to make the creature react spontaneously.
SANTA: Blitzen loves to eat. He's a good partner, isn't he? (Chuckles.) Blitzen's really an eater. Ha-ha-ha-ha! But you're the lover, aren't ya? Ho-ho-ho-ho! I love you, too.
DUDLEY: Did you know that nobody has ever made a movie of the true story of Santa Claus before? I daresay they've negotiated with the old chap for the rights, but he's always said no --- or, perhaps he was waiting for the magic of the movies to reach a sufficiently sophisticated stage in order to be able to tell his tale. But, you know, there's nothing more precious than a story that belongs to all of us. So when it came to setting the record straight, the writer, David Newman, took his duties very seriously.
SZWARC: You look --- David, I still can't get it. Y'know what I think we'll do? Ya gotta look at Judy with your entire face .....
MAYNARD: In the beginning of the film, Claus is a simple peasant who, with his wife Anya, delivers toys to the children of an unknown ancient village.
ANYA (JUDY CORNWELL) (shouting over the blowing snow): Are we lost?
SANTA (replying): Ho-ho-ho! No! I can't find it, Anya! I can't find the road!
DAVID NEWMAN: The first part of the film, which has to do with the origins of Santa Claus --- how an ordinary man named Claus and his wife Anya suddenly became magical people and were granted immortality --- that story is totally invented. And yet three or four people since have come up to me and said, 'Well, of course, we all know that story. We've known it all our lives.' And to me, that's wonderful to hear, because they couldn't have known it all their lives, because it all was invented.
MAYNARD: Let's face it, most things in the movies are invented. That's part of what makes them magic. The snow scene you're watching, for instance.
A film crew just cannot travel to the Arctic just to wait around for weeks to get the 'perfect' storm. For one thing, it wouldn't last long enough. For another, working conditions would be physically and logistically impossible. That's why they chose to recreate everything within the human studio interiors.
So the little village of Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire isn't exactly a winter wonderland --- but, over the next 77 days, it'll be a real home-away-from-home for Santa Claus, who is used to treking around in the snow where he lives. The Man was taking a really big risk coming in from the cold and letting a bunch of ordinary Mortals tell his story. But director Jeannot Szwarc knew which parts of the Legend he wanted to focus on.
SZWARC: What we kept is the basic myth, which is what everybody knows: he's dressed in red, and he delivers toys, and he's got eight reindeer, and he flies through the air with the sleigh and the eight reindeer, and he goes through the chimneys, and he delivers toys, and he wants a world of peace and harmony.
MAYNARD: David Newman's script had to emphasize these values.
NEWMAN: The Santa Claus that we conceived is a man who begins as a peasant; and, in a way, he never really loses that earthy, man-of-the-earth quality that he's got. He's NEVER a god. He's just given immortality. Just!
MAYNARD: Even if you live forever for a living, you still have to get past the studio gatekeeper on the way to work.
SANTA: Good morning.
GATEKEEPER: Good morning.
SANTA: My name is Santa Claus.
GATEKEEPER: We've been waiting for you. I will open the gate.
SANTA: Thank you.
MAYNARD: There's nothing like a great big movie studio to inspire awe in every one of us. But, no matter how celebrated you might be, if you agree to be in the movies, the Director is always the boss.
SZWARC: That's an expensive coat.
SANTA: I'm an expensive guy.
MAYNARD: Even Santa loses patience when it comes to filming his life story.
SANTA: Can I go home now?
SZWARC: Well, the problem is, if anything happens to the reindeer, guess what I gotta shoot immediately.
MAYNARD: British actress/comedienne Judy Cornwell has been cast in the role of his wife.
SZWARC (noticing the fur-clad Santa and Anya): That was perfect. A little bit more 'mmph!' and you got it. (Pause.) They're so cute together. I wonder if all your babies are gonna be born with furry coats.
ANYA (giggles): And furry feet!
MAYNARD: Even though this is basically an interior set with false snow, it can still be tough on the performers --- animal and human alike.
SZWARC: What is it that's bothering you? Is it the snow, or the fact that you have to project your dialogue so loud?
ANYA: No, it's the snow. It is the snow. It's actually hitting you ---
SANTA: I know.
ANYA: It's actually hitting you, but it's not like real snow, but it's hard.
MAYNARD: But, as they say in the entertainment world: "The snow must go on."
UNIDENTIFIED CREWMAN: Cut! B Camera!
DEREK C.: Arthur said d'you wanna do one with a bit more snow, Jeannot?
ANYA: What? Who said that?
MAYNARD: They're only teasing her. See for yourselves now whether all that discomfort paid off in this clip from the scene in its final form.
(The completed scene with Claus, Anya and the deer is shown.)
MAYNARD: A dramatic sequence like this is every actor's dream --- but there's just no way that the real-life deer could pull off such a performance. So Malcolm Stone once again turned to the animatronic unit. Stone works closely with the director.
SZWARC: --- as if he's trying to lift his head, and he can't make it, and BOOM! So, y'know, it should ---
STONE: In order to do that to the live animal would have meant hurting the beast, and we didn't want to do that, so we built a platform in which we put a body whose jointed legs were controlled by about a dozen people underneath the platfrom with levers, rods, and cranks.
ILYA: Of course, we invented a new technique which is really the ultimate puppet Muppet because it's a real animal that becomes alive.
(Stone with Blitzen)
STONE: He can wrinkle his face from side to side with it, he can chew --- the lips go side to side as well as up and down; he can make his ears move; he can blink; he can move his eyeballs --- he can even give me a kiss! (Blitzen kisses Stone. [In the mouth.])
(Back in the studio with the falling snow.)
SZWARC (screaming into megaphone): BLITZEN --- FALL!
(Cut to footage of Blitzen bending down as if he were falling.)
(Insert commercial here.)
MAYNARD: If there's one thing we know for sure about Santa Claus, it's that he makes toys! And for The Movie, the Art Department, led by Supervising Art Director Tim Hutchinson, had to design and develop thousands of them --- not just any old cheaply made toys, mind you, but simple quality playthings, made from the finest wood and based on well-tested designs.
Hutchinson's team researched and ransacked several of England's finest antique shops to discover some of the classic Christmas toys from years gone by .... and, needless to say, these very good toys will only be given to very good children. The man credited with the overall task of Production Design is Academy Award® nominee Anthony Pratt.
ANTHONY PRATT, Production Designer: We had about a year's preparation, and we started on the toys quite early on, deciding on what sort of toys they should be, and what sort of style they should be.
MAYNARD: When principal photography ends, all the toy treasures in this magical workshop will be donated to various organizations that are committed to aiding needy children. These toys have gathered dust over countless ages because the Elves who have made them have had no one to deliver them --- until now.
SANTA: Good morning, and welcome to our home --- again! Today, we will see the Workshop, and we will listen to Jeannot yell and scream a lot more.
SZWARC: Same thing, same cues, but a lotta energy, please!
DEREK C.: Here we go now.
SZWARC: And in tempo!
DEREK C.: Playback!
MAYNARD: This is North Pole Headquarters --- a happy, musical wonderland where the Elves never grow tired of making toys.
PAT GARRETT, Choreographer: 12345678, 12345678, 12345678! But can you count, after you've got out of bed, 5678 ---
MAYNARD: Each man portraying an Elf was chosen for his height --- he had to be under five feet --- and for his ability to work to a beat as though he were a dancer. As Coordinator of Choreography and Movement, Pat Garrett must make the Elf Compound move like clockwork.
GARRETT: --- not the first people.
UNKNOWN CREWMAN: It's gonna work great.
SZWARC: Why don't we rehearse?
MAYNARD: As one contingent of Elves dances off toward the 'factory,' a contented second workforce returns to occupy the emptier beds. This existence holds a particular appeal for that special Elf, Dudley Moore.
DUDLEY: We obviously eat, sleep and breathe toys, which is the sort of life I personally would prefer enjoying.
SZWARC: All right, quiet! Big smiles, everybody!
MAYNARD: Claus and Anya are brought from the snowy wastes to live with the Elves.
DOOLEY (JOHN BARRARD): My friends, it's moments like this that make an Elf proud and humble --- humble and proud --- proud to have this golden opportunity to welcome ---
DUDLEY: Right this way, folks! 60 rooms, hot and cold running ice cubes, and a southern exposure in every direction!
SZWARC: Print both.
MAYNARD: Little do they know at this stage the tasks that lie in store.
PUFFY (ANTHONY O'DONNELL): Welcome, welcome! I'm the one called Puffy. We've been expecting you.
DUDLEY: Not now, Puffy. The man wants to see the sights.
SANTA: Isn't this something!
UNIDENTIFIED ELF EXTRA: Did you hear that? He said it's 'something'!
ANYA: Oh, my!
BEARDED ELF 1: She said 'Oh, my!' She likes it, she likes it!
BEARDED ELF 2: She does, she does!
MAYNARD: And what sights! Nothing can prepare the human couple for the Toy Tunnel: a treasure house of delights that seems to stretch into infinity, with gifts for every child in the world.
SANTA: What is all this?
DOOLEY: They're Christmas toys --- waiting for you.
SANTA: For me? What have they got to do with me?
DOOLEY: You're going to give them. To the children.
DOOLEY: You might describe Santa as the Peasant become King.....
MAYNARD: British character actor John Barrard portrays the venerable Dooley.
...... and gradually, we ease him in to his role, if you like, of the factory, the Managing Director.
MAYNARD: Film and TV legend Burgess Meredith portrays the Ancient One, who long ago foretold that day when he would make Claus ... Santa Claus.
(A brief excerpt from Burgess' scene in the Toy Tunnel is shown.)
MAYNARD: Would that all problems could be solved in this simple a manner. Jeannot Szwarc, for example, still must find a way to instill a sense of rhythm into the Packaging Department.
SZWARC: Face him! Now, when I say go, you go to your right and you go to your left, you got it? Go!
MAYNARD: It's easier learning how to do the tango than doing this.
SZWARC: No, no! When I say go, you go like this. Imagine you've already got a package. When you take it and you give it, by the time you catch his and you come back here, he should be in position. OK, go!
(Pat Garrett begins to hum/sing the playback track music)
SZWARC: You see, that's the opposite! You got it! That's the way it's gotta be, opposite all the time! You always must be opposite to each other! That's it! Now you got it! No, this guy's --- ....he's deaf. This guy never gonna get it. Look, it's simple. You start like this. When I say go. Ready? And --- go, go, go ......
MAYNARD: Practice, as they say, makes perfect --- and soon, the extras look as though they've been passin' the packages for thousands of years.
Santa's mission, of course, is to deliver all these presents. Many of the flying closeups are shot on the full-scale sleigh; but certain elements of these scenes will have to be added later on in post-production: particularly, the backgrounds --- the skyscapes and cityscapes over which Santa makes his journey. This is the task of the Oscar®-winning optical effects supervisor, Roy Field.
ROY FIELD: I am responsible for all the trickery, which is optically, or photographic, I suppose you'd say, um .... effects, and, of course, the two are very difficult to separate from the very essence of all these sorts of things --- in other words, the mingling of one process with another. If I could just basically explain: this is the camera side; and this is the projector side. In here, we can run a new film (that's this one), which is actually making a new duplicate negative with an additional piece of film, which will have one component on it, and in the projection head here, we'll be running two mattes, if we wish --- it could be a background, it could be a number of different things --- and we're combining all these three elements onto the new film --- which is this one --- to make a new duplicate negative.
MAYNARD: And this is the result of Roy Field's optical work..... (An excerpt from the First Flight sequence is then shown.) The hallmark of a feature film such as this is that many of the core elements must be perfect in every detail, even if none of these exquisite carvings may ever be seen in the film's final print. Many of the Compound's machines must not only be built full-sized, they must also actually work as well, like this giant wooden telescope that will tell Dooley when the North Star is overhead.
DOOLEY: Not just yet!
SZWARC (speaking to the Elf extras): What's happening is the North Star makes a beam that comes down here through the opening, and then the light comes down, and that's the signal that Christmas is beginning.
DOOLEY: Two more degrees north by northwest --- NOW!
SZWARC: 1, 2, 3!
ELVES: SEASON'S GREETINGS!!!!
SZWARC: Good morning, Elves! Now, this is the moment you've all been waiting for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years.
At last, Santa takes off on his first Christmas mission --- although Blitzen nearly takes a tumble at the turn.
SZWARC: How was it?
ARTHUR IBBETSON, Director of Photography: Excellent, excellent!
MAYNARD: As usual, the director checks his video monitor to make sure that this sequence will cut with the one before and the one after.
SZWARC: --- like bats outta heck!
UNIDENTIFIED 2nd ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: And we're gonna come straight on.
MAYNARD: They'll need to do another take. This time, however --- it's lift-off!
(Footage of the completed First Flight scene is shown.)
(Insert commercial here.)
(SANTA CLAUS: The Making of The Movie will continue in a moment, here on ABC.)
(Insert commercial here.)
MAYNARD: Although the Elves live in a democratic society with no specific leader, one among their number stands out thanks to his lively initiative: Patch.
In rehearsals, Patch, as played by Dudley Moore, doesn't lack a sense of humor.
In the story, it is Patch's idea to turn part of Santa's toymaking into an automated process.
Because of this, and his loving care for the reindeer, he is chosen to assume the high office of Santa's Official Assistant.
But Patch's experiment backfires upon him when millions of his own toys, designed with somewhat fatal flaws, begin returning from all over the world.
And fearing a backlash even from Santa himself, the reluctant Patch decides to quit.
In one of the film's most emotional moments, the Elf tenderly bids farewell to his Elf Compound home and his beloved deer before striking out on his own for the bright lights and big ideas of New York City.
The reality of Patch's emotions is played out against the empty backdrop of a Pinewood soundstage. Months later, during the film's post-production phase, the optical artists at Optical Film Effects Limited will use matte paintings and limited animation to insert Patch's North Pole home into the scene and then achieve the illusion of making the place disappear.
Back on Earth, the Patchmobile provides a dauntingly unique challenge to Santa's old-fashioned sleigh.
SZWARC: We've got the toy drums that turn into automobile lights; these things turn, these things turn --- we got lights flashing everywhere.......
MAYNARD: For all its technology, the Patchmobile still needs a little old-fashioned manpower for Dudley Moore's close-ups. Patch, incidentally, is the nickname of Dudley's real-life son, Patrick.
DUDLEY: To play an Elf --- to play, actually, someone who is very naive and childlike, to a very extreme degree, is sort of quite hard, because you can't mix in too many canny qualities. I can't be too intelligent about some things. I just wanted to make the man --- the Elf --- I actually phrased it that I'd like him to be like the brother that I never had, always kind, but also understanding and encouraging. That's really basically how I'm playing him.
MAYNARD: Despite his status as a Hollywood superstar, Moore doesn't stand on ceremony or put on airs. His mischievous sense of humor enlivened the filming.
SZWARC: --- more fun than 'ell!
DUDLEY (sitting on the floor, surrounded by the Patchettes): Yeah, it is, basically. You sit on the floor, with these furs and this fake snow, and y'know, you just, y'know, you do yer best.
(Dudley playing the piano alone in a room furnished for him)
MAYNARD: Dudley Moore didn't set out to become an actor. His first great love was music.
DUDLEY: With me, it's quite normal that I always get a piano wherever I am. I come here and play when I'm not shooting a scene, which is a way to preserve my sanity. I started playing when I was about six, and had lessons; I played the organ when I was 16 in the church; and I went to Oxford to study music; and I had this talent which has dropped in on too many hairs on your head --- all that's nothing to do with me......
GARRETT: He's incredibly musical and rhythmical, and any movement he's gotta do, he can do.
(Back at the piano w/Dudley, as he plays an extract from Die Flabbergast, from Beyond the Fringe.)
MAYNARD: He achieved international fame as a member of the quartet of actors who wrote and starred in the stage review, Beyond the Fringe. A highlight of that show was a Strauss-esque parody for solo voice and piano. Its title: "Die Flabbergast."
Meanwhile, the scene with the real-life reindeer on a New York rooftop has a few added complications. They're solved by another of the Oscar® winners on the Santa Claus team: Derek Meddings, Director of Visual and Miniature Effects.
DEREK MEDDINGS: We sent a crew to America, and they were doing all the aerial photography. I also sent a stillsman who has shot all these transparencies for me --- an American --- and he shot all the rooftops that he could find.
MAYNARD: Meddings takes an intense personal pride in his exacting work. He's a total perfectionist, right down to the very last flake of snow.
MEDDINGS: A long time ago, we made a radio-controlled man. He didn't fly, but he was suspended in space, and all his limbs had been built as a human being's limbs would be built, with the arms not bending backward, and they would bend the right way. And I thought that the same thing would apply here if we made reindeer, and all their joints were as near to being perfect as they could be. When they moved their legs, then their shoulders would move so that it wouldn't just be a case of a leg moving, and nothing else. It would be their legs, and their shoulders, and ripples in their bodies.
MAYNARD: Even kitchen appliances can come in handy for this type of filmmaking process. The foam is set in a mold to obtain the correct body curvatures for the miniaturized deer.
The plastic skeleton gets a new coat.
Once more, simple household appliances rescue modern technology.
MEDDINGS: They design these mechanics inside, then we put in very small motors; but their heads and their necks --- to get that neck movement, and their heads going up and down, and the necks moving, we put in a radio-controlled unit. So that was completely independent from their legs.
MAYNARD: And here's how Derek Meddings' team realized Santa's flight.
MEDDINGS: (Mutters indistinctly)
(Insert commercial here.)
MAYNARD: One of the most important things that money can buy a film director is a controlled environment. Oh yes, it would be possible to shoot a scene like this on the actual streets of New York --- but it's far better to build your own New York here on the back lot at Pinewood. You can create your own weather, and make sure that the traffic moves along the way you want it to. Even the passers-by.
In the warmth of an elegant townhouse, a little girl named Cornelia catches the eye of a poor street urchin, Joe. Cornelia is portrayed by Carrie Kei Heim.
CARRIE KEI HEIM: I had always wanted to be a model, and so when I saw an advertisement for 'get your picture taken,' y'know, at this Woolworth's or wherever, I asked if we could go there. And the photographer said that I should be a model because I took directions well.
MAYNARD: Joe is portrayed by a young boy from Chicago with no previous acting experience: Christian Fitzpatrick. He benefits from a director who takes the time to explain the motivations behind the chararcter.
SZWARC: And be very careful. People who have very few things are very careful ---
CHRISTIAN FITZPATRICK: And then I could probably ---
SZWARC: You save the paper, you don't throw anything away, man. You save everything, put it back in your pocket.
JOE: She took me to the audition, I got called back about three times, I had to go to New York, then to London, and then London again. I'm here now.
MAYNARD: Joe, living on the chilly city streets, is used to seeing various drunks dressed in Santa suits --- until his first encounter with the real deal.
SZWARC: Freeze! (Joe 'freezes', allowing Santa time to enter the frame.) Unfreeze!
JOE: We're s'posed to be on a rooftop in New York, and it's the first time I meet Santa Claus. And then, we're doing another scene --- I'm not sure if it's today, but it's s'posed to be a year later, and we're doing it right after --- it's really weird, this filming business.
MAYNARD: It's Santa who brings the two children together.
SZWARC: (to Cornelia) Take your time --- and, you know, it's better that you wait a little. In fact, the more that you wait, the better. Imagine that you're literally in Wonderland --- the stars are coming out of your eyes!
(A brief excerpt from Cornelia's invitation to Joe to have something to eat is now shown.)
MAYNARD: To some, a movie devoted solely to doing only good deeds might be too sweet for an audience to digest. So the less-than-perfect facts of modern life are exhibited in this brief scene set in a Senate chamber in Washington, D.C. We see a toy doll that is dangerously inflammable --- one of the products of that callous toymaking executive, B.Z. This scene not only provides the perfect opportunity for a brief cameo from the director, it also gives actor John Lithgow a chance to demonstrate the full range of his characterization.
JOHN LITHGOW: He's a man just in love with himself and making money. He's in the great tradition of Captain Hook and the Big Bad Wolf. So, for some reason, they picked me for the part.
MAYNARD: The wandering Patch is fascinated by B.Z.'s campaign.
LITHGOW: What does an Elf do in the real world but find out where they make toys? So [Patch] comes to B.Z., who is really a corruption of the whole concept of Christmas and giving away things and making people happy.
UNIDENTIFIED CREWMAN: 28, Take 1.
MAYNARD: In this scene, B.Z. lectures Patch on the power of a television commercial.
PATCH: Is a minute all right?
B.Z.: What channel?
PATCH: Channel? I've heard about the English Channel. Is that one of them?
B.Z.: No no no no! What (makes clicking noises, to simulate the flipping of a TV dial) channel?
PATCH: Oh! What tele ..... well, all of them!
B.Z.: BUT THAT WOULD COST A FORTUNE!
PATCH: My needs are small: bowl of stew, heavy on the dill, a cold place to sleep ---
B.Z. (marveling): You really are an Elf!
MAYNARD: So a bewildered Patch finds himself in the bizarre, sometimes twisted world of advertising, promoting his own special blend of lollipop.
PIERRE: I'll bet we are today, huh?
MAYNARD: Soon, the whole world learns about Patch and his lollipops.
LITHGOW: One of the key elements of the story, which in fact is also one of the major mysteries of Christmas, is how in the world Santa Claus and his reindeer fly. Well, it's by that good ol' prop, fairy dust, or stardust, or 'reindeer cornflakes, or whatever it is.' But anyway, Patch has absconded with just a pocketful of it from the North Pole when he left. And that is the secret ingredient that he puts into this toy, this gift which he puts at B.Z.'s disposal; and it helps children to walk on air.
MAYNARD: As you might imagine, this is only a hint of the chaos to come.
DEREK C. (to Joe): They're all your mates, they're all your friends, right, mate?
MAYNARD: The film draws to a good-humored close.
DEREK C.: (Indicates Cornelia) She's very nice. (Points to Joe.) Him, so-so.
(Banter among the Elves.)
SZWARC: All right, print! Let's do another one.
MAYNARD: A complex dance sequence involving Santa, Anya, the two kids and the Elves is rehearsed to a pre-recorded soundtrack known as the playback track.
MAYNARD: But in fact, this won't be the music you will hear when you see the scene.
(CTS Studios, Wembley, Middlesex, England: Henry Mancini and recording and mixing engineer Dick Lewzey working on a track)
At CTS Studios in Wembley, England, that aspect of the film is added with the help of still another Oscar® winner: composer-conductor Henry Mancini.
HENRY MANCINI: This board almost talks. It's a brand-new thing that's been made here. and it does all kinds of things --- it has a memory and all that business. But the musicians still have to play.
(A clip from the completed final dance is shown. We then cut to Mancini, outside the CTS property.)
MANCINI: The score is, I would say, along traditional lines .... and, er .... because I think it had to be.
MAYNARD: The tradition of Santa Claus is something that everyone connected with the film has tried to preserve. But, deep in their hearts, do the principals of Santa Claus: The Movie™ REALLY believe in their star? Alexander Salkind:
ALEXANDER: I personally believe, yes. I liked Santa Claus very much when I was small, and I liked the gifts that he was bringing.
PIERRE: Yes. I don't think you'd be in the movies if you didn't.
ILYA: I believe in the fact that I want to believe.
JOE: Me n' Carrie were just lucky to meet up with Santa Claus.
CORNELIA: He's a really nice man who was really very friendly toward me.
LITHGOW: I believe in goodness.
NEWMAN: I couldn't have written the script if I didn't believe in what Santa Claus means to people.
SZWARC: I do believe in what I think Santa Claus represents. I think myths are very necessary to all of us, especially in the kind of world we're living in.
DUDLEY: I remember being in a convalescence home at Christmas once, and there was a Santa Claus figure coming in through the door; and getting very excited, I'd just arrived on Christmas Eve or something. And I remember lying in bed, and he went all around the beds, and I seemed to be the only person awake --- and I crawled down to the end of my bed and there was no stocking! I cried myself to sleep afterwards. But in the morning, I went down there again, and there was a stocking! It was --- that was really wonderful. I think I must have believed in him then.
MAYNARD: How could anyone have doubts now? Principal photography on Santa Claus: The Movie™ was completed November 20th, 1984 --- on budget and on schedule. And just before Santa had to return to the Top of the World, he was treated to his very own exclusive private screening. Alexander, Ilya, Pierre and Jeannot all waited tensely outside as the Jolly Old Elf sat alone in Pinewood's venerable screening room. The question: Would he emit a chuckle of approval?
(Footage of the completed first scene with Santa and Joe is intercut with the Jolly One alone in the screening room.)
(Insert commercial here.)
(As the documentary concludes, we are treated to footage of Santa's sleigh in flight.)
DUDLEY: So, that's it. That's how they did it. That's how we did it. The camera team went off to shoot another film, the reindeer got an extended leave to do some well-earned grazing, I went off to tend to my all too hastily abandoned eucalyptus plants, and the producers and director pretty much stayed around to finish off the movie. And Santa? "He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight: 'Happy Christmas to all --- and to all, a good night!' "
Needless to say, on Christmas Eve 1988, exactly one year to the day when Santa Claus: The Making of The Movie aired on ABC, Santa Claus: The Movie™ itself had its one and only network television showing on the alphabet network as well. The results, alas, were far from professional. Several key sequences were interrupted by commercials, the pan-and-scan format was largely used for the ABC showing --- and worst of all, on Sheena Easton's Christmas All Over the World end credits sequence, the vocal and music tracks were not broadcast in accordance with their proper synchronization. Santa Claus: The Movie™ has never been shown on broadcast television since; happily, subsequent screenings on both TBS Superstation and Turner Classic Movies have treated the film with the pristine, well-preserved respect that it has long deserved.