Arthur Christmas (2011)
Directed by: Sarah Smith
Co-directed by Barry Cook
Santa Claus’ clumsy but idealistic younger son Arthur is concerned at the revelation that one Christmas present was not successfully delivered to a little girl in England. Balking against the slick machinery of the modern-day Christmas operation, he sets off on a quest with Grandsanta (his grandfather and former Santa Claus) and Bryony (a plucky elf) to right this wrong and to make sure that every child fully enjoys the magic of Christmas.
Arthur, Bryony, Grandsanta and an old reindeer have all sorts of misadventures in their efforts to deliver a bicycle to a girl in England. This has resulted in them landing in Africa and being set upon by hungry lions. Thanks to some cartoon logic and some quick feet, they are able to make their escape in Santa’s flying sleigh. Unfortunately a couple of the reindeer get left behind and are about to be a lion’s meal, and so our heroes sprinkle some magic dust on them so they can fly away…
As the chase continues, the dust not only affects the reindeer, but the other animals nearby as well. To their confusion (and my delight in the audience), the pursuing lions begin to float. As the sled flies away, we see the sweeping landscape of African Savanna, covered with floating lions, zebras, bewildered wildebeests and more.
It’s a short moment, and ultimately just a visual gag, but it works well and helps us remember after the general lunacy of the characters escaping from the lions at all that we’re not just in a Madagascar cartoon (as enjoyable as those movies can be), but in a story that is an expertly crafted blend of traditional Christmas sentimentality and unexpectedly inspired humor.
As the story goes on, Arthur comes to realize that the issue isn’t ultimately whether the real Santa Claus’s in his life are as noble as he thinks they should be, but rather that children experience the magic of Christmas, however it’s really happening behind the scenes. And enjoyably, the movie has managed to show us a few moments of Christmas magic along the way, like this one.