18 December 2007

Asking and Angsting about Ak’s Axe

A posting to Regalia alerted me to the AV Club’s list of "16 morally dubious holiday entertainments".

At #4 is the Rankin-Bass animated special based on L. Frank Baum's novel The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, written before the present mythology of Christmas (such as a North Pole workshop) became cemented in American culture. The article says:

Santa-themed TV specials don't get much more opportunistic or outré than the 1985 adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which takes Baum's Euro-myth-ridden retelling of Santa's origin and ramps up the action for the Masters of the Universe generation, as Claus battles troll-like creatures in order to prove his mettle to the council of Immortals who raised him from infancy.

Dry, confusing, and decidedly un-Christmas-y, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus replaces all that "Peace On Earth" jazz with "Beware my laser-shooting magic axe, evildoers!"
For immortal-on-immortal stop-action violence via YouTube, click on the image above.

In fact, the action and much of the dialogue in this sequence sticks closely to Baum's text in part 2, chapter 7, "The Great Battle Between Good and Evil." The big difference is that Rankin-Bass's budget forced the filmmakers to show only one fatal encounter per type of immortal. In the original, scores of wicked beings are wiped out at a time. Also, the book has no laser-shooting axe; the great Ak simply chops his foe in half. Now go dream of sugar plums, kids!

Eventually the AV Club's list gets down to the "Chipmunk Song," Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," and Victoria's Secret Xmas commercials. I didn't think those had any claim to moral standing in the first place.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

I read Life & Adventures for the first time just recently. And hadn't seen the TV adaptation. Interesting how faithful the TV version is to the original. Considering that the animators had to craft every hero & villain it's hardly surprising they did only a few. But each one is fun to ogle.

J. L. Bell said...

Ogling ogres—a new holiday tradition!