Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1974)

It all started with a letter written by Virginia O'Hanlon to the New York Sun many years ago, and the editors' subsequent response became the stuff of literary legend.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus premiered on ABC in December 1974. As was the custom of the time, the special was promoted as heavily as possible during the network's Saturday morning programming, as well as the rest of the schedule. David L. Wolper, better known for producing a series of specials for oceanographer Jacques Cousteau (ABC) & National Geographic (CBS), as well as the occasional TV-movie, was slowly moving toward regular primetime programming, and this was the first, perhaps only, animated special to come from Wolper's production company. Veteran animation producer Lee Mendelson (Peanuts specials) was brought on board to co-produce & direct, and the general look reflects the Mendelson touch.

Jim Backus (ex-Gilligan's Island) narrates, with the title song performed by Jimmy Osmond. Yes, Virginia hasn't seen the light of day in years, but deserves to be back on the air.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I remember seeing this one quite a few times and it's a shame it has been locked up in a vault somewhere.

It seems Virginia in this version of the tale is middle class; most Irish during this time period were rather poorly off. I always wondered what her life was really like the other 364 days of the year.

There was a live action retelling of Virginia and her letter made in the early 90s starring Richard Thomas as her father. In that one, the family were portrayed as impoverished Irish immigrants in a NYC slum.

The movie also went out of its way to give screen time and a minor storyline to Francis Church, the editor who wrote the famous editorial. In the movie he was portrayed by none other than Charles Bronson!

hobbyfan said...

Have to see if I can get the movie on DVD. Bronson returning to TV after several years away would be worth the price of admission alone.

You know how creative liberties are often taken in adapting other works. This is just another case.