SANTA’S APPRENTICE. Animation film voiced by Shane Jacobsen, Magda Szubanski, Delta Goodrem, Hugh Sheridan, Georgie Parker and Max Cullen. Directed by Luc Vinciquerra. 80 minutes. Rated G (General audience).
A Christmas story for very young audiences (and not too long for parents and grandparents). Easy to look at animation. And Australian voices for the local version, French for the French.
It has good credentials. It won the special UNICEF award at the 2011 Annecy International Animation Festival in France. This prestigious award recognizes the best animation which highlights the goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
There have been so many Santa stories, it is hard to find another one. Here we have a Santa who has a time limit on his role and must train an apprentice, just as he was trained in the past. He is rather unwilling to give up his year job, but the old retiree Santas remind him that rules are rules. But, where can he find an apprentice whose name is Nicholas, is an orphan and who is pure of heart?
Well, the filmmakers have decided that there would be such a boy – in Sydney. Nicholas is a nice boy but can be put upon by a bully (whose name happens to be Nicholas as well). When the Santas do their research and settle on Sydney, it is the bad Nicholas who wants the job and takes over. It is not long before Santa (and the put-upon reindeers) realises that he has the wrong apprentice. Good Nicholas goes to work in Santa’s factory, prepares the gifts and travels on Christmas Eve, even to the orphanage where all is made smooth.
No objections to this variation on the Santa theme (except to lament that Christmas shows no connection to the story that gave it its name and meaning, Christmas without Christ yet again).
Some pleasing Australian voices, with Shane Jacobson as Santa and Magda Szubanski as Beatrice and Jack Versace a nice Nicholas.
The message is obviously, be good, be kind – and look what happens when you are!
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 10, 2011.