Not So Classic Christmas Color Classics: Santa’s Surprise

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(Part 4 of our four-part series of Christmas Color Classics recaps. See part 1part 2, part 3.)

I didn’t realize exactly how old these cartoons were when I was a little kid, but now I wonder what it must have been like to have been a little kid in the 1940s, sitting in a movie theater and seeing this short for the very first time.

This was my absolute favorite Christmas cartoon growing up. Yep, this one. This rare, random 1940s cartoon was the one I plopped down in front of the TV for year after year. What’s that? A Charlie Brown Christmas is playing on ABC? Who cares!

Unlike the previous shorts I recapped, this was made by Paramount Studios, a big name company even in the 1940s. As a result, the animation is a lot more fluid and the storyline was extremely cohesive and well written, even for an eight-minute short.

It’s also slightly racist.

I mean, yeah, it was the 1940s and everything. It would be a miracle if it wasn’t a little racist, but seriously…it’s a little racist.

I don’t know how my mom let me keep watching this without fear that it would damage my brown girl self-esteem.

Santa’s Surprise (1947)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RpMNTTS0Ns

What I remember it being about: Cute little kids who just so happen to fulfill every single stereotype about their home country help clean up Santa’s workshop.

What really happens:

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A fat man in a red suit flies around the world in a sled pulled by enchanted reindeer, breaking and entering into houses to drop off presents.

In any other world, people would be concerned but in this one, it’s just Santa Claus.

Some of the children stay up to see Santa drop off gifts.

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You can tell this kid is Dutch because he’s got blonde hair and clogs at the food of the bed. Also, you can see marijuana paraphernalia in his room. No, really. Look:

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In the Far East, kids are clever enough to use mirrors for their spying.

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Damn, Santa got cake.

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The little Asian kid suspiciously eyes Santa. Mostly because his family is Taoist.

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In New York, Santa puts toys in the little girl’s stocking only to find that the stocking empties into a larger basket of toys.

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Santa is amazed at how even in the 1940s, Americans were greedy and materialistic around Christmastime.

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A little mouse in the New York home hopes for his stocking to be stuffed too.

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Santa gives the mouse a poisoned piece of cheese. Santa also does pest control on the side.

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Santa finally arrives home to the North Pole. He is tired and probably very, very jetlagged.

Just how many time zones did this man cross?

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And how much cocaine do you think he took to stay up? He looks like he’s crashing pretty hard.

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Finally, back in his bed, Santa goes to sleep. Or overdose on amphetamines. Whichever comes first.

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Before he goes to sleep, Santa pops up one last time to wish himself a Merry Christmas. That’s a little sad.

Hey, where’s Mrs. Claus? I though Santa was supposed to be married? Did she leave him?

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Little Audrey, the American kid and the only child to have an actual name and original personality (which I don’t think is a coincidence), tells the other kids that the coast is clear.

Wait a minute: how would they all be able to understand each other if they’re supposed to be kids from all over the world?

I don’t know, let’s chalk it up to the magic of Christmas or some other bull.

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Little Audrey and the six ethnic stereotypes peep into Santa’s house.

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Santa’s bachelor pad is a mess. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Claus isn’t around. She probably got tired of cleaning up after him all the time and left.

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Little Audrey tells the other kids that she feels sorry for Santa. Everyone is equally disgusted by the mess inside his house.

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Seriously, how did my mother let me watch this? That is clearly an offensive caricature of Dutch people.

And obviously, the black kid was super racist too. He even has that thick Southern accent. (That’s where black people come from, right? The South?)

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AND IS THE HAWAIIAN GIRL TOPLESS?!?!?!

HOW DID THIS MAKE IT PAST THE CENSORS?

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Because Little Audrey is American and white, she takes charge. She declares that they should clean up Santa’s workshop as a Christmas gift to him.

All the children are in agreement except for the black kid.

“Free labor for some fat white man?” he asks. “I’ve been down that road before.”

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But Little Audrey forces everyone to go along with the plan, and they tiptoe into Santa’s house.

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Except the Dutch kid’s shoes keep making a lot of noise.

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Little Audrey shushes him and threatens to bomb his country like how the U.S. did with Japan.

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This frightens the little Dutch kid.

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Even the other ethnic stereotypes join in on shaming his footwear. They don’t want to be on America’s bad side.

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The Dutch kid reminds everyone that he can’t help it if the stereotypical footwear in his country is super loud.

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Tired of excuses, Little Audrey goes down the line to beat him up a little for his backtalk.

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She puts pillows on the kid’s shoes to muffle the sounds. That’s a great idea, instead of, you know, just making the Dutch kid take off his damn shoes.

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The Dutch kid is excited that he can finally sneak around like the cool kids.

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But oh no! He knocks over a lamp! They all scramble to hide.

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Thankfully, whatever drug cocktail Santa is on allows him to sleep through seven small children running around in his bachelor pad.

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The kids come out of their hiding places. The Dutch kid accidentally turns on the record player while standing on the turntable (?) so Little Audrey has to shut him up/off. What’s with the Dutch kid being the butt of all the jokes? Did Americans really hate the Dutch back in the 1940s?

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Well, they’re still in the clear because Santa is knocked out cold.

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Little Audrey proclaims it safe to start cleaning and starts singing a song about how they all want to do something for Santa.

Let me get this straight: you all got mad at the Dutch kid for making too much noise but Little Audrey can sing as loud as she damn wants?

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“I’ll use my Party City costume to sweep the room!”

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“I’ll use my Russian dance skills to mop the floor!”

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“And speaking of stereotypes, I will be shining Santa’s shoes!”

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Don’t try this at home kids: DO NOT put your dishes in the toaster like Little Audrey does. It will not end well and your mom will yell at you a lot.

Not that I speak from personal experience or anything.

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The little Dutch kid screws up again and drops a ton of plates.

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“It’s okay, I’ll just blame the black kid this time.”

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And the Chinese kid is in charge of doing the laundry.

Of course.

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Fed up with the Dutch kid’s uselessness, the Russian kid attempts to kill him by putting him through the laundry ringer.

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The Dutch kid survives so the other kids try to burn him with the iron.

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The Dutch kid runs out the door and promises to stop being such a screw up if they let him live.

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He goes outside to cool off and wonders why he enjoyed the pain so much.

This is the beginning of the Dutch kid’s introduction into BDSM.

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For their final task, the kids decide to make Santa’s bed–with him still in it.

Look, kids: you all appear to be five years old or something and you cleaned a whole house by yourself. You’re good. That alone is a good enough gift for Santa.

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Santa finally wakes up because the drugs have worn off.

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He sees all the good works that the kids have done for him and notices they left him a present.

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THEY GAVE HIM A PERSONALIZED MUSIC BOX? HOW DID THEY EVEN DO THAT? THEY’RE ALL, LIKE, FIVE?

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The kids ask Santa not to forget them next year and give them really good presents. After all, how many kids sneak into his sled and clean up his house for free?

“Also, can you take us home?” they ask. “We didn’t really think this plan through.”

THE END.

Susan Velazquez

Susan is a recent college grad and writer who enjoys all things from the 1980s, snarking on dumb television, and reveling in celebrity gossip. Oh, and she has serious interests like reading historical fiction, getting involved in social issues, and consuming French fries.

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  • mtn_philosoph

    For my money the best children’s Christmas cartoon of all time was “Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol.” I am telling you everything about that one was perfect: the storytelling, the pacing, the animation, the dialogue, the sound editing, and even the songs! (Yes it had musical scenes, of course.) I watched this masterpiece for 5 or 6 years in a row in when I was growing up back in the 1960s; it was a real Christmas tradition at my house. I can’t say if it was in color, because we only had a B&W TV in those years. And you know something else? Don’t laugh, but among all of the screen versions of “A Christmas Carol” that were made over the decades, IMHO this one was the version that was the most faithful to Dickens’ story. I’m not kidding! Being an animation, it could portray the phantasmagorical elements with ease and it glided smoothly in and out of them without a hitch. And although it was done as a children’s movie, it was quite sophisticated in its depiction of all of the original story’s themes and emotions: from high to low, from joyous to tragic, from elated to horrified. I still vividly recall the shock I felt when the Spirit of Christmases Yet To Come takes Scrooge to the cemetery and shows him his own grave. It did not hold anything back in its depiction of existential horror. And this was a children’s movie! Even now I get a chill down my spine as I recall it. It was the most dramatic depiction of ordinary human mortality and the ultimate meaninglessness of existence that I had ever seen. That kind of thing stays with a person, and it had a profound effect on me, which is exactly what Dickens intended.”Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol” came out several years before the Charlie Brown special (which I loved as well). For Boomers born in the 50s and growing up in the 60s, though, this was it, our “It’s A Wonderful LIfe” or our “Miracle on 34th Street.”