Santa Claus is comin’ to Town

Rankin Bass Christmas specials! This was one of the things I loved most about Christmas as a child.

Watching television on holiday afternoons featuring those distinctive doll-like characters, brought to life with a stop-motion animation technique called “Animagic”. (I used to look forward to it almost as much as Santa dropping off the presents!)

According to wikipedia
The company was founded by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass in the early 1960s as Videocraft International. The majority of Rankin/Bass’ work, including all of their “Animagic” stop-motion productions, were created in Japan. Throughout the 1960s, the Animagic productions were headed by Japanese stop-motion animator Tadahito Mochinaga.
Their traditionally cel-animated works were animated by Toei Animation, Crawley Films and Mushi Production, and since the 1970s, they were animated by the Japanese studio Topcraft, which was formed in 1972 as an offshoot of Toei Animation.

The 5 most popular films (and also my personal favourites) were

Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer (1964)

With narrator Burl Ives in the role of Sam the Snowman

The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

About the birth of the baby Jesus, and with Greer Garson providing the dramatic narration

Frosty the Snowman (1969)
This was actually cell animation (as opposed to “Animagic”) and narrated by Jimmy Durante (who also sang the title song). Jackie Vernon voiced the title character.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970)
An origin story about Santa Claus, narrated by Fred Astaire as (the animated character) mailman S.D (“Special Delivery”) Kluger. Kris Kringle is voiced by Mickey Rooney

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
Narrated by Shirley Booth as (the animated character) Mrs. Claus, and featuring Mickey Rooney once again as the voice of Santa Claus. The iconic characters of Snow Miser (voiced by Dick Shawn) and Heat Miser (voiced by George S. Irving) also featured in this film.

Snow Miser

and

Heat Miser

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes for a great start to 2013!
(Back again in early February. All the best in the meantime).

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Oh, Great Spirit

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others.
Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – Myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame
“.

Great Spirit Prayer
By Yellow Hawk, Sioux Chief

I’ve been a bit all over the place this week and, ultimately, have felt a big need to anchor and centre myself somehow. To put my energy and focus where they really belong.

I was reminded of the beautiful prayer above. It’s a personal favourite.

I don’t think a person has to be religious to pray, or even to necessarily believe in God or a “Great Spirit”, though I sort of do myself.

Saying a prayer can sometimes be just a way of accessing our own spirit, and focusing our own intentions. A way of asking the highest part of ourselves – the least purely self-interested and most honourable person within us – to be the driver in our lives and call the shots.

Drinking from the poisoned well

There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast city. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. Now in the heart of the city, there was a well whose waters were pure and crystalline from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, an enemy entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. And he said that henceforth all who drink this water shall become mad.

All the people drank of the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, “The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned.”

The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him. So one evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason“.

–Author Unknown

This story is told in a scene from the film Serpico (directed by Sidney Lumet and released in 1973) between the title character (played by Al Pacino) and his girlfriend Laurie (Barbara Eda-Young).

Serpico covers twelve years (from 1960 until June 15th 1972) in the life of NYPD officer Frank Serpico. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same title by Peter Maas and is about an extremely diligent police officer who discovers a hidden world of illicit activities among his own colleagues – witnessing cops doing drugs, committing violence, taking paybacks and other forms of police corruption. He decides to blow the whistle on the rot within, but doing do so leads to him being harassed and threatened, suffering great personal hardship and even enduring life-threatening situations. After being shot in the face during a drug bust on February 3, 1971, Frank Serpico eventually testified before the Knapp Commission, a government inquiry into police corruption between 1970 and 1972.

The fact is that going against the grain is never the easiest choice.

And voicing the unpopular can often make us terribly unpopular as well.

But sometimes the very things people are least willing to see and hear are the very things they most need to be told and have their attention drawn to.

Remember that Galileo was thrown in prison about 500 years ago for trying to tell everyone that the world wasn’t flat.

And until relatively recent times some people had the legal right to keep other human beings as slaves.

And doctors once used to advertise cigarettes.


“More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other Cigarette”

So even if you can’t beat ’em, don’t ever be tempted to join ’em.

Be strong and be brave, and refuse your drink from the poison well.

The lonely voices of reason and sanity can take a while to make themselves heard, but without them the world would stay unhealthy, unfair and incorrect.