Variations on a Christmas Theme: Workshop Edition
One of the challenges about writing a weekly article is coming up with something to discuss week after week. This gets even tougher when Christmas arrives, because there’s an influx of Christmas-related articles from everyone on the staff. It’s hard to really find anything new to talk about.
This weekend, I watched five Christmas movies (I had a lot of knitting to do). As I went from movie to movie, it was interesting to see how each film interpreted the basic Christmas myths we all know in their own way. While Santa may have been the same, something else might be a bit different.
I decided that this would be something worth exploring. And so, for the next three weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be looking at how different movies present three fundamental aspects of Christmas: The reindeer and sled (transportation), the workshop and staff (the team), and Santa himself (the main man). Today, we’ll look at where the magic happens and who makes it happen.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re headed to the North Pole.
As we’ve been told, Santa has a workshop at the North Pole where he makes all of the toys. Basic mythology doesn’t go much farther than that. What that can look like or be represented by visually is up to the individual filmmaker. In this way, most of them seem to be on a similar track. There seems to be two basic camps that Santa’s workshop design can be divided into. The first is very basic, where Santa lives humbly with a number of different buildings for each section of his operation. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Elf, Santa’s workshop is similar to a barn or cottage, where the elves sit at a long table and work away at their individual elf stations. There’s also a main house, a stable, and more.
The other main design of Santa’s workshop is where everything is contained in one building, almost like a massive castle. This design is seen in films like The Santa Clause movies and Rise of the Guardians. In these films, elves are running about here and there trying to keep everything organized, and all of the different operations involving what Santa does seem to be divvied up by floor. Both films also show us what Santa’s own personal workroom looks like, complete with a wooden desk and space for him to do his Santa-like things.
One of the few exceptions to these two basic designs is the new visual concept we are introduced to in the film Arthur Christmas. In that film, Santa’s workshop is not above the surface but rather underneath. And what is underneath, is not your typical workshop. In the film, Santa’s workshop is shown to be more of a private military base completely stocked with computers and state-of-the-art technology that not only allows for efficient building of toys, but accurate monitoring, navigating and delivering of said toys.
One of the most popular conventions of the Christmas mythology is the idea that elves help Santa make the toys. In terms of film adaptations, most movies follow this. But, as I mentioned before, the great differences are in the subtleties. For example, in the film The Santa Clause, all of the elves are actually children. There are no adult elves at the North Pole. This is different from the movie Elf, where all of the elves are actually adults. While all Christmas movies try to put their own spin on the elves, I think the film Arthur Christmas does it best. In that film, you have elves of indeterminate ages but what makes the film’s interpretation interesting is how it incorporates different nationalities into the elves individual identities. You have elves from India, elves from Ireland, and one particularly foreboding Scottish elf. No other film to my immediate memory includes a variety of different nationalities when it comes to their elves.
To go in a completely different direction, the film Rise of the Guardians does contain the “elves make the toys” concept, however it is to make fun of it rather than fulfill it. In that movie, the yetis make the toys. As the Santa figure mentions to another character, they just want the elves to think that they make the toys. Observing their portrayal as tiny and almost stupidly oblivious characters in the film, it’s easy to see why that would be the case. Still, it’s another interpretation, and one worth mentioning.
Now that we’ve taken a look at where the magic happens and who helps to make it, we will next look at how different films portray Santa’s delivery system. Reindeer and sleighs will be on our agenda for next week. Make sure to tune in. Any films that I missed? Make sure to mention them in the comments below.