Anyone my age or a couple of generations older would remember the films made by Rankin/Bass Productions. If those who not familiar with their name, they were an animated film studio that produced very popular Christmas films such as Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Comin' To Town. The last one being my favorite one out of the rest. The premise of Santa Claus is Comin' To Town is basically an origin story of the Santa Claus legend and the Christmas holiday as we know it. Yet another holiday film would take the same premise but tell a very different story than Santa Claus is Comin' To Town. That film is called Klaus.
Klaus is a Holiday animated film released on Netflix in 2019. An English-language Spanish film directed by Sergio Pablos with voices from Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, and Rashida Jones. The premise is the same as Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, but Pablos along with co-writers Jim Mahoney and Zach Lewis do a great job the story of the film their own.
The film follows a man named Jesper Johansson who is the son of a Royal Postmaster General. Jesper is a lazy and spoiled rich boy who attempts to flunk out of postman academy. As punishment, Jesper's father sends him to a distant town of Smeerensburg in a far northern island. While he's there, Jesper must post 6,000 letters within a year. If he fails, he will be cut off from his family's fortune. When Jesper arrives, he finds that the town is caught up in a big family feud between two families: Ellingboes and Krum. Eventually, Jesper meets a big man named Klaus who is the Santa Claus figure of the film. The two of them help one another give toys to the children and form the tradition of the Christmas holiday and its mythos.
Klaus turned out to be much better than I expected. The first trailer of the film made me believe that it was just going to be another animated film relying on dumb humor and pop music to appeal to kids and their families. After watching the film, I was surprised and happy to be wrong. There are a couple of moments where the film used pop music, but the film as a whole holds up.
The animation of the film is one of its highlights. Each of the characters is well-designed with distinct looks that match their personalities. Klaus was nominated at the 92nd Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Toy Story 4. The Academy's decision of giving the award to Toy Story 4 proves that judges and voters only vote for the most popular animated film in the animation department. Klaus did become the first animated film from Netflix to be nominated and won seven awards at the 47th Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature.
The voice acting of the film is another highlight. Each of the voice actors fit well with their characters. My favorite is J.K. Simmons as Klaus. He doesn't have any lines in the beginning, but Klaus does get lines only when Klaus gets to know Jesper a little more while helping children get toys. J.K. Simmons is one of those actors who has found success in live-action and animated roles. His voice is very powerful and strong that he was able to bring that when it came to the character of Klaus.
The plot and story of Klaus was very unexpected for me. While I was slightly disappointed that the film is not about its title character, Jesper and the supporting cast go through a journey of overcoming prejudice and difference to come together in a peaceful time. Jesper also gets to overcome his spoiled rich boy nature to become more caring and humble. As for the family feud of the town, it didn't quite make sense for me at first how their feud related to the theme of Christmas. Eventually, I've come to realize that Christmas is a holiday to spend with your family and finding peace with the ones that you love. I also remember that one WWI story where the Allies and Germans stopped the war so that they could celebrate Christmas.I would say that Klaus is a good film to watch if looking for something new. All the Hallmark films can be enjoyed with cheesiness and ridiculousness. Those old stop motion Holiday films by Rankin/Bass Productions can still be enjoyed today. But Klaus is a special gift from last year that is worth revisiting again and again.