Once again, Google unlocks a mystery of my childhood. I remembered seeing this weird-as-fuck Christmas special when I was a kid and after a little Googling, I found the title: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. I mainly remembered that creepy "IMMORTALITY, IMMORTALITY" chant that the immortal tribal whatever council continually intoned in that faux-Gregorian chant style, but Jesus Christ, read the fucking plot synopsis of this thing. This council of immortal tribal whatevers has to decide whether Santa Claus should die or be granted eternal life (WTF THIS IS A KIDS SHOW ENOUGH WITH THE EXISTENTIAL DILEMMAS KIERKEGAARD). In the course of explaining this, they show that Santa was initially an abandoned child (his parents murdered by Cossacks before his very eyes, no doubt) raised by a lioness and a fairy (why was Donald Wildmon asleep on the job here?). Santa Claus is motivated to become a giver of toys when one of the immortals shows him (AND THE TELEVISED AUDIENCE) all the miseries and hardship of the world. (Hey kids, people are dying all over the world! Why, your president is sanctioning bloodshed in Central America even as we speak! Little children your age only wish for a end to the unendurable suffering of their lives! Merry Christmas, and back after a word about Mattel's new GI Joe Battle Command Center!) And yes, this ends with a huge battle between the good and evil immortals in which SANTA KILLS HIS ENEMIES. (That explains why Santa's always dressed in red; his clothes were soaked with the blood of the massacred heathen horde. "Ho ho ho, kids, I've got a taste for blood now!") I think the good side won in the end, but the damage to countless childrens' psyches was already done well before that moment. (Also, another site about this special informs me that this thing featured a scene where two puppets make out. WHAT THE FUCK, RANKIN-BASS)
I realize that this is an adaptation of an L. Frank Baum novel, but I can only imagine that this project was spearheaded by some deeply depressed tv executive desperately trying to lash out at a world whose darkness and cruelty mocks and frustrates him. "I know," said the wasted shell of a man. "Let's make an animated Christmas special that spews venom into the sweet, syrupy face of Christmas cheer! A special that mocks everything people hold dear about the holiday season and exposes the sick, morbid core at the heart of our rituals! A special that will warp the fragile young minds of every young child who happens to view it!" And he succeeded. I don't think it's a coincidence that depression, SSRI prescriptions and gothic death fixations spiked exponentially among the youth of America after the broadcast of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. And even though the special has been banished to the far reaches of basic cable and 4:00 am UHF broadcasts, its horrific legacy continues to this very day. Thanks, Rankin-Bass. Yukon Cornelius weeps in bitter, stop-motion shame from his grave.