"The Year Without a Santa Claus" First Airs
The Year Without a Santa Claus is a 1974 Rankin/Bass stop motion animated television special.
It usually airs during the Christmas season on United States television. The story is based on Phyllis McGinley's 1956 book of the same name, illustrated by Kurt Werth.
The show is set in the 1920s and is narrated by Shirley Booth (as Mrs. Claus). Santa Claus (voiced by Mickey Rooney, as he did in the previous Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, of which this special is a semi-sequel) wakes up with a cold and is told by his doctor that he should make some changes to his routine on Christmas. He decides to take a holiday, and it becomes up to the elves, Jingle and Jangle, to find people who still believe in Santa Claus. The elves, however, run into trouble along the way, when they get lost in Southtown, a small town in the Southern United States and their baby reindeer Vixen is mistaken for a dog and sent to the pound, where she sickens in the heat. The skeptical Mayor of Southtown agrees to free the reindeer if Jingle and Jangle prove they are Santa's magical elves by making it snow in Southtown on Christmas Day.
Figuring into the storyline are two of the most well-remembered Rankin/Bass characters, Heat Miser (George S. Irving) and his stepbrother Snow Miser (Dick Shawn). Kind Mrs. Claus comes to ask both of them to work out a compromise to permit a Christmas snow in South Town, Heat Miser's territory; he agrees only if Snow Miser will surrender the North Pole to his control for one day. When they refuse to cooperate, Mrs. Claus goes to their mother, Mother Nature, who forces them to compromise.
Meanwhile, Santa dresses in "civilian" clothes in order to find and rescue Vixen and ends up finding that some people still believe in him and in the spirit of Christmas, especially when the world's children decide they will make him presents if he plans on taking a holiday. The children's decision sets off headlines around the world.
One little girl, however, is sad to miss Santa on Christmas Eve, and she writes that she'll have a "Blue Christmas." Touched by all the evidence he has seen of caring and generosity, Santa decides to pack the sleigh and make his Christmas Eve journey after all, including a public stop in a snowy South Town.
The special premiered in 1974 on ABC where it aired annually until 1980, and still airs on the ABC Family cable network. Warner Bros. Television is the show's current distributor, through their ownership of the post-1974 Rankin/Bass TV library.