Christmas Classics: ‘Arthur Christmas’


Maya Gangadharan

In Arthur Christmas, the main character has a pair of glowing reindeer slippers over stripped socks on at all times, which really captures Arthur’s Christmas spirit. Graphic by Maya Gangadharan.

When the holidays arrive there’s no doubt that once you turn your television on you’ll be bombarded with Christmas movies and specials on almost every channel. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, Shrek the Halls, Home Alone, you name it. Now there are some people who really love this, getting cozy and just binging these festive flicks through the night is even considered a tradition. There are others, however, who think that most Christmas movies are cheesy, boring, and unoriginal. One Christmas movie that totally proves this thought wrong is the 2011 animated film Arthur Christmas

This movie is so great in every way, you wouldn’t even need it to be Christmas to want to watch it. As one may guess from the title, the film focuses on Arthur, a clumsy, kindhearted Christmas enthusiast who simply wants everyone to be happy for the holidays, especially the children who receive gifts from Santa, his father. He works as the letter keeperat the North Pole along with Santa’s elves and his brother Steve. Arthur reads each and every letter, learning about what present each child hopes to get. One Christmas, when it turns out that a child has been missed, Arthur sets out with his Grand Santa and Bryony the gift-wrapping elf, to get the requested present to the child who was supposedly forgotten.

Back in 2011, when Arthur Christmas was released, it didn’t get nearly as much attention as I think it should have, making $147 million worldwide. This could have been because it was overshadowed by other family movies released around the same time like The Muppets and Hugo, or maybe people just thought it was some Christmas cash grab that wasn’t worth their time based on the trailer, which did make the movie look a little cliché. Thankfully, the movie was so much better than what viewers expected. Animation, story, characters, Arthur Christmas excels in all aspects.

Sony worked with Aardman Productions to make this movie with an animation style that really made it seem more ‘Christmassy’ than other Sony films, which was of course perfect. Each character’s design fit their personality ideally, like how Arthur’s holiday sweater and slippers go with his sweet, dorky character and Steve’s sharp, clean attributes to match his clever and accountable charisma. The frame to frame movement is so smooth and fast paced and the detail in every single one is incredible. From the textures of characters’ clothing to the reflections on every glass surface, you can tell that a lot of effort was put into the movie. 

The story is another part of the movie that makes it so worth watching. What I really love about it is how creative it gets. It treats the delivery of presents to children like a stealth operation that takes place once a year, which I have never seen done before. The plot does revolve around Arthur getting the missed child her gift, but there are subplots and themes also present in this movie that are very entertaining. For instance, in a world where there have been different Santas for every generation, Steve feels bitter because he gets tired of waiting to take Santa’s title after discovering that his father doesn’t yet feel ready to retire from his position. Along with this, Grand Santa is resentful towards the modern way of delivering gifts, which requires a massive airship that covers the sky and thousands of elves equipped with advanced technology. These three family members argue throughout the whole movie about who the real Santa Claus should be, which also gets the audience wondering as well. There is also a section of the movie in which, after Grand Santa and Arthur set off on a much older sleigh that had not been used in years and raise suspicion in many different parts of the world, the United Nations launch a mission to track down what they believe is an extraterrestrial being and try to stop it from ruining Christmas. Now while these ideas may seem all over the place, they actually come together wonderfully in this movie. 

If it weren’t for the characters in this movie, the story for Arthur Christmas would probably not have been as good as it really was. One notable aspect of the movie was the fact that there wasn’t really a villain and that every character had their own sort of depth. While Steve, voiced by Hugh Laurie, might come off as a bit of a jerk in some cases, he just wants to do Christmas the way he thinks is best. He’s actually the one in control of the annual missions and, with each one turning out mostly successful because of him, he just wants to be appreciated for it. Him wanting to be Santa, however, blinds him from the fact that he isn’t very good with children and kind of blurs the impression of Santa people are supposed to get. There’s also Steve and Arthur’s grandfather, played by Bill Nighy, who wants Christmas to be done the traditional way, as opposed to the high-tech military methods that Steve finds more productive. Steve and Arthur’s father, who has been Santa for 70 years, really enjoys the love and attention he gets from fulfilling this role and doesn’t want to retire despite Mrs. Claus encouraging him to do so and the fact that he doesn’t do much during every mission. Bryony the elf, voiced by Ashley Jenson, is an amazing character whose gift-wrapping skills come into play in surprising ways, whether it be to block out the sound of an alarm system or save Arthur and Grand Santa from an entire pride of lions. Then there’s Arthur. I don’t think there could be a single character as likeable as him. How he can’t stand the fact that one, single child has been missed out of two billion really shows how caring he is. While Grand Santa and Steve argue over which how Christmas should really be done, it didn’t matter to Arthur as long as the child got her gift. Throughout most of his journey, he remains optimistic, with his only priority in the movie being the child and getting her the present she wants before the sun rises. As far as main characters go, Arthur is most definitely one of the best.

Due to its compelling story, very witty and priceless jokes, and fantastic characters, I consider Arthur Christmas not only a Christmas classic, but honestly the best animated Christmas movie of all time, and definitely one worth watching every year.