Santa Claus in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947)
For more than a century, Santa has appeared in about a gazillion movies in one form or another, but he will always be best remembered from this Christmas classic. In the film, which has been remade a few times, Kris Kringle slums with mortals during the holiday season, and is charged with being insane because he believes he’s the real St. Nick. It’s a wonderful portrayal by Edmund Gwenn, though one thing we always found odd about this Santa is how he feels he has time to be a department store version of himself during the time of year when he obviously should be at the North Pole.
Santa Claus in ‘Santa Claus’ (1898)
While not the most remembered, this depiction of Santa is definitely the best preserved, having been one of the first film versions of the Christmas icon. It was directed by George Albert Smith, an effects-minded filmmaker who was a bit like the English equivalent of Georges Melies, though certainly less famous.
The Easter Bunny in ‘Easter Yeggs’ (1947)
He calls himself “The Easter Rabbit,” and he’s something of a con artist, crying in the forest to dupe another hare to do his job for him. In this Looney Tunes short, the mark is Bugs Bunny, who takes the basket of eggs and delivers them door to door. And then we learn why the holiday mascot might hate his job: Elmer Fudd, not satisfied with “technicolor hen fruit,” is out to turn the bunny into Easter Rabbit stew.
Jack Frost in ‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ (1933)
He’s only in this animated short for a few seconds in the beginning, but he makes a big impression by riding onto the screen with a cool frosted airplane with his name on it. Like a crop duster, this plane sprays frost onto the ground below, just in time for Halloween. (And even with the cold weather, Betty Boop still wears her iconic skimpy dress.)
Sandman in ‘Candyland’ (1935)
In <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLyjG2A_6xk&feature=youtu.be”>this Walter Lantz-animated film</a>, the Sandman is depicted in a similar manner to Jack Frost in the Betty Boop cartoon, sans airplane. As a long-bearded old guy, he walks across the sky sprinkling his dust over the world so all the little kids will go to sleep. (And when the sand doesn’t work, he carries the babies off to Candyland.) Of course, it’s really a dream world, which is good because giving kids sugar doesn’t seem like the best way to induce slumber.
Santa Claus in ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’ (1985)
The overall movie might not be so hot, but if there’s one thing they got right its the title character, who gets a decent origin story before the plot turns its focus on an elf who goes rogue. Santa does get an interesting narrative arc relative to that of a superhero movie and the film premise is noteworthy for addressing the role of the icon in a modern world of big business and mass production manufacturing. He’s played perfectly by David Huddleston, who most of us now know as “The Big Lebowski.”
Santa Claus in ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’ (1964)
Although it’s considered objectively awful (it was made infamous through an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”), this is yet another film in which Santa is something of a superhero. (At least, that’s what the title would have you believe.) St. Nick doesn’t really get to personally kick much Martian butt here, but he does wind up teaching the aliens the true meaning of Christmas, which is to get their own holiday mascot instead of stealing Earth’s.
Jack Frost in ‘Jack Frost’ (1934)
In this Ub Iwerks-animated short, there is a distinction made between the elfish Jack Frost and the wicked Old Man Winter, though more often the characters are portrayed as one and the same. Here, Jack isn’t the guy who brings the cold or the season. He’s a little artist who paints frost on windows and warns grizzly bears about Old Man Winter. He’s also apparently responsible for ripening pumpkins and turning them into jack-o’-lanterns.
Jack Frost in ‘Jack Frost’ (1979)
Jack and Father Winter are also separate characters in this animated special from stop-motion legends Rankin-Bass. But here, Jack, a ghostly sprite, is capable of anything from blowing a chilly air to causing full-blown snow storms. In this story, he falls in love with a human girl and is allowed to turn into a real boy to be with her. Fortunately — at least for those of us who love wintry weather — he ultimately returns to his eternal gig. Jack was also a villainous character in the earlier Rankin-Bass animated films “Frosty’s Winter Wonderland” and “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.”
Sandman in ‘Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy’ (1954)
In this stop-motion animated adaptation of Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera, an elderly-looking Sandman approaches the children and sings to them. He sprinkles sand into their eyes to make them sleep during their dark and scary night in the forest.
The Easter Bunny in ‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’ (1991)
If you want to be terrified of the Easter mascot, who normally is thought of as a cute, friendly rabbit, watch this “Bill & Ted” sequel. He (it?) shows up in Ted’s personal Hell after the excellent duo are sent to the underworld and Satan pits them against their greatest fears.
Santa Claus in ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ (2010)
What if the original Santa was naughty, not nice? We’ve seen numerous takes on bad Santas, whether with slashers dressed as him or stories considering the myth differently. This is the latter: a clever Finnish film that depicts St. Nick as a supernatural creature more focused on killing the wicked rather than delivering presents. Other similar films that have come out recently include the black comedy “Santa’s Slay” and the Dutch horror flick “Saint.”
The Tooth Fairy in ‘Hogfather’ (2006)
In “Rise of the Guardians,” the villain is The Boogeyman. In this adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s surreal Christmas novel, the Bogeyman and the Tooth Fairy are one and the same, having gone from scaring children to liking them and giving them money for their teeth. As a bogeyman, she can take on different forms depending on your fears or what you imagine the Tooth Fairy to look like. (Do you imagine the character as an old woman with a shawl, too?)
Santa Claus, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman in ‘The Santa Clause 3: Escape Clause’ (2006)
All of the Guardians are also represented in this third installment of the ‘Santa Clause’ movies, though obviously it’s primarily St. Nick’s show with Tim Allen reprising the role. Here, all the mascots are part of the Council of Legendary Figures, which also includes such characters as Mother Nature, Father Time and Cupid. The plot of the sequel also heavily involves Jack Frost (Martin Short) as a villain, who is jealous of all the attention Santa gets during the colder months. (He must have forgotten that winter lasts a long time after Christmas is over.) But he does have a point that he and some of the others deserve their own holidays. Sandman Day will be the best, as it will just involve sleeping.