Santa Claus is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion television special, made by Rankin-Bass with models carved from wood (as with most Rankin-Bass specials). The film stars actor Fred Astaire as S.D. Kluger, the narrator, and Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus (a role which he would frequently play later on). The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song of the same name, which was introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934.
The story begins in a gloomy small town called Sombertown, which is ruled by the grouchy Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees). A baby arrives on his doorstep, with a name tag reading Claus. Burgermeister orders his right-hand man, Grimsby (also by Frees) to take the baby to the Orphan Asylum. On the way there a gust of wind blows both sled and baby far away, to the mountains of the Whispering Winds. There, the animals hide him from the Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn), a powerful wizard who dislikes anyone trespassing his land. They bring the baby to the other side of the mountain, where he is found by an elf family by the name of Kringle, led by Tanta Kringle. They adopt him, naming him “Kris.” A few years later, Kris hopes that he can one day restore the Kringle family as The First Toymakers to the King. However, the fact that the Kringles can't pass the mountains without coming across the Winter Warlock has kept them from doing so.
The film ends as S.D. Kluger reflects on what Santa's real meaning is all about. Just then, though, S.D. remembers that he still has a load of letters to deliver to Santa. Then, joined by Topper, Winter and a parade of children, S.D. begins to sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The film's closing scene has Kris and Jess in silhouette, as he puts his old hat back on his head. Then, Santa steps out of his Palace, revealing himself in full splendor.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (sometimes with Coming changed to Comin') is a Christmas song. It was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934. It became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music the next day and more than 400,000 copies sold by Christmas.