It’s one of the great mysteries of all time, and one that has puzzled children for over a century: How does Santa Claus manage to deliver presents to the all of the children of the world in just one night? It’s a question very much at the root of director Sarah Smith’s film for Aardman, Arthur Christmas. The film tells the story of the dysfunctional Claus family and their high-tech operation concealed at the North Pole that carries out the annual Christmas mission. When an elfin error results in one child being missed on the run, the race is on to correct the problem — but Arthur (James McAvoy), the least competent of the Claus family, is the one most concerned with delivering her present before dawn arrives. So he and his politically incorrect grandfather, Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) head off on a rogue escapade to make sure that when it comes to Christmas, no child is left behind.
Figuring out the logistics of the journey was both a challenge and a mathematical mania for Arthur Christmas director/writer Sarah Smith and her cowriter, Peter Baynham. But it was a problem that amused them to no end. “Once you start working out how Santa does what he does, it’s madness,” Baynham suggests. “You start thinking, ‘Well, he’d have to start at the southern tip of New Zealand and then zigzag around the world to do it in twelve hours.’ We got into a big argument about time zones and whether Santa could fly into daylight and then back into darkness. The idea that the elves have exactly 18.14 seconds per household is based on calculations we did.”
But calculating the feasibility of Santa’s ride was only a starting point for Arthur Christmas‘s filmmakers. As they continued to work on the story and the film, they soon enough became aware of its heart, and the how to get to it. “The biggest principle Pete and I worked by when we were writing the movie was that we wanted to feel the emotion ourselves, the truthfulness of it,” Smith says. “It was important to us not to borrow the emotion, but to have it come from a real place. And because the movie has our genuine emotions in it, the final result is a film that is very special to us.”
Arthur Christmas is available on Video On Demand starting Nov. 6. Check your cable system for availability.
Image: © 2011 Sony Pictures Animation, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Aardman Animations for Sony Pictures Animation