Songwriter Noel is struggling to write a hit song, and so he takes his frustrations out on his family. His daughter Dakota is granted one wih for doing a good deed and she wishes that her ... See full summary »

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(teleplay), (teleplay)
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Cast overview:
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Noel (voice)
...
Melody Songbird (voice)
...
Alicia (voice)
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Emerald (voice)
Tom Joyner ...
Mr. Sweet (voice)
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Dakota (voice)
...
(voice)
Lawrence Clayton ...
(voice)
Lynne Lipton ...
(voice)
Stanley Mathis ...
(voice)
Michael McElroy ...
(voice)
Rozz Morehead ...
(voice) (as Rosalyn Morehead)
Hugh Morgan ...
(voice)
Mary Gordon Murray ...
(voice)
Natalie Toro ...
(voice)
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Storyline

Songwriter Noel is struggling to write a hit song, and so he takes his frustrations out on his family. His daughter Dakota is granted one wih for doing a good deed and she wishes that her daddy will write a hit song. There is a sub-plot about kindness to animals that has almost nothing to do with the main story. Written by Randy H. Farb <rhfarb@yahoo.com>

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Animation

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Release Date:

17 December 2001 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"Santa, Baby!" Has Some Problems, But Maintains Its Charm
30 November 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Santa, Baby!" holds two distinctions amongst many made-for-TV Christmas specials. First, it was the first Rankin/Bass production in 14 years, and the first Christmas special of theirs in 16 years. It is also the first Rankin/Bass special with main characters who are predominantly African-American, a huge change from their other Christmas specials that were overwhelmingly Caucasian.

Oh yes, there are a few other noteworthy distinctions. It was the last special Arthur Rankin, Jr. produced, and will probably be his last. Jules Bass was not involved with this production for reasons I don't know.

So while the special holds its place in animation history for those reasons, it really matters how it stands as a story. As the last Rankin/Bass Christmas special, it has some very tough acts to follow.

Fortunately, "Santa, Baby!" has some great 2D animation that is almost flawless. The animation alone has the charm of the Rankin/Bass 2D specials of yesteryear ("Frosty The Snowman" (1969), "Twas The Night Before Christmas" (1976)), but there are enough technological advancements in this special to show how far animation has come after all these years.

One of my favorite sequences in this movie was showing the partridge (voiced by Patti LaBelle) flying through the city's tall buildings. It's amazing to watch the buildings go by. I assumed the city to be New York, but really the story could take place anywhere.

Speaking of the story, how does it hold up? Rankin/Bass specials, while they have been notoriously squeaky clean, have always told solid stories. "Santa, Baby!", however, suffers slightly from a few too many subplots that don't contribute to the main story.

The main story revolves around a professional songwriter named Noah (voiced by the late Gregory Hines). He is struggling to write a hit Christmas song, and tends to take his frustrations out (only verbally, thankfully) on his wife Alicia (Vanessa L. Williams) and daughter Dakota (Kianna Underwood).

Although Noah's venting consists of flatly stating "It's not" in response to Dakota's question, "How's the song writing coming?", Dakota still feels the cold shoulder. When the bird Dakota rescues from the snow starts to talk and claim its magical powers, the bird (LaBelle), who goes by the name Melody Songbird and claims to be THE Partridge in the pear tree (guess which song), grants Dakota one wish.

Dakota's wish, of course, is for her Dad to write one hit song. Melody then appears to Noah, and takes him on a magical journey to find inspiration for a new song. Of course, part of that magical journey involves him wearing a Santa suit and ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.

So the story is pretty long-winded. However, it gets you hooked when you wonder what song Noah is going to write, and how he is going to put his experiences into song form. Will he write the classic hit "Santa Baby"? Well, you learn halfway through the special that "Santa Baby" has already been written, and it's a little contrived how they fit the song into the story. Noah's wife Alicia sings the song teasingly to him after catching him in a Santa Claus suit. Melody the bird and Emerald the cat (voiced by Eartha Kitt, who of course sang the original song) also join in.

While it's nice to hear Vanessa Williams, Patti LaBelle, and Eartha Kitt sing an interesting version of the song, Santa really has little to do with this story. In fact, a black Santa makes an appearance at the end, and a subplot emerges seemingly ripped right from "The Santa Clause" (1994). It's out of left field, and the special could have done without it.

Another most notable subplot involves an animal shelter near where Noah lives. The pets that occupy the shelter, ranging from an Alaskan husky to a lobster, have no homes in which to stay, but that doesn't matter to the Scrooge-like superintendent Mr. Sweet (voiced by radio host Tom Joyner). This subplot doesn't tie in very well with Noah's story, and Mr. Sweet's grumpiness seems too convenient, let alone unconvincing.

If they had stuck to the main story about a struggling songwriter, the story would have been better. Plus, a better name for the special would have been "A Warm & Soulful Christmas", which is the song Noah ends up writing. While the movie makers obviously received Eartha Kitt's blessing to use "Santa Baby", it's obvious the writers felt the need to squeeze in Santa at the very end.

What results is a Christmas special that tries to cover too many bases. If the story had stuck with Noah, his family, and Melody Songbird, it would have been better. If Mr. Sweet was a landlord threatening Noah out of his house if he didn't come up with a hit song to pay the bills, rather than Mr. Sweet just being a grumpy man who claims to hate animals, that character trait alone would have given the story more necessary conflict.

While the subplots tripped up the story, there were other elements that worked well. The music was great, especially the part where Alicia, a newspaperman, and some neighborhood rappers jazz up "Jingle Bells". It's cool how the song jumps from hip-hop to gospel to jazz, and makes the song interesting.

In that same part, I also liked how the characters emphasized community service making a neighborhood a better place to live. It's inspiring to see people work together to clean up a park, even if they're cartoon characters. That scene is miraculous on its own, and you don't need Santa for that kind of magic.


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