There are some people that believe that indulging in holiday music and media before Thanksgiving is blasphemous, or at the very least, too early. Luckily for me, Netflix is not of the same state of mind, as they have been releasing a slew of holiday-themed movies and shows, like the novel-inspired “Let It Snow.” The heartwarming, Santa origin story “Klaus” caught my eye when it appeared on my docket, directed by Sergio Pablos, the creator behind the story of Dreamworks’ “Despicable Me” and contributor to the iconic animation of some Disney classics such as “Tarzan,” “Hercules” and “Treasure Planet.” The stunning and unique animation in “Klaus” and its charming story include all of the magical aspects of a holiday movie you may want. Despite the tolerable cliches that mark the film (the Gen-Z stereotypes are kind of annoying, but I’ll overlook them) and the main character’s (loveable) irritability, it’s a worthwhile watch to curl up with a hot chocolate for this season.
The uniqueness and high-quality animation of “Klaus” is even more impressive after hearing it is Netflix’s first animated original film. Sure, streaming service originals have greatly improved in quality recently, but this movie rivals, and in my opinion, is better than, many of the animated holiday movies that have come out in theaters in the past few years. Even critics that may not have enjoyed the movie as much did concede that at the very least, the animation is top-notch.
This is because of Pablos’ return to hand-drawn animation, courtesy of his old-school Disney roots. I’m in the camp of people that believe that CGI animation is not necessarily superior to its 2-D and hand-drawn predecessors, and I’m still irked at Disney for putting that thought into the public’s minds. Luckily, other films have done successfully as a result of creative animation styles, like “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” and “Klaus” is a similar breath of fresh air.
This film’s animation is GORGEOUS. ✨ Klaus is now in town (and streaming). 😉 pic.twitter.com/OFQ7UO4zV9
— Netflix Philippines (@Netflix_PH) November 15, 2019
The hand-drawn, quirky quality of the animation is perfectly suited to the whimsical nature of the story, which takes the idea of children writing letters to Santa Claus and expands on the spirit of this time-honored tradition, while perhaps giving a sentimental nod to this dying art. Despite being an origin story about Saint Nick, the story starts out with Jesper (voiced by Jason Schwartman), a spoiled, privileged student at the Royal Postal Academy, which is run by his father. Jesper’s desire to avoid training and work and to just live out his days enjoying his wealth motivates his deliberate failing in the academy. However, his father isn’t too happy with Jesper’s shirking of his familial (as well as academic) responsibilities, and sends his son to Smeerenburg, an isolated island above the Arctic Circle. Someone’s got daddy problems.
Jesper is tasked with establishing a postal service on the island successfully sending out six thousand letters within a year, lest he be cut off from his precious inheritance. The sharp contrast in color between the fantastical and colorful Academy and the bleak and gray-toned Smeerenburg is brought to life by the characteristic animation. A loner woodsman named Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons, whose deep baritone is perfect for the role) becomes a participant in Jesper’s plot, thanks to his cabin full of toys. Jesper tells the children of the island to write a letter to Mr. Klaus and he’ll give them a toy, thus building the happy legend and helping the young postman’s mission.
There’s also the distinctive quirks of the island that misplaced Jesper is forced to navigate, such as a feud between the Ellingboe and the Krum families and meeting his love interest, Alva (Rashida Jones), who no longer works as a teacher because the children of the island don’t go to school. I’m a sucker of the holiday movie trope that puts the spoiled main character in a small town and teaches them the “spirit of Christmas,” or basically how to be a good person, and then makes them decide if they want to stay or return to their old way of living. I won’t spoil anything, but be sure to put this cute, heartwarming flick on your family’s screen this season.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.