The Other Side of Animation 68: The Magic Snowflake Review


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Last year, I reviewed Santa’s Apprentice. While I did like it, I found some of the story elements to feel rushed, forced, and not well paced. I admit that I was probably a little harsh on the film, since in the end, I can think of a lot worse and more unoriginal Christmas specials that are out there, but if you have a problem with the film, then you should be able to say what it is. Well, here is a funny little story. I said at the end of that review that I would review the sequel, Magic Snowflake, if I could find a way to watch it. Well, guess what appeared on Netflix a day or two later after? That’s right, 2016’s Christmas Special will begin with the sequel to the fan favorite Santa’s Apprentice. The sequel was released back in 2013, and boy, finding out about this film was like pulling teeth out of a guy who gorilla-glued them into his skull. IMDB has very little information, besides the basics, and Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have a rating or any reviews from it. Basically, this film came and went like 2015’s Jem and the Holograms movie. One thing that is for certain though is that the amazing animation studio, Cartoon Saloon, was not a part of this film in any way. That is a bummer. Let’s get started before I just rattle on.


So, this film takes place after some period of time has passed from the first film. They don’t really say how much, but probably six or so months. The current Santa is now officially retired, and it is up to the young orphan boy, Nicholas, to take up the mantle as the new Santa Claus. Why he has to be the new one while he is still a kid, who knows. As Santa and his wife/assistant go off to travel, Nicholas, along with the rest of the side cast of the first film, like the friend/love interest Beatrice, the elves, the reindeer with the lights around his antlers, and a new Eskimo child named  Tim Tim, has to deal with the stress of being Santa Claus. Can Nicholas power through and become the new Santa before Christmas? I also want to make a little correction to my previous review. The names of the actors I mentioned for the first film was actually the Australian cast. The English cast for the characters include Michael Sorich as Santa, Cole Sand as Nicholas, Mary Pat Gleason (Magda Szubanski in the previous film) as Santa’s wife, and you can find the rest of the cast on the Wikipedia entry for both films.


So, for a sequel to a film not many people know about, how does it do in progressing the story and evolving the characters? Well, let’s talk about the good stuff about the story and characters. First, I’m going to focus on the animation. While it is not being handled by Cartoon Saloon, it is pretty good. Sure, it is not as fluid as the first film, but the animation itself is still fantastic. It pulls off some great visuals. Once again, scenes and backdrops have these great colored pencil look, and it reminds me of old fashioned children’s books.  I especially love the idea of the distressed Nicholas seeing large frozen doors that represent an Advent calendar. This part of the film is where Nicholas needs to hop around time, and I just adore that idea. I also like the idea of a Santa of old taking over while Nicholas solves the puzzle, and it was fun to see how a previous Santa worked. It might be old fashioned, but when you basically live for a century, your time as Santa will definitely be different than the next one. The conflict in this film is much better than the first film, with Nicholas getting stressed out about being the new Santa and having to fix the problem right before Christmas begins. The overall theme of kids growing up too fast, while done before, at least brings something interesting to a Christmas special that I haven’t seen before.


Sadly, while this film does fix a few problems that the first film had, it still has a lot of lingering problems, and it’s maddening since you can tell there was a lot of effort put into this movie. The whole idea of the “Magic Snowflake” and the Advent calendar doors feels wasted. Like, they had good ideas with them to make this a much darker movie, but they either didn’t have the time, changes were made in production, or they didn’t know how to expand on said ideas. I also like the idea of an older Santa being the “antagonist”, and how he wants to revert the toys they send out back to the ones he sent out as Santa. This could have been amazing, but again, they don’t do much with the elements given to the character. The side characters also don’t have a lot to do, and are there just because they were in the original movie. I hate it when sequels do this because it comes off as an exec mandate instead of letting the creators do something more unique and different. I also found Santa’s sub-plot to be just okay. I enjoyed the idea of him wanting to run the orphanage that Nicholas grew up in, but it feels tacked on. Unfortunately, the film is a bit of a bore to sit through. Not that it can’t have its moments, because it does, but like I have said above, the ideas they have don’t go anywhere, and it makes for a boring sit, since the film couldn’t commit to anything it threw at the screen.


In the end, this is a completely harmless sequel. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible. I can totally see some people getting behind this film and the previous one for an audience. It still has some good ideas, some good animation, and solid voice work. I just wish it was better. If you can find The Magic Snowflake or Santa’s Apprentice on DVD and don’t mind them being flawed, I don’t see the harm in watching them. They aren’t terrible, and I didn’t find anything offensive about them. There are just much better Christmas specials out there that people can watch. In fact, I want to look at a more recent winter-themed animated film that is in the Oscar running with Snowtime! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Rent It!

The Other Side of Animation 2015 Christmas Special Part 2: Santa’s Apprentice Review

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Adaptation is a tricky thing to pull off in filmmaking when you are making something based off a popular product. You want to stay loyal to the source material whether it is a show, book, comic book series, and so on. However, making a film is a lot different than writing a book. You have to make changes, and adapt the license so it can fit into a film format. For example, you shouldn’t shove a full 20-episode season into a film that is 103 minutes. You know, like how The Last Airbender turned out. But, you don’t want to change it up too much and use very little of the original source material, like the recent worst movie of 2015, Jem and the Holograms. There are other bad adaptations of popular franchises, like Galaxy Express 999, but since this is the holidays, I wanted to talk about an animated film based off a TV series called Santa’s Apprentice. This French/Australian/Irish animated film is based off the animated series, SantApprentice. It was originally released in 2010 to a solid reception. So, why did I choose this animated film for Christmas instead of many other animated Christmas films? Well, this film was co-produced by the team at Cartoon Saloon, who made one of my favorite films of 2015, Song of the Sea, and The Secret of Kells. So, without knowing anything about the original source material, I am going to go into this film as if it was its own thing. I feel like that would be the correct thing to do, since an adaptation of something should be enjoyable for all, and not just for the fans, hardcore or not. Now then, let’s begin!

This film is set in a world where Santa exists, and has a very particular rule. After a certain period of time, the current Santa must bring in a new apprentice to become the new Santa Claus. So, where shall we find our new future Santa? Well, why not Sydney, Australia? The individual that was chosen is a young orphan boy named Nicholas. As the movie goes from the beginning to the end, Nicholas encounters a baby polar bear, a female orphan that lives in the same orphanage as him, a really crummy bully, a reindeer with lights on his antlers, and magical Christmas wonder. Can Nicholas become the new Santa Claus? Can this 77-minute film stand on its own, without relying on the original animated series?

Let’s begin with the positive elements of the film. Since this is animated by the same studio that made Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, it is beautifully animated. While it might not be up-to-par with Song of the Sea, it still looks fantastic. Fluid movements, visually impressive locales, and bright colors are all gift-wrapped into a really remarkable-looking film. A lot of the backgrounds and scenery moments look like something out of a children’s storybook. It just screams Christmas. I also like the whole process of training to become Santa. Having to get presents under the tree without being spotted, going down a chimney on a house with no chimney, having  to play with toys from the past to get an idea of what to make in the future, learning how to fly in the sleigh, and so on. It’s pretty cool to see the movie break the job of Santa Claus down into individual challenges. I also like the voice work. Most of it can be soup of the day, but I think my favorite actor in the film is the one behind Santa’s voice, Shane Jacobson, who is most famous for his role in the mockumentary, Kenny. Maybe it’s because it the accent, but I really like this version of Santa. He likes jokes, is a hard worker, and is a pretty likable individual. I also liked Santa’s wife/personal assistant, Beatrice Lovejoy, who is voiced by Magda Szubanski. If that name sounds the tiniest bit familiar, she was Esme Hoggett from the Babe films. Anyway, Beatrice is also a hard-working and committed individual making sure Santa is okay.

Sadly, this is yet another one of those animated films that is lovely to look at, but has some lumps of coal under the tree. As much as I love the animation and scenery, the animation itself can get a little choppy at times. Another problem I have with the film is that the characters, besides the current Santa and his assistant, are not that memorable. The kid characters are boiler-plate, and they put in a really tacked-on antagonist, which is another orphan boy. I really don’t like the forced conflict of this villain, since I feel like the stake of the entire film is that Nicholas needs to be the new Santa. This jerk of an orphan is just not needed. Seriously, this kid should be in juvenile detention, not an orphanage. It’s funny how rotten this evil boy acts, since he is upset he wasn’t chosen to be the next Santa Claus. Well, maybe because you are a rude mean-spirited individual is the reason why you can’t be the new Santa. The little girl orphan is also forgettable, since she is just there to be the love interest for the main character.  I also think the pacing of the film could have been better. For a film that is 77 minutes long, they really cram in a lot of plot points, with characters who are not interesting, and are there for, well, plot reasons. It feels like to me they took a few story bits from the animated series and threw them in. You don’t even find out the orphan girl’s name until the last five minutes of the movie. It’s tedious to have to watch these forgettable characters, since it makes me focus on the somewhat ignorable art style of the film. The only design that stands out is Santa, and everyone else looks like something from a children-focused magazine. Granted, it looks much better than the animated series, but still, I think this film could have more unique designs in the kids and other characters.

So, that was Santa’s Apprentice. I honestly really wanted to love this movie. It has everything that I want in a good/entertaining Christmas special, but it so clunky in its plot, pacing, and characters, that it just misses that “Check it out!” rating. I think if they streamlined the plot, took their time, had more genuine emotional moments, fleshed out the relationship between Santa, Nicholas, and the young orphan girl, the film would be a true hidden gem. Who knows, maybe I’m being a bit too much like a Scrooge in terms of this movie, since I have seen a lot of positive reviews for the film. I don’t 100% hate this movie, I adore a lot of elements this film brings to the table, but if it’s flawed, then it needs to be talked about. I do know there is a sequel of sorts to this film, but from what I have read, and by read, I mean the 50% internet research and 50% personal guessing from said internet research, Cartoon Saloon didn’t help animate the sequel that is titled, The Magic Snowflake. Maybe if I can find this movie, I will review it for next year’s Christmas special. If you are looking for something a little different from a very talented studio, then maybe you should check out Santa’s Apprentice. Maybe you’ll like it more than I did. Well, that might have been somewhat underwhelming, but let’s end the year on a positive note with Robot Carnival. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Rating: Rent it!