The first ever animated holiday film to hit IMAX screens, Santa vs. The Snowman tells the story of a lonely snowman whose envy of Santa Claus leads him to challenge the jolly one for control of the North Pole and the title of Father Christmas.
From exec. producer Steve Oedekerk (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Kung Pow: Enter The Fist), director John A. Davis and the rest of the team behind the Academy Award-nominated Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, this latest "Christmas that almost didn’t happen" story is told through CG animation and 3D visuals that require special glasses.
The 3D effect is a lot of fun and the producers do a great job of making the viewer feel immersed in the environment. Children in particular will be wide-eyed at the colorful scenes that seemingly play out just an arm’s reach away.
The story, unfortunately, is less engaging. While the pacing is fast and lively, the film gets bogged down in tired Star Wars spoofs and a disturbingly Orwellian vision of Santa’s village.
There are some nice comic touches and Jonathan Winters is lovely as the voice of Santa. Ben Stein and Victoria Jackson also lend their distinctive vocals to odd-looking elf characters.
The animation, by DNA Productions with additional work by OMATION, is fairly rudimentary and lacks a certain warmth. But considering they’re held up — and out — to the scrutiny of the biggest screens in existence, the LightWave-created visuals are quite passable.
While its less than satisfying narrative arc and uninspired animation will leave you longing for the good old days of Rankin and Bass, Santa vs. The Snowman is still worth seeing for the 3D IMAX experience. Though it’s being promoted as a feature film, it actually falls somewhere between a short and a featurette at around 30 minutes, making it a fun little holiday excursion for the whole family. It opens nationally and internationally only in IMAX theaters on Nov. 1.