Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny – 1972

This movie is what Roger Ebert will be forced to watch in Hell.  He will be led down a long corridor, with concession stands and posters advertising the most acclaimed films ever.  He’ll see posters for cinematic masterpieces, such as The Godfather, Citizen Kane, The Color Purple, and Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls.  “This must be heaven,” he’ll think to himself, “I wonder what movie I’ll get to watch first.”  The usher then seats him in the center of a dimly-lit theater, just as the previews finish.  He starts to get nervous when he hears the familiar sound of cold steel locking behind him, as the doors to the theater are bolted shut.  “Walk, do not run, to the nearest exit” will blare, mockingly, just as the movie begins.  Just as it dawns Mr. Ebert that something isn’t quite right, the usher starts laughing a deep, guttural laugh.  “Oh God, no” Roger whispers to himself as he turns around, slowly realizing the usher is actually Satan.  “No,” the usher replies, “he won’t be of any help to you here.”  The usher laughs again as he removes his mask, revealing himself to actually be M. Night Shyamalan.

There, that paragraph of bullshit, made-up, story about Roger Ebert in Hell, that took me an entire TEN MINTUES to write, has more story, plot, and artistic merit than the entirety of “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny”.  I’ve read fortune cookies that have a greater chance of winning an Academy Award.  What this movie does accomplish, however, is prove beyond a reasonable doubt that if there is a God, he hates us.

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What’s that?  You paid for one movie?  Stupid, why buy one movie, when you can get two for the same price?  That’s right, ”Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” is actually two movies in one.  The main story, is about Santa Claus getting his sleigh stuck in the sand on a beach.  Now wait just one moment, before we go any further.  This is a legitimate and plausible concept for a children’s movie.  I just wanted to say out loud that there was potential for this not to be a complete failure.

The second story is less forgiving.  Turns out, years before the director was tasked with this movie, he worked on a completely different, unrelated movie about Thumbelina.  This movie was completely finished and ready to be produced.  However, it turns out that even after all that work of making a movie, he couldn’t get anyone to produce it.  So it just went to waste. Here’s where Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny come in.

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The movie starts out with grainy, 70’s-era documentary quality stock footage of a grassy field.  Because when I think “Santa Claus”, I think “grassy fields.”  This leads into a workshop full of elves, really children in costumes, singing poorly about making the toys for children, who I’d like to think would be played by elves in costumes, just to be fair.  After their song, they begin to wonder where in the world Santa has gone.  Turns out, he’s stuck on the beach in Florida.  His sleigh can travel magically through the air by eight magical reindeer, but sand completely ruins his day.  Santa chooses to sing a song, to summon the local children, in hopes that one of them will be able to free him from this tropical prison.

The kids try all kinds of things to free Santa.  They tie a dog to the sleigh, but no, he can’t pull him out.  A pig?  Nope.  They even try a sheep and a cow before bringing out the big guns.  A man in a gorilla suit.  These kids have some screwed up pets.  Santa even steps out of the sleigh to help push when they bring a horse along.  Unfortunately, all this accomplishes is showcasing Santa’s sweaty stains all over the backside of his suit.  Apparently, red felt and fake beards don’t breathe well in the summer.  Who knew?

 

The kids decide to take a break, so Santa decides this is the perfect opportunity to tell them an inspirational story about Thumbelina.  Sound familiar?  That’s right, the director literally cut and pastes his entire failed Thumbelina movie into the center of this one.  And I don’t mean clips or snippets.  The whole damn movie, intro credits and everything.  And even then, the first 10 minutes of Thumbelina are a family walking around an amusement park.  The family decides to enter a building, sit down, and listen to a speaker tell them the story of Thumbelina.  Remember, this is Santa Claus, telling children a story about a family in an amusement park listening to a speaker tell the story of Thumbelina.

The story of Thumbelina is many years old, and I’m sure you’re all familiar enough with it.  An old woman pays a witch 13 pennies to have her create a little girl, who then escapes and is abducted by mole people.  The mole people try to force her to marry the old Mr. Mole, with him saying “Oh, I collect girls” and has a dress already picked out for her to wear.  Thumbelina gets scared and escapes.  She gets rescued by the Fairy Prince, who she is then forced to marry, but is ok with it this time.

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The family listening to the story stands up from the table, while the narrator is still talking, and leaves the amusement park.  Roll end credits.  Once the end credits are over, we cut back to Santa on a beach, telling his story.  “I hope you kids learned a valuable lesson today.”

Finally, we meet the Ice Cream Bunny, who arrives via vintage fire truck, sirens blaring.  The Ice Cream Bunny is a man in a giant bunny suit.

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He says nothing, only smiles and stares into your soul with his dead, black eyes.  Even the dog belonging to one of the children is growling at this monster.  Santa thanks this children for their help, gets in the truck, and leaves them and his sleigh behind.  The kids cheer for a moment, then go back to check on the sled, only to have it vanish into thin air.

The kids probably died on the beach.  No one knows.  No one cares.  Dying of heat stroke and dehydration was probably less painful for them than the Thumbelina story.

My favorite part of this movie was the second set of ending credits, because the first set gave me false hope.  My mother and I watched this movie on a trip back from Florida, using the DVD player built into the van.  At one point, she fell asleep, so I woke her up.  I told her “you have to suffer through this with me.”  She looked at me like I had just slapped her.

“You’re no longer my son.” – Nigel’s Mom.

Showing 4 comments
  • Toon
    Reply

    You are a very funny writer! I can't wait to read more.

  • Tom
    Reply

    I spent the last 10 minutes doubled over in pain from laughing too much after watching that clip. I actually was afraid I couldn't breathe. Every time I caught my breath, my mind went back to that Santa Claus guy waving his hands in the air and conducting an orchestra of NOBODY, waving his arms around at empty space on the beach like a mental patient.

    I'm getting tears in my eyes again, because "Who Will Help Me?" is actually starting to seem like a cry for help from an escaped mental patient conducting an invisible orchestra on the beach. And I haven't even gotten to the kids yet.

    What the hell are early 1970s home movies of kids in a backyard doing in there? Did you notice that the movies suspiciously do a freeze frame every time something bad is going to happen to the kids? Someone jumps off a roof with a patio umbrella, and we see a freeze frame before they get hurt. A girl slips on a skateboard, and there's a freeze frame just before she falls face first onto concrete. A dog jumps up straight at a teenage girl, and then…. two kids are strangling each other on the lawn and then… WHAT HAPPENED TO THESE KIDS? It's as if they were immediately rushed to the hospital in real life, and the director used just as much footage as he still could. I wouldn't be surprised if the kids suspiciously didn't appear in the rest of the movie.

    Thanks for sharing. It'll take me some time to recover.

  • Henry Brennan
    Reply

    Future Henry: Also check out "The Mexican Santa Claus" – it makes for a great holiday double feature!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus_%281959_film%29

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