Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Readying the Gift of a Definitive Santa Claus Documentary

If you're a documentary filmmaker and you live near the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, chances are you might wind up being involved in a project about the legend of jolly old St. Nick. Especially if you also at one time produced a national commercial for Coca Cola, the company largely responsible for popularizing the Santa Claus tradition.

Sure enough, Larry Peter is currently filming They Wore the Red Suit, a look at three of this country's most storied Santas. Even better, the 2012 doc is going to shine a light on not just Charles W. Howard, who was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa from 1948 through 1965, but also his Santa Claus School. This unique establishment, which was started in Albion, New York and is currently located in Midland, Michigan, is celebrating in 2011 its 75th anniversary year.

The second founding-father Santa being showcased by Peter is the late Jim Yellig, a fixture for many years at Santa Claus Land in the aforementioned Indiana town. From the director's notes:

Howard and Yellig only met once, at a Santa School in Santa Claus, IN in 1938. We have recently discovered documents and photos from that historic meeting. We’ll also tell stories of individuals who aren’t full-time Santas, but are leaving their mark on the legend. Pancho Claus of Houston, TX created his character to bring a Hispanic “Santa’s helper” to the Spanish speaking children of his area. Pancho rides in Christmas parades in a sleigh pulled by low-riders.

Consulting on the project is the third and final major Santa featured in the film, Phil Wentz. For more than two decades, Wentz has been performing as St. Nick at Santa's Village in Dundee, Illinois. He is the founder of the Santa Claus Oath Foundation as well as one of the original inductees in the Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Columbus, Nebraska.

This upcoming Santa history also ties into the Christmas legend's somewhat unlikely connection with the world's first two theme parks. If nothing else, Peter's film has a great shot at becoming a beloved staple in locales like Santa Claus, Indiana.

[They Wore the Red Suit]

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