Twelve Days of Completely Secular Yuletide: Who needs live-action holiday films when we have Klaus?

With its lovable characters and touching plot, Sergio Pablos’ Klaus is sure to warm every inch of your cold, dead, exam-ridden heart. Its 2020 Academy Award nomination for best animated feature film set high expectations, and the film made sure to not disappoint.

Taking place in the dreary fictional town of Smeerensburg, the film follows Jesper, a postman who, accustomed to a privileged lifestyle taken for granted, suddenly has it taken out from under him. The only way to get back to it? Face the task of delivering a large number of letters and prove he is responsible. Simple enough. However, when stationed in a town characterized by generations of grudges and gloom, his task to deliver becomes seemingly impossible. With the help of Klaus, a gentle woodsman, along with Alva, a teacher with no students to teach, we join him on his journey to chip away at this daunting task by attempting to change the town around him.

Now, this is definitely not the typical plot that would be used to tell a story of a holly, jolly Christmas. However, using all of these key aspects, director Sergio Pablos created in a hopeless town, grounds for growth, development and most importantly, warmth.

Garnering a darker, less magical take on the origins of Santa Claus, Klaus is a bit of an unconventional take on Santa. In fact, from watching the first half of the movie, you probably would not have guessed that it was even related to good ol’ Saint Nick, had the title of the film not been so revealing.

The difference between Klaus and other Santa movies is that it does not rely on whimsical magic to justify the nature of Santa Claus. It goes beyond that, giving him a more grounded character. Santa’s origins are told as someone who has experienced loss and grief, but who, despite that, seeks to impart joyfulness and warmth on others who have yet to experience those emotions.

With time, the jumble of seemingly unrelated aspects of the film, including the uppity postman, lonely woodsman, and town in perpetual conflict, slowly piece themselves together to create an innovative take on the origins of the beloved Santa Klaus. Like completing a puzzle, it was exciting to see where each little detail fit into the greater story of how Santa came to be.

From the flying reindeer to the red suit, coal, Christmas market, and even the milk and cookies, this story made sure to cover each base. Each tradition made its way into the film with no detail left spared, and each accompanied by a generous amount of comedy.

Yes, it may have the typical main-character-is-a-scrooge-turned-jolly kind of plot, but the sheer genius that went into the story itself, as well as the stunning animation, was incredible. Not only could you clearly see how the characters felt, but it was as if you, yourself, could feel it, and were experiencing the exact same emotions. The well-portrayed feelings of pure excitement and joy of seeing presents underneath the tree on Christmas day, or of the gradual warmth of setting aside generations worth of rivalry, do not fail to pull at your heartstrings.

Seeing the genuine wonder, excitement and joy spewing from the children of this town who previously knew nothing of the sort, is enough to remind us of our good old days as a kid. Not necessarily of even celebrating Christmas, but just of the atmosphere of the holiday season, with the warm lights, the snow, happiness, and sense of community.

The strong character development, emotion, and stunning animation are used masterfully in order to portray the true holiday spirit of goodwill. This story is truly one of a kind, carving its place as a holiday classic, right up there with one like Elf. It proves that even in a place as bleak and as seemingly hopeless as Smeerensberg, even the longest of rivalries may be ended, and the worst of natures can be pacified with just one genuine act of goodwill.