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Thursday, October 31, 2013

'The Secret World of Santa:' The Best French Import Since Brie

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The pair of two-disc 12 and 13 episodes DVD sets, which were released on October 29 2013, of "The Secret World of Santa" exceeds all expectations for holiday fare. Instead of anticipated adequately animated adventures that entertain despite rotting your teeth from just watching them, the French imports have very cool European-style animation and wonderfully surreal stories. Vive le difference!!

As a first aside, the original series has the way cool title "Le Monde Secret du Pere Noel."

As a second aside, this film makes a great companion to the animated British film "Saving Santa," which Unreal TV reviewed earlier this week. Both beyond awesome productions likely have the talented (and still greatly loved) Mssrs Rankin and Bass hanging their heads in shame.

Like "Santa," "Secret World" is well animated and has enough of an edge to keep adults entertained at least through the first two of an inevitably long series of viewings by any children in the household. The latter depicts the daily lives of Santa, his inner circle of magical elves, and the adorable clumsy polar bear who follows them around.

Santa has the expected deep voice, and the elves mercifully look like roughly 12 year-old children (and even begrudgingly pass for human in one episode) and have the appropriate voices and attitudes for their appearance. This depiction is much more pleasant than odd little creatures whose voices make dogs howl. Said bear is predictably goofy in facial expression and voice.

Santa's evil neighbor Gruzzlebeard adds a wonderful element of "The Smurfs," who originated in Belgium, to "Secret World." Many of the 30-minute adventures focus around Gruzzlebeard's efforts to thwart Santa's goal of spreading Christmas cheer around the world. Dudley the troll fills the role of Gruzzlebeard's inept aide.

Much of the fun comes from Santa's elves using their magical powers to thwart the evil plans of Gruzzlebeard and other foes of the big man. One elf can turn himself into an animal and another one can fly and turn invisible.

The first episode gets things off to a very trippy and borderline-psychedelic start by having Gruzzlebeard's theft of the magical toy-making machine that cranks out every Christmas gift leading to Santa and the gang going on a magical mystery tour that includes taking his sleigh under the ocean, battling an abominable snowman who projectile vomits snow balls, and coming against a giant bat.

The second episode has a trio of very European representatives from the Santa Claus Commission arriving to administer Santa the once-a-century certification exam that he must ace to keep his job. These "12 Labours of Santa Claus" grill the man in red on every minute Christmas trivia and demonstrate the physical skills that his position requires. Needless to say, Gruzzlebeard does his best to ensure that Santa fails.

Other plots focus on missives and mischief by children on earth prompting Santa and his gang taking a road trip to fulfill a Christmas wish or set things right.

The common theme of every episode is that Santa and his crew must overcome a challenge that threatens achieving their objective of ensuring that every child (and select special adults) has a wonderful Christmas. This lofty (pun intended) goal requires an incredibly cute outer space adventure in one episode.

Adults truly will be entertained, and children will be delighted.

The final word on this is that our gallic friends have followed up the gift of the Statue of Liberty with an equally valuable present in the form of this awesome series.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Secret World" is welcome to email me. You can also follow me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.