Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions in New York, New York. The film is narrated by Fred Astaire and stars the voices of Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Robie Lester, Joan Gardner and Paul Frees, as well as an assistant song performance by the Westminster Children's Choir. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", which was written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie for Leo Feist, Inc. and introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934; and the story of Saint Nicholas. The special was created using Japanese stop motion animation called "Animagic", in which all the characters are made out of wood and plastic and animated via stop-motion photography. The special was originally telecast December 13, 1970, by ABC, which continues to air the special every year, along with its sister network Freeform, as of 2022 (commemorating the special's 50th anniversary), although, at times, both networks have edited the special to make room for commercials.
After a newsreel prologue stating that children around the world are preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus, a postman named Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger is introduced when his snowmobile/mail truck breaks down. After that, he tells the story of Santa in response to several letters sent from children. The story begins with a baby named Claus arriving on the doorstep of Burgermeister Meisterburger, the ill-tempered mayor of the gloomy Sombertown. Meisterburger orders his minion, Grimsley, to take Claus to an orphanage, but on the way there, a gust of wind blows the baby away. A group of animals takes Claus to the Kringles, a family of elves. The Kringles rename him Kris and raise him as their own, teaching him the practice of making toys.
When Kris is old enough, he travels to Sombertown, accompanied by a lost penguin he names Topper. Meanwhile, Meisterburger trips on a toy duck, so he enacts a law prohibiting toys. Kris arrives in town and bestows toys on the children, even giving one to Miss Jessica, their schoolteacher. Meisterburger arrives and orders Kris arrested, but Kris flees into the woods with Topper. Kris and Topper are captured by the wicked Winter Warlock, but the Warlock befriends Kris after he is given a toy train. To prevent further toy deliveries, Meisterburger orders all doors and windows locked, but Kris enters by the chimneys and places toys in the children's stockings. Meisterburger sets a trap for Kris, while his soldiers capture Winter and the Kringles.
Jessica visits the prison and converses with Winter, who has no magic left, except for some corn that enables reindeer to fly. With the reindeer's help, Kris and his friends escape. Soon after, Kris grows a beard as a disguise and returns to his "Claus" name. He marries Jessica and travels to the North Pole to build a toy workshop. With the death of Meisterburger, the toy ban is nullified, and Kris is deemed a saintly figure, becoming Santa Claus. Due to the enormous demand for toys, Santa limits his trips to one night a year; that being Christmas Eve, the holiest night of the year, and the perfect time for giving. After finishing the story, S.D. Kluger remembers that he has to deliver the letters to Santa. He leaves in his now-mended truck with Topper, Winter and a parade of children, singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town".