Title role notwithstanding, Santa was primarily a supporting character in 1985’s holiday family feature Santa Claus. Dudley Moore got top billing as an elf named Patch, with John Lithgow taking the role of antagonist B.Z. Saint Nick himself was played by David Huddleston, who filled the jolly one’s shoes perfectly.
The story begins with Santa’s origin, set at some undetermined point in the past. Claus, his Mrs., and a small herd of reindeer venture out into a blinding snowstorm to deliver handmade toys to the local girls and boys. Nearly frozen to death, the family is magically transported to the North Pole, where Santa is given warmer digs, a fanciful workshop, and an eager crew of elves. An Ancient Elf explains that Claus will now be known as Santa Claus, delivering toys to boys and girls around the world.
Moving into the present, elf Patch has a few ideas on how to modernize the toy factory, but his monkeying with the works ends in disaster. Shamed, Patch sets out to find a new life in New York City. Instead, he finds toy tycoon B.Z., who’s in trouble with the government for stuffing dolls with rusty nails and razor blades. The cigar-smoking megalomaniac offers to make Patch his right-hand man, but it’s really a ruse to steal the secret of Santa’s flying reindeer. B.Z. hopes to use the secret to make the perfect toy, enabling him to launch a new holiday: “Christmas II.” Santa can help save the day, but only if he and the reindeer can get over their nasty colds.
Put together by the Superman producing and writing teams, Santa Claus took that film’s flying effects to new levels, showcasing Santa’s reindeer-fueled sleigh soaring over skylines and into the heart of New York City. Billed alternately as Santa Claus and Santa Claus: The Movie, the film brought in true believers despite the title confusion.