Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 3D computer-animated fantasy film and was the first Sony Pictures Animation film co-produced with Aardman Animations. Directed by Sarah Smith and co-directed by Barry Cook,[4] the film stars the voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and Ashley Jensen. It is also the second entirely-computer animated Aardman feature film after 2006’s Flushed Away.

Arthur Christmas
Arthur Christmas Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySarah Smith
Barry Cook (co-director)
Written byPeter Baynham
Sarah Smith
Produced byPeter Lord
David Sproxton
Carla Shelley
Steve Pegram
StarringJames McAvoy
Hugh Laurie
Bill Nighy
Jim Broadbent
Imelda Staunton
Ashley Jensen
CinematographyJericca Cleland
Edited byJames Cooper
John Carnochan
Music byHarry Gregson-Williams
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • 11 November 2011 (2011-11-11) (United Kingdom)
  • 23 November 2011 (2011-11-23) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$100 million[2]
Box office$147 million[3]

The film is based on the premise that Santa Claus is not a person but actually a hereditary title carried on by different individuals over generations. Set on Christmas night, it tells a story about Arthur Claus, the clumsy but goodhearted son of the current Santa, who discovers that Santa's high-tech ship has failed to deliver one girl's present. In response, he embarks on a mission to save her Christmas, accompanied only by his free-spirited and reckless grandfather, a rebellious yet enthusiastic young Christmas elf obsessed with wrapping gifts for children, and a team of eight strong, magical yet untrained reindeer.

Arthur Christmas was released on 11 November 2011, in the United Kingdom, and on 23 November 2011, in the United States.[4] The film received highly positive reviews from critics[5] but earned $147 million at the box office on a budget of $100 million.[3][6][7]


Instead of a single individual, Santa Claus is a dynastic title of successive gift-givers carried on for generations going back to Saint Nicholas. Although the traditional sleigh pulled by reindeer was used in the past, it is now obsolete, having been replaced by the S-1, a mile-wide, ultra-high-tech craft operated by hundreds of elves in charge of delivering presents to every child in the world undetected using advanced equipment and military precision.

The current Santa, Malcolm Claus, is heading his seventieth mission since 1941, but his role has largely been reduced to that of a figurehead. The complex Christmas operations are micromanaged by Malcolm's son Steve and his obsequious assistant elf Peter from underneath the North Pole. Meanwhile, Malcolm's younger son Arthur answers the letters to Santa.

During one of the delivery operations in Poland, a toy is accidentally activated, waking a child and nearly revealing Santa. A tense escape operation ensues, during which a Christmas elf aboard the S-1 inadvertently leans on a button, causing a present to fall from the supply line and go unnoticed.

Having completed his mission, Malcolm delivers a congratulatory speech to the elves, announcing that he looks forward to his seventy-first mission—much to the frustration of Steve, who had prepared to succeed his father as Santa.

During their family Christmas dinner, Malcolm and Steve quarrel, while Malcolm's father and predecessor Grandsanta, bored by retirement, expresses resentment of the modernization. Steve's PDA alerts him, and he hurries away from the table. Arthur follows Steve, and the two learn that an elf named Bryony Shelfley has found the missed present—a wrapped bicycle for a little girl in Trelew, Cornwall named Gwen, to whose letter Arthur had personally responded. Arthur alerts his father, who is at a loss; Steve argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error, citing this year's Christmas as the most successful in history. Grandsanta, on learning of the dire situation, whisks a reluctant Arthur away to deliver it in EVE, his old wooden sleigh. Bryony joins in to help, but they get lost on three different continents, lose several of their reindeer and eventually the sleigh itself, and have many narrow escapes, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Arthur learns, to his disappointment, that Grandsanta's true motive is to fulfill his ego, and that Steve refuses to help them.

Finally, stranded in Cuba, Arthur recovers the sleigh. Meanwhile, the elves grow increasingly alarmed at rumours of the neglected delivery and the Clauses' indifference, sending them into a panic. In response, Malcolm, Margaret, and Steve take the S-1 to deliver a superior present—to the wrong child. Arthur and his company reach England but lose the remaining reindeer. Furthermore, a Predator drone scrambled by Chief De Silva of UNFITA intercepts and opens fire on the sleigh, believing it to be an alien spacecraft. Grandsanta sacrifices EVE, while Arthur and Bryony parachute to the ground.

All four male Clauses ultimately arrive at Gwen's house before she awakens, only to have all but Arthur quarrel about who gets to actually place the gift. Noticing that only Arthur truly cares about the girl's feelings, the elder Clauses collectively realize that he is the sole worthy successor. As a result, Malcolm gives Arthur the honour, and Steve, recognising his own shortcomings, forfeits his birthright and acknowledges his brother's worthiness to take up the mantle. Gwen glimpses a snow-bearded Arthur in a wind-buffeted sweater just before he vanishes up into the S-1.

In a postscript, Malcolm goes into a happy retirement with Margaret—where he also becomes Grandsanta's much-desired new companion—and plays Arthur's board game with him for many happy hours. Meanwhile, Steve finds true contentment as the chief operating officer of the North Pole. Bryony is promoted to Vice-President of Wrapping, Pacific Division. The high-tech S-1 is rechristened EVIE in honour of Grandsanta's old sleigh and refitted to be pulled by a team of five thousand reindeer led by the original eight, all of whom have returned home safely. Arthur happily guides the entire enterprise as Santa Claus XXI.

Voice castEdit

  • James McAvoy as Arthur Claus, the clumsy but good-natured younger son of Malcolm and Margaret who works in the mail room.
  • Hugh Laurie as Steven Claus, Malcolm and Margaret's elder son and Arthur's incredibly capable, business oriented, but cynical, older brother.
  • Bill Nighy as Grandsanta, the 136-year-old grumpy but loving grandfather of Steve and Arthur, a staunchly traditional former Santa who dislikes the modern world. A post-retirement joyriding incident which led to him almost causing the Third World War during the Cuban Missile Crisis caused the family to ban him from flying. He comes out of retirement to help Arthur save Christmas, though his unfamiliarity with the modern world leads them into trouble. He was Malcolm's predecessor and the 19th Santa, serving from 1871 to 1941.
  • Jim Broadbent as Malcolm Claus, the affable but ineffective man in charge at the North Pole. He is Grandsanta's son, Margaret's husband, and Steve's and Arthur's father. He has held the title of Santa since 1941 and is the 20th to serve in that role.
  • Imelda Staunton as Margaret Claus, Malcolm's dedicated and talented wife, and mother of Steve and Arthur.[8]
  • Ashley Jensen as Bryony Shelfley, Wrapping Division Grade 3, the Scottish-accented enthusiastic Christmas Elf from the Giftwrap Battalion who ends up tagging along with Arthur and Grandsanta.
  • Marc Wootton as Peter, Steve's obsequious assistant Christmas Elf.
  • Laura Linney as North Pole Computer
  • Eva Longoria as Chief De Silva, the head of UNFITA (United Northern Federal International Treaty Alliance).
  • Ramona Marquez as Gwen Hines, the girl whose present Arthur must deliver.
  • Michael Palin as Ernie Clicker, the elderly elf and former head of Polar communications for 46 missions during Grand-Santa's time as Santa Claus. He is brought out of retirement to help Steven track Grandsanta's old-fashioned sleigh.[9]
  • Jerry Lambert as N.O.R.A.D.
  • Ryan Patrick Donahoe as Pedro

Lead elves are voiced by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Rhys Darby, Jane Horrocks, Iain McKee, Andy Serkis, and Dominic West.

Elves are voiced by Pete Jack, Sarah Smith, Rich Fulcher, Kris Pearn, Kevin Cecil, Stewart Lee, Peter Baynham, Danny John-Jules, Adam Tandy, Bronagh Gallagher, Alan Short, Kevin Eldon, Seamus Malone, Cody Cameron and Emma Kennedy.


Arthur Christmas was first announced in 2007, under the name Operation Rudolph.[10][11] It was the first film made by Aardman in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and its subsidiaries, after they parted ways with DreamWorks Animation.[12]

Aardman spent 18 months on pre-production on the story and design in the UK before relocating to Sony's Culver City, US, for another 18 months of production.[13] On 27 April 2009, it was reported that production had begun with Aardman and Sony Pictures Imageworks working together on animation.[14]


The film was released on 11 November 2011 in the United Kingdom and on 23 November 2011 in the United States.[4] The music video for Justin Bieber's song Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which plays over the end credits, was exclusively shown in theatres before the film.[15]

Home mediaEdit

Arthur Christmas was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on 6 November 2012, in the US,[16] and 19 November 2012 in the UK.[17]


Critical responseEdit

Arthur Christmas holds an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 169 reviews, with an average score of 7.20/10. The consensus reads, "Aardman Animations broadens their humor a bit for Arthur Christmas, a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 69 out of 100 based on 32 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18] John Anderson of Newsday praised the film as "not only funny and fresh, but . . . a new way of tackling the whole yuletide paradigm: Santa as a high-tech hereditary monarchy."[19] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post described it as "unexpectedly fresh, despite the familiar-sounding premise".[20] Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times wrote that "the plot may be a little too cluttered for the toddler crowd to follow, but the next age group up should be amused, and the script by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith has plenty of sly jokes for grown-ups."[21] Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald stated that "the movie fails utterly at coming up with a story that merits all the eye candy."[22]


The film won a Golden Tomato Award at the 13th Golden Tomato Awards as the best-reviewed animated film of 2011.[23]

Box officeEdit

Arthur Christmas has earned $46,462,469 in North America,[3] $33,334,089 in the UK,[24] and $67,622,914 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $147,419,472.[3]

In the United Kingdom the film opened in second place with a £2.5 million weekend gross, behind Immortals. It topped the box office in its fourth week, by which time the cumulative gross was £11.5 million. The film returned to the top of the box office on week seven, during Christmas week, grossing £2.05 million and a total of £19.7 million.[25]

In the United States and Canada the film earned $2.4 million on its opening day and $1.8 million on Thanksgiving Day. It would go on to gross $12.1 million over the three-day weekend and $16.3 million over the five-day period. This was on par with studio expectations. The film went on to gross nearly $50 million domestically against a $100 million budget.[26][27]


Award Category Recipient Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[28] Animated Film Nominated
Annie Awards[29] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Character Design in a Feature Production Peter de Sève Nominated
Storyboarding in a Feature Production Kris Pearn Nominated
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Ashley Jensen Nominated
Bill Nighy Won
Writing in a Feature Production Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham Nominated
British Academy of Film and Television Arts[30] Animated Film Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[31] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association[32] Animated Film Nominated
Golden Globe Award[33] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society[34] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Satellite Awards[35] Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[36] Best Animated Film Won
Visual Effects Society[37] Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Doug Ikeler, Chris Juen, Alan Short, Mandy Tankenson Nominated
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Michael Ford, David Morehead, Emi Tahira Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle[38] Best Animated Females Nominated
Young Artist Award[39] Best Performance in a Voice-over Role, Young Actress Ramona Marquez Nominated


Arthur Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
Released14 November 2011
LabelSony Classical, Madison Gate Records

Arthur Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack to the film of the same name. It was composed and produced by Harry Gregson-Williams, who had previously worked with Aardman on Chicken Run (2000) and Flushed Away (2006), and released on 14 November 2011 by Sony Classical.[40] Originally, Michael Giacchino and Adam Cohen were going to compose the score.[4]

Track listingEdit

1."Trelew, Cornwall, England"1:48
2."Operation Christmas"4:54
4."Mission Control"2:55
5."One Missed Child"3:00
6."Bring Them Home"1:43
7."Dash Away"3:46
8."Paris Zoo?"2:29
9."The Wrong Trelew"1:54
10."Race to Gwen's House"2:09
11."Arthur's Sadness"2:22
12."Serengeti Escape"2:24
13."Worry Me!"1:37
14."Space Travel"2:48
15."Goodbye Evie"2:48
16."Christmas Morning"4:00
17."We Wish You A..."0:48
18."Make Someone Happy" (Performed by Bill Nighy)2:34
Total length:46:50

Video gameEdit

An iOS video game titled Arthur Christmas: Elf Run was released in the United Kingdom on 9 November 2011, on iTunes App Store.[41] On 18 November 2011, the game was released worldwide on the iOS and Android platform.[42] Released as a free and a premium version, the game allows players to play as delivery elves, who must quickly and quietly deliver gifts to children. Another iOS app based on the film is Arthur Christmas Movie Storybook, which was released on 30 November 2011.[43]


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  3. ^ a b c d "Arthur Christmas". Box Office Mojo., Inc. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d DeMott, Rick (2 November 2010). "Aardman's Arthur Christmas Lines Up All-Star British Cast". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Arthur Christmas (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  6. ^ "The 25 Highest-Grossing Christmas Movies Of All Time At The U.S. Box Office". Forbes. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Arthur Christmas: 5 Reasons It's An Underrated Holiday Classic (& 5 Reasons It Isn't)". ScreenRant. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
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  14. ^ Moody, Annemarie (27 April 2009). "Aardman Partners with Sony for Christmas, Pirates". Animation World Network. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  15. ^ Sony Pictures Animation (17 October 2011). "Justin Bieber is Coming to Town: New Song and Video Debut with Upcoming Movie "Arthur Christmas"" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
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  17. ^ "Arthur Christmas (DVD)". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  18. ^ "Arthur Christmas Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  19. ^ Anderson, John (22 November 2011). "'Arthur Christmas': Santa's helper". Newsday. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  20. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (23 November 2011). "Arthur Christmas". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  21. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (22 November 2011). "Arthur Christmas (2011)". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
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  28. ^ "2011 EDA Awards Nominees". Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  29. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (4 February 2012). "'Rango' Wins Annie Award for Best Animated Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
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  33. ^ "Nomination & Winners 2011". The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
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  38. ^ Adams, Ryan (19 December 2011). "The Women Film Critics Circle Awards". Awards Daily. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  39. ^ Crump, William D. (2017). How the Movies Saved Christmas: 228 Rescues from Clausnappers, Sleigh Crashes, Lost Presents and Holiday Disasters. ISBN 978-1-476-62770-0.
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  41. ^ "Arthur Christmas: Elf Run". iTunes. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  42. ^ "Arthur Christmas: Elf Run is the #1 Kids Game at UK App Store on First Weekend". PR Newswire. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  43. ^ "iStoryTime Launches Arthur Christmas Movie Storybook for iPhone and iPad". 30 November 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2012.

External linksEdit