Klaus is a 2019 English-language Spanish traditionally animated Christmas adventure comedy film written and directed by Sergio Pablos in his directorial debut, produced by his company Sergio Pablos Animation Studios and distributed by Netflix. Co-written by Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney, the film stars the voices of Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm Macdonald, and Joan Cusack. Serving as an alternate origin story of Santa Claus different from the historical take of Saint Nicholas of Myra, with a fictional 19th-century setting, the plot revolves around a postman stationed in an island town to the Far North who befriends a reclusive toymaker (Klaus).
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sergio Pablos|
|Music by||Alfonso González Aguilar|
|Edited by||Pablo Garcia Revert|
Klaus was released on 8 November 2019 and received positive reviews for its animation, story, and vocal performances. It won seven awards at the 47th Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature, and also won Best Animated Film at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards. The film was also nominated at the 92nd Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, making it the first animated film from Netflix to be nominated for an Academy Award, alongside I Lost My Body, but lost to Toy Story 4.
Jesper Johansson, the lazy, spoiled son of the Royal Postmaster General, has been trying flunk out of the postman academy, but his father sends him to the distant town of Smeerensburg; if Jesper fails to post 6,000 letters within a year, he will be cut off from his family’s fortune. Arriving in the bleak, snowy town, Jesper meets ferryman Mogens and teacher-turned-fishmonger Alva, who explain that Smeerensburg is home to the perpetually warring Ellingboe and Krum families.
Desperate for letters, Jesper attempts to mail a young Krum boy’s drawing. He later visits the reclusive woodsman Klaus and discovers his house is filled with handmade toys, but flees from the imposing woodsman, leaving behind the sad drawing. Klaus forces Jesper to take him to the boy's house and secretly deliver one of his toys. Word spreads to other children, who hope to receive toys by sending Klaus letters. Jesper, eager to collect letters, convinces Klaus to let him deliver more toys. The Krum boy’s toy leads him to play with an Ellingboe girl, much to their families’ outrage.
The myth of Klaus grows among the town’s children as Jesper delivers toys through their chimneys at night, prompting more and more children to write letters to Klaus. Jesper sends those who cannot write to be taught by Alva, who reopens her school with the money she was saving to leave Smeerensburg, and Klaus and Jesper tame a team of reindeer to pull their cart of toys. After Jesper leaves coal in the stocking of a young bully, the boy confronts Jesper, who declares Klaus only gives toys to good children and tracks all of their misbehaviors with a ‘Naughty List’. This leads the children to perform acts of kindness throughout the town, inspiring the townsfolk to end their ancient disputes.
Unwilling to end the feud, family elders Tammy Krum and Aksel Ellingboe attempt to sabotage Jesper and Klaus, resulting in the postal cart losing its wheels and sailing over the town; this leads the children to believe that Klaus has “a flying sleigh pulled by magic reindeer”. With Jesper’s deadline approaching and Klaus beginning to run out of toys, Jesper tries persuading him to make more in time for Christmas, but Klaus pushes him away. They reconcile while building a sled for a Sámi girl named Márgu, and Klaus tells Jesper about his late wife Lydia, explaining he made the toys for the children they never had. He agrees to help Jesper with his Christmas plan, joined by Márgu and the people from her settlement, who give Klaus a traditional red suit. Alva shows Jesper how the town has flourished, making him consider staying in Smeerensburg.
The Krum and Ellingboe elders form a temporary truce and discover Jesper’s deadline, and post 14,000 letters to rid themselves of the postman. On Christmas Eve, Jesper's father arrives to congratulate his son, inadvertently revealing Jesper's initially selfish intentions and turning his friends against him. Before they leave town, Jesper's father notices his son's remorse; Jesper reveals everything, and his father declares he is finally proud of him and allows him to stay in Smeerensburg. The elders arrive to destroy the Christmas toys, and Jesper tries to stop them. In the ensuing chase, Mr. Ellingboe's daughter and Mrs. Krum's son fall in love, while all the gifts in Klaus’ bag are sent over a cliff. Alva and Klaus reveal the town’s children informed them of the elders' plot, and they replaced the bag of toys with decoys. A redeemed Jesper delivers the presents with Klaus, and the marriage of the Krum and Ellingboe children forces the family elders to grudgingly end their feud.
Jesper marries Alva and raises two children, and for the next eleven years he and Klaus deliver presents on Christmas in Smeerensburg and beyond. On the twelfth year, Klaus follows wisps of wind – which had guided him when he first met Jesper – and disappears, seemingly joining his departed wife. Jesper explains his Christmas tradition: waiting by the fireplace to see Klaus, whose spirit delivers toys to children around the world as the legend of "Santa Claus".
- Jason Schwartzman as Jesper Johansson, a postman who befriends Klaus and helps bring a good Christmas to Smeerensburg, while getting accustomed to a life outside of his self-centred comfort zone.
- J. K. Simmons as Klaus (Santa Claus), a initially-reclusive woodsman who makes toys.
- Simmons also voices Drill Sarge, the assistant head of the Johansson family's postal department (uncredited).
- Rashida Jones as Alva, a schoolteacher turned fishmonger who becomes Jesper's love interest.
- Will Sasso as Mr. Aksel Ellingboe, the family patriarch carrying on an ancient feud of his family with the Krums.
- Norm Macdonald as Mogens, the sarcastic ferryman of Smeerensburg who enjoys humor that comes at others' expanse.
- Neda Margrethe Labba as Márgu, a little Sami girl who befriends Jesper.
- Sergio Pablos as:
- Pumpkin, Mr. Ellingboe's daughter whose only word is "mine".
- Olaf, Mrs. Krum's son who just makes sounds.
- Joan Cusack as Mrs. Tammy Krum, the family matriarch carrying on an ancient feud of her family with the Ellingboes.
- Reiulf Aleksandersen and Sara Margrethe Oksal as adult Sami voices.
Additional children voices by Evan Agos, Sky Alexis, Jaeden Bettencourt, Teddy Blum, Mila Brener, Sydney Brower, Finn Carr, Kendall Joy Hall, Hayley Hermida, Lexie Holland, Brooke Huckeba, Matthew McCann, Tucker Meek, Leo Miller, Joaquin Obradors, Víctor Pablos, Lucian Perez, Bailey Rae Fenderson, Maximus Riegel, Emma Shannon, Ayden Soria, Sunday Sturz, Hudson West, Gordon Wilcox, Emma Yarovinskiy, and Julian Zane.
Additional adult voices by Brad Abrell, Catherine Cavadini, Bill Chott, Daniel Crook, Brian Finney, Stephen Hughes, Neil Kaplan, Sam McMurray, Amanda Philipson, Alyson Reed, Dee Dee Rescher, Dwight Schultz, Lloyd Sherr, Helen Slayton-Hughes, and Travis Willingham.
After setting up his own animation studio in Madrid, Spain, director Sergio Pablos, who had worked on Disney Renaissance films such as Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Tarzan, decided to develop a new traditionally-animated feature film. Pablos wanted to explore how the medium would have evolved had western animation film studios not switched to producing mostly computer animated films since the 1990s. For the film's look, the studio sought to overcome some of the technical limitations that traditional animation had, focusing on organic and volumetric lighting and texturing to give the film a unique look, while maintaining a hand-crafted feel. Proprietary tools from Les films du Poisson Rouge, a French company in Angoulême, were used to allow the team to produce a variety of visual development styles, with the aim of getting away from the standardized style of "characters looking like stickers put on painted backgrounds." Fellow Disney animator James Baxter, known for Beauty and the Beast, also worked on the film.
The first teaser for the project was released in April 2015; at the time, the studio was seeking investment, co-production, and distribution partners. It was shopped around to various studios, but most studios rejected the movie viewing it as "too risky."  In November 2017, Netflix announced that they had acquired the global rights to Klaus; at the same time, the casting of Schwartzman, Jones, Simmons, and Cusack was announced along with a Christmas 2019 release date. In March 2019, it was reported that Netflix was planning an Oscar-qualifying run for Klaus in theaters, and it was listed as one of ten films Netflix was negotiating with chains to give limited releases prior to their online debuts that August. The film's release date was announced, alongside the debut of an official trailer, on 7 October.
The film is dedicated to animator and scene checker Mary Lescher who died on 2 June 2019 of cancer. She had worked on Klaus, as well as other animated features such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
Klaus was released theatrically in select theaters on 8 November 2019, and was released digitally through Netflix on 15 November. It is the first original animated feature film to appear on Netflix. In January 2020, Netflix reported the film was watched by 40 million members over its first four weeks of release.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on 62 reviews, with an average rating of 7.59/10. The critical consensus reads "Beautiful hand-drawn animation and a humorous, heartwarming narrative make Klaus an instant candidate for holiday classic status." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, writing: "Sergio Pablos' Klaus invents its own unexpected and very enjoyable origin story for the big guy who gives out toys every Christmas eve. Shaking off most Yuletide cliches in favor of a from-scratch story about how even dubiously-motivated generosity can lead to joy, it contains echoes of other seasonal favorites (especially, in a topsy-turvy way, Dr. Seuss' Grinch) while standing completely on its own." Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a mixed review, calling the film over-complicated and saying: "What goodwill the movie does inspire owes more to the splendid visual world than to anything the story supplies."
According to data provided by Netflix to Reuters, the film racked up nearly 30 million views worldwide in its first month. The film beat Toy Story 4 for best Animated Film of 2019 on Animation Magazine.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Academy Awards||February 9, 2020||Best Animated Feature||Sergio Pablos, Jinko Gotoh and Marisa Román||Nominated|||
|British Academy Film Awards||February 2, 2020||Best Animated Film||Sergio Pablos and Jinko Gotoh||Won|||
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||10 January 2020||Best Animated Feature||Klaus||Nominated|||
|Annie Awards||January 25, 2020||Best Animated Feature||Jinko Gotoh, Sergio Pablos, Marisa Román, Matthew Teevan, Mercedes Gamero, Mikel Lejarza Ortiz and Gustavo Ferrada||Won|||
|Best Character Animation in a Feature Film||Sergio Martins (animation supervisor)
|Best Character Design in a Feature Film||Torsten Schrank||Won|
|Best Directing in a Feature Film||Sergio Pablos||Won|
|Best Production Design in a Feature Film||Szymon Biernacki, Marcin Jakubowski||Won|
|Best Storyboarding in a Feature Film||Sergio Pablos||Won|
|Best Editorial in a Feature Film||Pablo García Revert||Won|
|Austin Film Critics Association Awards||6 January 2020||Best Animated Feature||Klaus||Nominated|||
|Detroit Film Critics Society Awards||9 December 2019||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|||
|Goya Awards||January 25, 2020||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Best Original Song||"Invisible"||Nominated|
|St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards||15 December 2019||Best Animated Feature||runner-up (tied w/ Frozen II)|
|Visual Effects Society||January 29, 2020||Outstanding Visual Effects
||Sergio Pablos, Matthew Teevan, Marcin Jakubowski and Szymon Biernacki||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Animated Character
||Yoshimishi Tamura, Alfredo Cassano, Maxime Delalande and Jason Schwartzman
|Washington D.C. Film Critics Association Awards||8 December 2019||Best Animated Feature||Klaus||Nominated|
|Quirino Award||27 June 2020||Best Ibero-American Animation Feature Film||Klaus||Won|
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- Klaus director pushed past the limitations of traditional animation
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