Whatever Happed To ‘Santa Who?’ Disney’s Forgotten Christmas Film.


Whenever you put the words “Disney” and “Santa” in the same sentence odds are you will think about the 1994 family film The Santa Clause starring Tim Allen about a man who reluctantly takes over the role of Santa Claus. 

But, it turns out that Disney had another live-action Christmas film evolving around Santa Clause that also starred a popular comedian at the time? Enter Santa Who?

Santa Who? was a made for television film directed by William Dear (Known for Harry & the Hendersons, If Looks Could Kill and Angels in the Outfield). The films stares comedian Leslie Nielsen as the titular Santa (Nielsen had previously played Santa in All I Want For Christmas in 1991). The film also stars Steven Eckhold as Peter, Robyn Lively as Claire, Max Morrow as Zack and Tommy Davidson as Max the Elf. 

The film follows Peter, a news reporter who isn’t into the holiday spirit due to not having a family on Christmas when he was a child. Peter is dating Claire and is trying to get along with her son Zack. Meanwhile Santa is considering retiring, and while he is out flying for some fresh air the wind knocks him out of his sleigh and lands on Peter’s car. He then wakes up at Peter’s place and has amnesia, forgetting who he is.

Peter decides to use this an an opportunity for a news story while Zack believes that the mystery man is actually Santa Claus. After Santa’s missing for a couple days Max and some of the other elves leave the North Pole to find Santa before the Christmas deadline. The rest of the film revolves around Peter and Zack learning to bond while Santa tries to find out who he is before Christmas comes.

The film premiered on November 19th, 2000 on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney. The film received mixed reviews from critics and was quickly forgotten. The film would eventually have a home video release the following year. The VHS/DVD cover for the film definitely felt like it was trying to emulate the look of the more successful The Santa Clause.

Since then its more successful cousin has become a holiday classic and revived two sequels and a television series. Ironically a film about Santa Claus getting amnesia has become a forgotten relic of the past. In 2021 it was announced that Lionsgate acquired the rights to do a remake. No news has come since the initial press release. 

While definitely not the best Disney Christmas film ever made it is something that the family can sit down and watch as Christmas approaches. The short 88 minute runtime makes it perfect for holiday film marathons. Perhaps this may be one worth checking out, especially if you’re into the more obscure Christmas specials.

The film is currently available to stream on Tubi TV and Hulu in addition to DVD via multiple online retailers. 

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