IAR Screens the first 30 minutes of 'Arthur Christmas'

Wednesday, 05 October 2011 15:14 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Screens the first 30 minutes of 'Arthur Christmas'

Christmas came early to the Sony lot in Culver City on Monday, as I attended the first official holiday party of the 2011 season on behalf of IAR. It’s hard to believe that it’s not even Halloween yet and we are already talking about Christmas, but the halls of Sony Pictures Animation were fully decked complete with Christmas Carolers, cocktail wieners, and non-alcoholic eggnog. The shindig was to celebrate the upcoming release of Sony’s animated holiday film Arthur Christmas, which will be delivered into theaters on November 23rd.

The movie is being produced by Aardman Entertainment (Chicken Run, Flushed Away) in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and is co-directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, based on the script by Smith and Peter Baynham (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). The film takes place on Christmas night and attempts to explain how Santa is able to give toys to every boy and girl on the planet in just one evening. In addition to impressive 3-D computer animation, the film boasts an exceptional cast of voice actors including James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class), Hugh Laurie (TV’s House), Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge!), Bill Nighy (Underworld), Ashley Jensen (TV’s Extras), and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake).

After some eggnog and a few minutes of listening to the Carolers, we were treated to an exclusive look at the first thirty minutes of the film. The movie begins on Christmas night and introduces us to the high-tech ways in which Santa now delivers his holiday magic to the world. It’s explained that that the mantel of Santa Clause is something that is passed down from generation to generation. The current Santa Clause (Broadbent) is aging and has become out of touch with the fast paced world we now inhabit. His tech-savvy oldest son Steve (Laurie) has taken over the family business and now runs it extremely efficiently with the help of an army of elves, a spaceship equipped with a cloaking device, and other high-tech gadgets that have replaced Santa’s traditional sleigh. Santa has been reduced to essentially a figurehead and after another successful year, Steve is expecting to be declared the “new Santa.” However, Steve’s dreams are crushed when his father decides to hold on to his title a little while longer.

In contrast to the cool and capable Steve, is his younger good-natured but clumsy brother Arthur (McAvoy). Arthur has not been given the kind of responsibility that his brother has and instead he is in charge of Santa’s mailroom. Nobody really has any faith in Arthur and pretty much dismisses him altogether. Even the elves make fun of Arthur but it seldom bothers him, as he is fully devoted to his work and the idea of Christmas. After all of the gifts have successfully been delivered, Santa, Steve, and Arthur gather for their holiday meal with Mrs. Santa (Staunton) and Grandsanta (Nighy), who believes that things were done better in his day and is not a fan of Steve’s technical advances. While Steve is patting himself on the back for a job well done, Arthur discovers a terrible secret … one child’s gift was left behind.

Afraid that the omitted child will take this innocent mistake as a sign that there is no Santa and stop believing in the magic of Christmas, Arthur quickly brings this news to Steve’s attention. Unwilling to admit that his error-proof procedure made a mistake, Steve ignores Arthur’s urgent request to turn the ship around and deliver the forgotten toy, instead opting to mail the present after Christmas. Steve also desperately wants to keep this news from his father, as he doesn’t want to jeopardize his position in the family business. Distraught over what has transpired, Arthur seeks solace from Grandsanta, who has a brilliant idea. He suggests that Arthur and he deliver the forgotten gift them selves using the old sleigh and retired reindeer that Grandsanta used in is heyday. Along with an elf from the Giftwrap Battalion named Bryony, the three set out on a journey to find the forgotten child and deliver the present before Christmas morning is over and it is too late.

The movie played quite well to the packed audience of Sony employees, journalists and children that filled the screening room, not to mention that the animation looked very impressive. The story is charming and clever, while the excellent cast of voice actors really help to bring their characters to life. Finally, actress Ashley Jensen, who plays Bryony the elf, had this to say to the special audience about her participation in the holiday movie. “When I first started doing this film, which was a couple of years ago I had just had a baby,” she explained. “I was literally voicing to green line drawings and each time I went in the animation became richer and more vivid, and closer to what we’ve just seen today. I think it’s going to be a really exciting Christmas film,” said Jensen. “It’s got magic dust and it’s got Santa in it. I hope it’s going to be hugely successful and everyone’s going to enjoy it because it is a family film.”

Arthur Christmas will be delivered just in time for the holidays on November 23rd. 

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