OK, we're going to be completely honest here: We really don't know much about the North Pole. I mean, besides that the icy tundra is slowly moving due to melting ice caps (sad) —oh, and that contrary to popular belief, there are no penguins (true!). But we kinda prefer it that way. After all, isn't in way more fun to believe the North Pole is a magical land complete with candy-coated architecture and workshops full of toys—the way it's depicted in the classic Rudolph TV special or in Will Ferrell's Elf? Come to think of it, almost everything we do know about the North Pole comes from the movies. We've rounded up five different visions of the arctic outpost from some of our favorite holiday films. , and be sure to share your own favorites in the comments.
The Polar Express
Released date: 2004
The film version of the beloved 1985 children's book The Polar Express imagines the North Pole as a grand city of activity, accessible via magical train. Using live-action performance capture to create each character, the movie invites the viewer to explore every nook and cranny of Santa's digs, from the great wrapping hall to a busy warehouse. Who knew Kris Kringle's workshop was so industrialized?
Release date: 2003
The movie about a misplaced man living among Santa's elves has claimed a spot within the annals of holiday movie classics, despite receiving mixed reviews upon its theatrical release. Taking a page from the beloved Rankin/Bass Christmas specials of yore, Elf imagines the North Pole as a winter wonderland filled with talking snowmen, penguins, and even a narwhal. The white-washed interiors are accented by the characters' brightly colored wardrobe, while the world outside the wooden shelters is a mix of hand-painted blue skies and rolling hills of snow. The watercolor backdrop is all the more accentuated by the movie's whimsical dialogue. Come one, anyone who has seen the the film knows that Buddy the Elf traveled through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, the sea of swirly, twirly gum drops, and then the Lincoln Tunnel to get to New York City.
Benji's Very Own Christmas Story
Release date: 1978
The third installment in the movie series based around the exploits of a dog, Benji's Very Own Christmas Story technically moved Santa's workshop from the North Pole to Switzerland (because those are the same, right?). When the actors from the Benji films are invited to be the grand marshalls of a Christmas parade, they get more than they bargained for when they meet an injured Kris Kringle and his busy elves. Of course, with the help of that lovable dog, Saint Nick eventually remembers the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating with a rousing musical number set in that traditionally Swiss-style workshop. Adorned with dark wood, intricate details, and even scalloped edging, Santa's retreat is (we imagine) more reminiscent of a Swiss Miss commercial than the North Pole.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Release date: 1964
The holiday special that began it all! Originally produced for NBC, this stop-motion animation adaptation is arguably Rankin/Bass's most well known classic. A holiday mainstay that has aired on network television for more than 40 years, this children's movie surprisingly highlights the darker side of the North Pole. Including everything from unhappy elves and misfit toys to even an abominable snowman, the icy land is filled with colorful characters and plenty of holiday ornamentation.
The Santa Clause
Release date: 1994
Who knew that Santa Claus had such an ace legal team? The first in a series of three Santa Clause movies finds Tim Allen's Scott Calvin (trust those SC initials play an important role in the movie's plot) taking over the role of Saint Nick after accidentally causing the previous Santa to fall to his death from the roof of his home. Apparently there is a clause in the Santa contract that makes this not only possible, but required. Don't worry, kids, the movie gets lighter from there. Although the film was released in the 1990s, it did its best to bring the figure of Kris Kringle into the new millenium. Equipped with a hands-free sleigh, a laboratory-styled workshop, and even an elven swat team, Tim Allen's Santa is completely prepared for everything he encounters -- even non-believers! Of course, the North Pole is still decked out in the traditional holiday fair, including candy cane support beams, a stable for the reindeer, and, most important: lots and lots of hot cocoa.