Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

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Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Col Klink » May 09, 2019 10:48 am

I've heard that some people object to the character of Father Christmas in LWW because he's a fantasy character generally aimed at children younger than the target audience for Narnia. (Doris T. Myers made the argument that Father Christmas is appropriate since each Narnia book represents a different stage of life with LWW being the youngest and LB the oldest. An interesting argument though I don't totally buy into it.)

I wonder if these skeptics might be reconciled if the new adaptation establishes that Father Christmas exists in the world of Narnia prior to his scene. Then he might not seem "random" to some people. They could have Tumnus and the Beavers, when discussing the White Witch's reign, mention that Father Christmas has not been seen in Narnia since the winter began. Or maybe this would just make the "problem" of Father Christmas worse if he's a bigger (offscreen) presence.

P.S.
If my memory serves, the 1970s cartoon didn't show Father Christmas but still mentioned him which seems...weird to me. Are they talking about Father Christmas figuratively or does he really exist in the world of the cartoon? :-?? ;))
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby JFG II » May 10, 2019 10:37 am

I think most people have an incorrect view on who exactly Narnia’s target audience is for. I think it’s for all kids old enough to read a 200-page book. For me, that was age 9. Ironically, that’s the age I finally realized the truth about... :(. ;) I think Lewis included Father Christmas because that’s a figure who would have delighted him in the 1900’s when he was 10 years old. Kids in the 1950’s may or may not have been very different, but I don’t think Lewis would have cared much.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Ryadian » May 15, 2019 12:40 pm

I think what JFG II says about the assumed age of readers plays into this, but I think another factor is that I think LWW was at the point when Narnia was the most "British" and before it had fully developed its own identity. I wish I remembered who and where, but someone on the forum recently commented on Mrs. Beaver having a sewing machine, too, which seems much more technologically advanced than anything else we see in Narnia (not counting the torch Edmund brings from England). I think, in that vein, Lewis may have felt that Father Christmas, for a primarily young and British audience, didn't really need introduction, and his existence was no more strange than that of talking animals or White Witches. After all, we already know that Christmas exists here, isn't Father Christmas only natural?

That being said, I think having Mr. Tumnus or the Beavers mention Father Christmas in a prior conversation is a perfectly reasonable way to acknowledge his existence beforehand. It's not like Father Christmas's existence in Narnia is supposed to be a surprise, so I think the biggest danger would be if it feels like clumsy foreshadowing instead of worldbuilding. I think the conversation in Mr. Tumnus's cave would make the most sense, so that it feels less like introducing the concept right before it's relevant, and because that's when "always winter, never Christmas" is introduced.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Col Klink » May 16, 2019 7:02 am

Maybe I should clarify that I don't have a problem with Father Christmas myself. I just know that some people out there do and its possible the creators of the new adaptation will too or be worried about viewers who do. If I remember right, the LWW movie had Susan initially react incredulously to Father Christmas, saying, "I've put up with a lot since I got here but this..." possibly reflecting the screenwriters' own reaction to having the character in the story. This might have annoyed me if the scene focused on it much or if it felt like the movie was getting cynical or self aware. But I was OK with it because the director kept it in the background and the main focus of the scene was the same as the book. It didn't even feel so much like a lampshade hanging as a natural reaction for the character who hadn't expected to ever see Father Christmas.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Monty Jose » May 17, 2019 2:10 pm

I'm still formulating my own thoughts on this, mostly because I've never been a huge fan of Bacchus and Silenus in the books, and having Father Christmas as a character is part of the same vein. I never had a real, solid problem with Father Christmas, though, and I like how Walden depicted him.

But if Netflix decides to include Father Christmas, I think it would be a smart move to make a conscious effort to include other such characters, as mentioned in the books. Don't shy away from Father Time or Bacchus and Silenus. Otherwise Father Christmas feels completely out of place when you consider the series as a whole.

Either Narnia is place where you encounter the people you only hear about in our world (as Lewis states) or it is not.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby coracle » May 18, 2019 2:10 pm

Col Klink wrote: If I remember right, the LWW movie had Susan initially react incredulously to Father Christmas, saying, "I've put up with a lot since I got here but this..." possibly reflecting the screenwriters' own reaction to having the character in the story.

There was an interview reported with the two screenwriters, in which they had supposedly said 'Susie' was the voice of the author. It seems likely that they did actually say it, which helps to show what calibre of writers they were - they had no idea what they were taking on!

The final version of the scene presented it nicely, and the backgrounder comments explain that Lucy's line "I told you he was real" had been moved from earlier in the scene for a better effect.

The mythical person, who most of us know 'about', is part of our own world's myths, and I would be sorry if Netflix left him out.

The stage show I saw 18 months ago had a wonderful dancing and singing character (sounds corny but he was very special), and so my ideas of what FC should look like are wider than before.

I can't come up with any names, but I'd want someone with a warm deep voice who could give the same presence and semi-magical feeling as the actor I saw.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Cleander » May 19, 2019 2:50 pm

When I first read about Father Christmas in Narnia, I'll admit he seemed a little out of place. The image of the man in a red coat with the reindeer and sled is a relatively modern one, though the legend of St. Nicholas has existed since the 4th century.
Maybe in the next movies, something could be done to make him a little less like Santa Claus. In fact, some of the concept art of Father Christmas for the Walden LWW movie has a much more mythical feel- a tall, bearded man in a long red robe with a staff in his hand and a sword on his belt. I seem to recall someone describing him more as a "Norse warrior." This didn't really show up in the actual movie, but I think something like this would help him fit better into the world of Narnia, especially if Netflix decides to go darker, as some have predicted.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby JFG II » Jul 02, 2019 8:43 am

I’m pretty sure I’ve written this elsewhere (my memory notwithstanding), but I think it’s worth repeating (once):

Netflix could handle Father Christmas in LWW by not having him physically appear in the story (only his voice in voice-over as Peter, Lucy & Susan read hand-written cards to them from the Man).

So Father Christmas gives them all gifts and advice without actually being there (though it’s implied his sleigh has been there). The kids read their cards then inspect their ‘tools’, with Father Christmas’s voice over the images on screen.

This leaves the mystery Father Christmas deserves. Less is more. Also, he’s got other places to go in Narnia.

(Off-topic: Netflix could change the story so that Father Christmas leaves Edmund a gift as well: A tool or blade he will later use to break the White Witch’s wand with - though the witch smashes it to pieces immidiately afterwards.)
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Skilletdude » Jul 02, 2019 9:56 am

This being a visual medium, JFG II, a rule filmmakers generally follow is to "show, don't tell." I can't see them going half and half with Father Christmas in the form of notes. They will either take him out completely or bring him to the forefront.

Since a large chunk of the audience, at least the American viewers, who have not read the books or not so familiar with British culture, may be unfamiliar with the very name "Father Christmas", this would give the creators an opportunity to compliment that by making his appearance more unconventional, more mythical, as Cleander suggested. I hope they go this route.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby decarus » Jul 03, 2019 7:44 am

I don't see the problem with having Father Christmas on the show. My family never really did the Santa thing, so that might be why, but i think what they did on the Narnia movie was fine. That scene is really about them receiving gifts and just a moment in the progression that Christmas has finally come after 100 years, just like all the melting of the snow and taking their coats off and talking about the temperature and show the trees blossom was all part of that.

That was also the first time we see the kids talk to a human type person and hear him speak about Aslan and that is all very important.

I, also, think there is no way that Edmund should ever get a gift. He went to the White Witch and did not get a gift because he missed this moment and him not having a gift is a continued marker of that and should be left in. That this is one of the ways that he lost out from making the choice he made.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Monty Jose » Jul 09, 2019 9:53 am

Seeing LWW adapted again is, for me, the least exciting part of Netflix taking Narnia on. I still love Walden’s, despite all its flaws. Would I like the new film/series to be as faithful as possible? Definitely. But if I’m disappointed by not seeing Father Christmas handled to my liking, I still have Walden.

My main concerns are the “whys”. Their reasons to not include him may also play into the series as a whole, stripping down some of the wonder that makes Narnia Narnia. If they do include him, what if they make him too much like modern Santa Claus? I don’t really have this fear, but if it came to fruition, then might play up other elements in the series way too much for my liking, creating a childish vibe.

Where you fall on the Father Christmas debate ultimately speaks on how you view Narnia as a whole. The inclusion of the character will always mean one positive though: the filmmakers will likely be more willing to take risks. So even if I’m not a fan of how Father Christmas is presented, if it means good decisions will be made for the rest of the series, I’m for it.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby fantasia » Jul 09, 2019 11:02 am

Well there's Father Christmas = Santa Claus and then there's Father Christmas = St. Nicholas. BBC went with the former and Walden aimed for the latter. I prefered Walden's design hands down (though the dialogue surrounding him was one of my LEAST favorite parts of the whole movie).
I think if they aim for St. Nicholas in design again, it will certainly help.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby coracle » Jul 09, 2019 1:02 pm

Good point, fantasia.

I'd want to see Father Christmas, but not to see a coca-cola red-suited character strongly resembling some of the more crass Christmas movie leads that keep getting woven into the American-led Santa media myth.

St Nicholas, the lovely old Turkish bishop, who is commemorated on 6th December, has been left far behind in his non-red bishop's robes.

What we are left with is the option of Father Christmas, the pagan character derived from something in the northern European midwinter revels AND the spirit of Saturnalia.
As long as we know who our actual Christmas is for, this character is welcome in Narnia.
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Re: Father Christmas in the Netflix Series

Postby Cleander » Jul 09, 2019 1:10 pm

I totally agree! He should look more like a 4th century bishop than a 19th century advertising gimmick. :D
I also didn't get the presence of very modern-looking toys in FC's bag in the Walden movie. He obviously dispenses a lot more than toys, (especially to Peter) so why are stuffed animals right next to Susan's bow and arrows?
Perhaps his bag should have an almost mystical aesthetic- maybe some sort of glow or mist could come out of it (just not a GREEN MIST). This might obscure the moment he brings out the gifts, helping with the "nobody quite saw him do it" idea.
On a side note, I hear that a low-budget movie about St. Nicholas called "Nicholas of Myra" is in production and is looking to finish up pretty soon. Perhaps we could find some inspiration in the historical way in which he is portrayed in this film.
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