Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sarah Smith
Produced by Steve Pegram
Written by Peter Baynham
Sarah Smith
Story by Sarah Smith (uncredited)
Starring James McAvoy
Hugh Laurie
Bill Nighy
Jim Broadbent
Imelda Staunton
Ashley Jensen
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Jericca Cleland
Edited by John Carnochan
James Cooper
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 11 November 2011 (2011-11-11) (United Kingdom)
  • 23 November 2011 (2011-11-23) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $100 million[2]
Box office $147 million[3]

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 British-American 3D computer animated Christmas comedy film, produced by Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation as their first collaborative project. The film was released on 11 November 2011, in the UK, and on 23 November 2011, in the USA.[4]

Directed by Sarah Smith, and co-directed by Barry Cook,[4] it features voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and Ashley Jensen. Set on Christmas night, the film tells a story about Santa Claus' clumsy son Arthur Claus who discovers that the Santas' high-tech ship has failed to deliver one girl's present. In response, he goes on a mission to save her Christmas, accompanied only by his ageing grandfather, a rebellious yet enthusiastic young Christmas Elf obsessed with wrapping gifts for children, and a team of eight strong, magical yet untrained reindeer.

Arthur Christmas was very well received by critics, who praised its animation and humorous, smart and heart-warming story.[5] The film earned $147 million at the box office on a $100 million budget.[3]


On Christmas Eve, hundreds of Christmas elves helm the command centre of Santa Claus's mile-wide,[6] ultra–high-tech sleigh-esque craft, the S-1. The current Santa (Malcolm) and the Christmas elves deliver presents to every child in the world using advanced equipment and military precision. These complex operations are micromanaged by Malcolm's militaristic eldest son Steve and his obsequious elfin assistant Peter (among thousands of more elves) at mission control underneath the North Pole, while his younger son, the clumsy, fearful yet enthusiastic Arthur devotedly answers the letters to Santa. During one of the delivery operations in Germany a child wakes up and almost sees Malcolm; in the tense escape operation, a Christmas elf aboard the S-1 inadvertently leans on a button, causing a present to fall from the supply line and go unnoticed.

Having completed his 70th mission, Malcolm is portrayed as far past his prime and whose role in field operations now is largely symbolic. Nonetheless, he is held in high esteem, and delivers a congratulatory speech to the enraptured elves. Much to Steve's frustration, who has long anticipated his succeeding the role and prepared for this mission to be the handover, Malcolm announces he looks forward to his 71st. During their family Christmas dinner, Arthur's suggestion for the family to play a board game degenerates into a tense quarrel between Malcolm and Steve, while Malcolm's father and predecessor Grandsanta, bored by retirement, resentfully criticises their over-modernization. After Grandsanta knocks the board off the table, Steve's PDA (a high tech device named a 'HOHO') flashes and he leaves the table in a hurry. Later, their father shares with his wife Margaret his grave doubts about his self-identity should he retire.

Arthur follows Steve, and the two learn that a Christmas elf named Bryony found the missed present — a wrapped bicycle for a little girl in England called Gwen, to whose letter Arthur had personally responded. Arthur alerts his father, who is at a loss as to how to handle the situation; Steve argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error whose correction can wait a few days, citing this year's Christmas as the most successful in history. Grandsanta on the other hand, on learning of the dire situation, proposes delivering the gift using Eve, his old wooden sleigh, and the great-great-grandchildren of the original eight reindeer, forcefully whisking away a reluctant Arthur and a stowaway Bryony. In the process the three get lost in three different continents, lose several of their reindeer, and land in danger several times, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Through all this, Arthur eventually learns, to his compounding disappointment, that Grandsanta's true motive is to fulfill his ego, that Steve refuses to help them out of petty resentment and possibility of his brother being made hero overshadowing his work, and that his own father has gone to bed, apparently content even though a present was not delivered.

Finally, stranded in Cuba after losing the sleigh and the remaining reindeer, Arthur renews his sense of purpose—that it all comes down to having presents delivered, regardless of how it is done and who did it—and with Grandsanta's and Bryony's help manages to recover the sleigh. Meanwhile, the elves grow increasingly alarmed at rumours of this neglected delivery and the Clauses' unthinkable indifference, sending them into a panic. In response, Malcolm, Margaret, and Steve take the high-tech sleigh-craft to deliver a superior present - albeit to the wrong child.

Arthur and his party manage to reach England, but lose the remaining reindeer; furthermore a US Predator drone scrambled by Chief De Silva of UNFITA intercepts and opens fire on the sleigh believing them to be aliens, leading Arthur and Bryony to parachute to the ground. Ultimately with Margaret and Bryony's help, all the male Clauses arrive at Gwen's house before she awakens, only to have all but Arthur quarrel about who gets to actually place the gift. Noticing that only Arthur truly cares about the girl's feelings, the elder Clauses collectively realise that he is the sole worthy successor. As a result, Malcolm gives Arthur the honour and Steve, upon learning of his own errors, acknowledges that his brother is the worthy Santa instead of him and forfeits his supposed birthright. In a fitting conclusion, Gwen glimpses a snow-bearded Arthur in a wind-buffeted sweater just before he vanishes up into the S-1.

With the crisis resolved, Malcolm goes into a happy retirement with Margaret; he also becomes Grandsanta's much-desired new companion and plays Arthur's board game with him for many happy hours. Meanwhile, Steve finds true contentment as the Chief Operating Officer of the North Pole, while Bryony is promoted to Vice-President of Packing, Pacific Division. In a nod to traditionalism once neglected, the high-tech S-1 is re-christened EVIE in honour of Grandsanta's old sleigh and refitted to be pulled by a team of five thousand reindeer—led by the original eight, all of whom managed to return safely via innate navigational abilities. Finally, Arthur happily guides the entire enterprise in the proper spirit as the new Santa.


Lead elves voiced by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Rhys Darby, Jane Horrocks, Iain McKee, Andy Serkis, and Dominic West.


Arthur Christmas was first announced in 2007, under the name Operation Rudolph.[9][10] It was the first film made by Aardman in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and its subsidiaries.[11]

Aardman spent 18 months on pre-production on the story and design in the UK before relocating to Sony's Culver City, US, for another 18 months of production.[12] On 27 April 2009, it was reported that the production had begun with Aardman and Sony Pictures Imageworks working together on animation.[13]


The film was released on 11 November 2011 in the United Kingdom and on 23 November 2011 in the United States.[4] The music video for Justin Bieber's song Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which plays over the end credits, was exclusively shown in theatres before the film.[14]

Home media

Arthur Christmas was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on 6 November 2012, in the US,[15] and 19 November 2012 in the UK.[16]


Critical response

Arthur Christmas received generally positive reviews, praising its fresh take on the Christmas premise. Review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, reports that 92% of critics gave the film positive reviews, earning a "Fresh" rating. The site's consensus reads: "Aardman Animations broadens their humor a bit for Arthur Christmas, a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength."[5] The film won a Golden Tomato Award at the 13th Golden Tomato Awards as the best reviewed animated film of 2011.[17] On Metacritic, another review aggregator, the film holds a score of 69 based on 32 reviews.[18]

John Anderson from Newsday praised the film, saying, "The results are not only funny and fresh, but represent a new way of tackling the whole yuletide paradigm: Santa as a high-tech hereditary monarchy."[19] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post also wrote a positive review, saying that it is "unexpectedly fresh, despite the familiar-sounding premise".[20] Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times wrote that "the plot may be a little too cluttered for the toddler crowd to follow, but the next age group up should be amused, and the script by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith has plenty of sly jokes for grown-ups."[21] One of the few negative reviews came from Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald, who thought that "the movie fails utterly at coming up with a story that merits all the eye candy."[22]

Box office

Arthur Christmas has earned $46,462,469 in North America,[3] $33,334,089 in the UK,[23] and $67,622,914 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $147,419,472.[3]

In the United Kingdom the film opened in second place with a £2.5 million weekend gross, behind Immortals. It topped the box office in its fourth week, by which time the cumulative gross was £11.5 million. The film returned to the top of the box office on week seven, during Christmas Week, grossing £2.05m and a total of £19.7m.[24]

In the United States and Canada the film earned $2.4 million on its opening day and $1.8 million on Thanksgiving Day. It would go on to gross $12.1 million over the three-day weekend and $16.3 million over the five-day. This was on par with studio expectations. The film went on to gross nearly $50 million domestically against a $100 million budget.[25][26]


Award Category Recipient Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[27] Animated Film Nominated
Annie Awards[28] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Character Design in a Feature Production Peter de Sève Nominated
Storyboarding in a Feature Production Kris Pearn Nominated
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Ashley Jensen Nominated
Bill Nighy Won
Writing in a Feature Production Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham Nominated
British Academy of Film and Television Arts[29] Animated Film Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[30] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association[31] Animated Film Nominated
Golden Globe Award[32] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society [33] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Satellite Awards[34] Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[35] Best Animated Film Won
Visual Effects Society[36] Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Doug Ikeler, Chris Juen, Alan Short, Mandy Tankenson Nominated
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Michael Ford, David Morehead, Emi Tahira Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle[37] Best Animated Females Nominated


Arthur Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by Harry Gregson-Williams
Released 14 November 2011
Genre Soundtrack
Length 46:50
Label Sony Classical, Madison Gate Records

Arthur Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack to the film of the same name. It was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and released on 14 November 2011 by Sony Classical.[38] Originally, Michael Giacchino and Adam Cohen were going to compose the score.[4]

Track listing

No. Title Length
1. "Trelew, Cornwall, England"   1:48
2. "Operation Christmas"   4:54
3. "Waker!"   2:51
4. "Mission Control"   2:55
5. "One Missed Child"   3:00
6. "Bring Them Home"   1:43
7. "Dash Away"   3:46
8. "Paris Zoo?"   2:29
9. "The Wrong Trelew"   1:54
10. "Race to Gwen's House"   2:09
11. "Arthur's Sadness"   2:22
12. "Serengeti Escape"   2:24
13. "Worry Me!"   1:37
14. "Space Travel"   2:48
15. "Goodbye Evie"   2:48
16. "Christmas Morning"   4:00
17. "We Wish You A..."   0:48
18. "Make Someone Happy" (Performed by Bill Nighy) 2:34
Total length:

Video game

An iOS video game titled Arthur Christmas: Elf Run was released in the United Kingdom on 9 November 2011, on iTunes App Store.[39] On 18 November 2011, the game was released worldwide on the iOS and Android platform.[40] Released as a free and a premium version, the game allows players to play as delivery elves, who must quickly and quietly deliver gifts to children. Another iOS app based on the film is Arthur Christmas Movie Storybook, which was released on 30 November 2011.[41]


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  2. Kaufman, Amy (24 November 2011). "Movie Projector: 'Breaking Dawn' to devour three new family films". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Arthur Christmas". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 DeMott, Rick (2 November 2010). "Aardman's Arthur Christmas Lines Up All-Star British Cast". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  5. 1 2 "Arthur Christmas (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  6. Watercutter, Angela (22 November 2011). "Making Arthur Christmas' Sci-Fi Sleigh". Wired. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  7. Michel, Brett (23 November 2011). "Movie review: 'Arthur Christmas' delivers a sleighful of fun". Morning Sun. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
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  9. "Aardman reveals new slate". Variety. 18 June 2007. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
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  11. "Gromit animators sign Sony deal". BBC News. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  12. Debruge, Peter (18 December 2010). "Aardman charts new course with Sony". Variety. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  13. Moody, Annemarie (27 April 2009). "Aardman Partners with Sony for Christmas, Pirates". Animation World Network. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  14. Sony Pictures Animation (17 October 2011). "Justin Bieber is Coming to Town: New Song and Video Debut with Upcoming Movie "Arthur Christmas"" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  15. "Arthur Christmas 3D Blu-ray". Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  16. "Arthur Christmas (DVD)". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  17. "13th Annual Golden Tomato Awards - Animation". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  18. "Arthur Christmas Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  19. Anderson, John (22 November 2011). "'Arthur Christmas': Santa's helper". Newsday. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  20. O'Sullivan, Michael (23 November 2011). "Arthur Christmas". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  21. Genzlinger, Neil (22 November 2011). "Arthur Christmas (2011)". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  22. Rodriguez, Rene (23 November 2011). "'Arthur Christmas' (PG)". Miami Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
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  25. "Weekend Box Office Results for November 25-27, 2011". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  26. "Weekend Box Office Results for Thanksgiving, November 23-27, 2011". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
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  28. Giardina, Carolyn (4 February 2012). "'Rango' Wins Annie Award for Best Animated Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
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  35. "2011 Awards". San Diego Film Critics Society. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  36. "10th Annual VES Awards Recipients". Visual Effects Society. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  37. Adams, Ryan (19 December 2011). "The Women Film Critics Circle Awards". Awards Daily. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  38. "Arthur Christmas - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  39. "Arthur Christmas: Elf Run". iTunes. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  40. "Arthur Christmas: Elf Run is the #1 Kids Game at UK App Store on First Weekend". PR Newswire. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  41. "iStoryTime Launches Arthur Christmas Movie Storybook for iPhone and iPad". 30 November 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2012.

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