April 27, 2021

W is for Workshop (Santa's)

         (My A-Z Blog Challenge theme this year is Mythical and Imaginary Places.)
        For the third post in a row, we’ll be spending time in the far, frozen north.  However, today’s place is an interesting sort of modern folklore.  Its appearance in our mythology is quite modern, yet it is the product not of a single author’s vision, but of the blending of ideas from many many people, some identifiable individuals, some corporate committees, and many anonymous.  To find out a bit of history and who some of these contributors were, read

the post about Santa’s Workshop.

        I have to confess that while I absolutely love Christmas, I’ve never really been much of a fan of Santa Claus.  I mean, I don’t really see the point: whether from a religious or a secular standpoint, there are so many more important and wonderful things to celebrate about the Christmas season that it seems like a waste to bother with this bloke, however jolly.  On the other hand, if I imagine a truly steampunk-style toy factory and fantastical creatures in the stables, all hidden far away in a magical land, I could start to get a lot more interested.  But let’s have a look at some of the depictions of the North Pole that have gotten other artists excited.
        I shared one of the older depictions of Santa’s Workshop in the original post, so I begin today’s selection with a confection by Eric Dowdle, an artist I was unaware of before covid-19.  He is best known for his designs on jigsaw puzzles, of which I have assembled a few myself in the past year.  His stock-in-trade is nostalgia, which is why he is well-paired with the scene of the interior of the workshop by George Hinke, whose Christmas scenes were enormously popular in the 40’s and 50’s.  Both artists emphasize humorous detail and feel-good charm.  This style seems perfect for Santa’s Workshop, which should be both enormously busy and full of happy cheer.
        Next I have exterior and interior scenes from a Disney “Silly Symphony” cartoon short from 1932.  The elves working outdoors at the reindeer sheds seem pretty traditional, but the indoor elves painting toys are clearly artistes, complete with smocks and berets.  They also buck the tradition of red and green outfits for bright magenta.  Nevertheless, this vision of Santa’s Workshop is wholly in keeping with expectations.  Apparently, however, while US versions tend to place the Workshop and other buildings on the snowy surface of the earth, as Dowdle and Disney have done, UK versions are more likely to imagine them as being built in grottoes beneath the ice.
        I end with two depictions from recent (relatively speaking) movies: an exterior shot of a very attractive art deco Workshop from 2002, and an icy futuristic Workshop command center from 2011.  There are dozens of Christmas movies in the past few decades, with Workshops ranging from cheap back-lot sets to CGI extravaganzas, and Workshop concepts ranging from minimalist workbenches to frenetic casts of thousands doing a hundred chaotic things at once.  You may well have your own favorite depictions of the North Pole, but I have actually never seen any of these movies (see my Santa Claus complaints above), so I can’t give any opinions as to which are best.  I will say that my lack of strongly-held convictions frees me up to embrace innovations and imagining new things.  Santa’s Workshop as a spaceship?  
Why not.  Mrs Claus - or maybe a reindeer - as the inventor behind the new toys?  Why not.  The elves as yetis?  Why not.  Santa actually based at the South Pole with that whole North Pole myth as misdirection?  Why not.  Rudolph as a flying motorcycle?  Why not.  The elves as gingerbread people baked by Mrs Claus and brought to life by magic?  Why not.  The Workshop as an aircraft-carrier sized ship afloat among the icebergs?  Why not.  The naughty-and-nice list fully automated using advanced AI?  Why not; it’s creepy anyway.  (But I still like steampunk best.)
        The MORAL of Santa’s Workshop:  Everyone ends up moving with the times, even the magnetic North Pole itself.
              OR:  Better be good for goodness sake.
        So, how do you feel about Santa Claus: beloved jolly old elf, or annoying bloke in the mall?

[Pictures: Santa’s Workshop painting by Eric Dowdle (Image from Dowdle Folk Art);
Santa’s Kitchen, painting by George Hinke, as reprinted by Ideals Magazine, 1961 (Image from Wurlington Bros);
Stills from “Santa’s Workshop” animated short directed by Wilfred Jackson, 1932, Disney (Image from Fandom);
Scene from “The Santa Clause 2,” Walt Disney Pictures, 2002;
Scene from “Arthur Christmas,” Sony and Aardman Animations, 2011 (Images from Wurlington Bros).]

8 comments:

Lisa said...

Oh, how delightful! I never would have guessed W would be Santa's Workshop!

Frédérique said...

I love your vision of the Workshop as an aircraft-carrier sized ship afloat among the icebergs ;))

Trudy said...

The very first picture caught my eye. So colorful, gorgeous. I went to Eric Dowdle's website and got lost in looking at his beautiful puzzles. I need to make a wishlist for some of those!

JadeLi said...

It's pleasant as an imaginary place.


“W” song today:
http://tao-talk.com/2021/04/27/a2z-2021-jethro-tull-songs-day-23-the-witches-promise-single/

Olga Godim said...

Russians don't have Santa Claus. They have Grandfather Frost and his Snowmaiden granddaughter. These two serve the same purpose - they deliver presents to children during the winter celebrations of New Year. No workshops though and no little elves who make toys.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I love Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. He delivers toys all right, but he is originally a winter spirit, even a god. And in this universe, where gods only exist as long as they are believed in, someone takes out a contract on the Hogfather and he is assassinated by a spell that makes children doubt him. So Death takes over the round while his granddaughter investigates... Hogfather lives in the Castle of Bone, not at all a place for jolly workshops!

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

My favorite Santa workshop is the one from Rise of the Guardians :D

The Multicolored Diary

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Trudy, I think I've done about 3 Dowdle puzzles in the past year -- including this Christmas one! They're a lot of fun.

Olga, that's interesting to hear about the Russian Christmas figures. There's all sorts of interesting variety, for sure!

Sue, I've actually never read "Hogfather." And Zalka, I haven't yet seen "Rise of the Guardians," although it's on my list.