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Arthur Christmas (film)
Arthur Christmas Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sarah Smith
Barry Cook
Produced by Peter Lord
David Sproxton
Carla Shelley
Steve Pegram
Written by Peter Baynham
Sarah Smith
Starring James McAvoy
Hugh Laurie
Bill Nighy
Jim Broadbent
Imelda Staunton
Ashley Jensen
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Jericca Cleland
Editing by James Cooper
John Carnochan
Studio Columbia Pictures
Sony Pictures Animation
Aardman Animations
Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing
Release date(s) 11 November 2011 (2011-11-11) (United Kingdom)
23 November 2011 (2011-11-23) (United States)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $100 million
Money made $147 million

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 British-American 3D computer-animated fantasy film and was the first Sony Pictures Animation film co-produced with Aardman Animations. It is also the second Aardman film made in computer animation after Flushed Away in 2006. Directed by Sarah Smith and co-directed by Barry Cook, the film stars the 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 Arthur Claus, the clumsy but goodhearted son of Father Christmas, who discovers that Santa's high-tech ship has failed to deliver one girl's present. In response, he embarks on a mission to save her Christmas, accompanied only by his free-spirited and reckless 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 released on 11 November 2011, in the United Kingdom, and on 23 November 2011, in the United States. The film received highly positive reviews from critics but earned $147 million at the box office on a budget of $100 million, making it a box office bomb.


On Christmas Eve, hundreds of Christmas elves helm the command centre of Santa's mile-wide, ultra-high-tech craft, the S-1. The current Santa, Malcolm Claus delivers presents to every child in the world using advanced equipment and military precision. These complex operations are micromanaged by Malcolm's son Steve and his obsequious assistant elf Peter from underneath the North Pole. Meanwhile, Malcolm's younger son Arthur answers the letters to Santa.

During one of the delivery operations in Poland, a toy is accidentally activated, waking a child and nearly revealing Santa. A tense escape operation ensues, during which 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 seventieth mission, Malcolm is portrayed as far past his prime, his role in field operations largely relegated to that of a figurehead. He delivers a congratulatory speech to the elves, announcing that he looks forward to his seventy-first mission—much to the frustration of Steve, who had prepared to succeed his father as Santa.

During their family Christmas dinner, Malcolm and Steve quarrel, while Malcolm's father and predecessor Grandsanta, bored by retirement, expresses resentment of the modernization. Steve's PDA alerts him, and he hurries away from the table. Arthur follows Steve, and the two learn that an elf named Bryony Shelfley has found the missed present—a wrapped bicycle for a little girl in Trelew, Cornwall named Gwen, to whose letter Arthur had personally responded. Arthur alerts his father, who is at a loss; Steve argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error, citing this year's Christmas as the most successful in history. Grandsanta, on learning of the dire situation, whisks a reluctant Arthur away to deliver it in EVE, his old wooden sleigh. Bryony joins in to help, but they get lost on three different continents, lose several of their reindeer and eventually the sleigh itself, and have many narrow escapes, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Arthur learns, to his disappointment, that Grandsanta's true motive is to fulfill his ego, and that Steve refuses to help them.

Finally, stranded in Cuba, Arthur recovers the sleigh. Meanwhile, the elves grow increasingly alarmed at rumours of the neglected delivery and the Clauses' indifference, sending them into a panic. In response, Malcolm, Margaret, and Steve take the S-1 to deliver a superior present—to the wrong child. Arthur and his company reach England but lose the remaining reindeer. Furthermore, a Predator drone scrambled by Chief De Silva of UNFITA intercepts and opens fire on the sleigh, believing it to be an alien spacecraft. Grandsanta sacrifices EVE, while Arthur and Bryony parachute to the ground.

All four male Clauses ultimately 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 realize that he is the sole worthy successor. As a result, Malcolm gives Arthur the honour, and Steve, recognising his own shortcomings, forfeits his birthright and acknowledges his brother's worthiness to take up the mantle. Gwen glimpses a snow-bearded Arthur in a wind-buffeted sweater just before he vanishes up into the S-1.

In a postscript, Malcolm goes into a happy retirement with Margaret—where 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. Bryony is promoted to Vice-President of Wrapping, Pacific Division. The high-tech S-1 is rechristened 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 have returned home safely. Arthur happily guides the entire enterprise as Santa Claus XXI.

Voice cast

  • James McAvoy as Arthur Claus, the clumsy but good-natured younger son of Malcolm and Margaret who works in the mail room.
  • Hugh Laurie as Steven Claus, Malcolm and Margaret's elder son and Arthur's incredibly capable, business oriented, but cynical, older brother.
  • Bill Nighy as Grandsanta, the 136-year-old grumpy but loving grandfather of Steve and Arthur, a staunchly traditional former Santa who dislikes the modern world. A post-retirement joyriding incident which led to him almost causing the Third World War during the Cuban Missile Crisis caused the family to ban him from flying. He comes out of retirement to help Arthur save Christmas, though his unfamiliarity with the modern world leads them into trouble. He was Malcolm's predecessor and the 19th Santa, serving from 1871 to 1941.
  • Jim Broadbent as Malcolm Claus, the affable but ineffective man in charge at the North Pole. He is Grandsanta's son, Margaret's husband, and Steve's and Arthur's father. He has held the title of Santa since 1941 and is the 20th to serve in that role.
  • Imelda Staunton as Margaret Claus, Malcolm's dedicated and talented wife, and mother of Steve and Arthur.
  • Ashley Jensen as Bryony Shelfley, Wrapping Division Grade 3, the Scottish-accented enthusiastic Christmas Elf from the Giftwrap Battalion who ends up tagging along with Arthur and Grandsanta.
  • Marc Wootton as Peter, Steve's obsequious assistant Christmas Elf.
  • Laura Linney as North Pole Computer
  • Eva Longoria as Chief De Silva, the head of UNFITA (United Northern Federal International Treaty Alliance).
  • Ramona Marquez as Gwen Hines, the girl whose present Arthur must deliver.
  • Michael Palin as Ernie Clicker, the elderly elf and former head of Polar communications for 46 missions during Grand-Santa's time as Santa Claus. He is brought out of retirement to help Steven track Grandsanta's old-fashioned sleigh.
  • Jerry Lambert as N.O.R.A.D.
  • Ryan Patrick Donahoe as Pedro

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

Elves are voiced by Pete Jack, Sarah Smith, Rich Fulcher, Kris Pearn, Kevin Cecil, Stewart Lee, Peter Baynham, Danny John-Jules, Adam Tandy, Bronagh Gallagher, Alan Short, Kevin Eldon, Seamus Malone, Cody Cameron and Emma Kennedy.

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. On 18 November 2011, the game was released worldwide on the iOS and Android platform. 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.

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