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SANTA VS THE SNOWMAN (article first published : 2006-11-23)

The good news for those of us who took great delight in the giant-screen Imax Theatre screening the Disney classics The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast a few years ago, is that plans are afoot to show a number of animated films at the Gateway venue in the year to come.

And while it's disappointing that no other Disney feature classics seem likely to be considered, the focus instead falling on animated films specially made for the giant-screen format, the success of this featurette - the first animated Yuletide movie commissioned in the Imax format - is such that we can anticipate some great fun ahead.

Although running just 45-minutes or so, which is the norm for most Imax movies, Santa vs The Snowman is an enchanting entertainment for the holiday crowds, being choc-a-bloc with Christmas cheer and shimmering with gloss and sparkle.

The brainchild of producer-writer Steve Oedekerk and directed by John A Davis, it tells of a lonely, mute snowman who, on the night before Christmas, breaks his beloved flute. He then finds himself in a heap of trouble when he steals one from a toy factory after coming across Santa's curve-nosed elves making toys in a fairylight-lit village across a frozen lake.

The second The Snowman steals the flute, all hell breaks loose - village fairylights flash red, sirens wail and steel bars slam down over windows. Santa, seated at his large, computerised control centre, then authorises elves to find and nab the intruder and thief.

Miffed and left . . . well, um . . . cold about this treatment, The Snowman decides it's time Santa handed over his sled reins to a newcomer, namely himself. So he sets out to find out more about the special holiday season, what would be required of him to own it and how to wrestle control of Christmas from the jolly old man in red.

The ensuing chaos sees The Snowman create an army of clones using ice cubes as well as - in a loving nod to Star Wars - control giant igloos on legs that fire snowballs. Santa's reindeers, meanwhile, fly into action with turbo-charged hooves and St Nick himself fires mistletoe missiles and wages battle, a la Power Rangers, by driving a giant nutcracker that confronts a menacing ice monster.

It all ends amicably enough, however, with a happy-ever-aftering finale, complete with a moral. And before the roll of the final credits, we get some amusing "out-takes".

The computer-animated featurette is scheduled to be shown at various times. Tickets R38 (R28 for children and senior citizens). Call the Imax theatre on 031 566 4414 to check on viewing times. Rating 8/10 - Billy Suter




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