Arthur Christmas
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySarah Smith
Written byPeter Baynham
Sarah Smith
Produced byPeter Lord
David Sproxton
Carla Shelley
Steve Pegram
CinematographyJericca Cleland
Edited byJames Cooper
John Carnochan
Music byHarry Gregson-Williams
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
  • 11 November 2011 (2011-11-11) (United Kingdom)
  • 23 November 2011 (2011-11-23) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$100 million[2]
Box office$147.4 million[3]

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 animated Christmas comedy film produced by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation in association with Aardman Animations, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. The film is Aardman's second mostly computer-animated feature film after 2006's Flushed Away. It was directed by Sarah Smith (in her feature directorial debut), co-directed by Barry Cook, and written by Smith and Peter Baynham. Featuring the voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and Ashley Jensen, the film centres on Arthur Claus, the clumsy but well-meaning son of Santa Claus, who discovers that his father's high-tech ship has failed to deliver one girl's present. Accompanied only by his free-spirited and reckless grandfather, an enthusiastic Christmas elf obsessed with wrapping gifts, and a team of reindeer, he embarks on a mission to deliver the girl's present personally in the early morning hours of Christmas Day before sunrise.

Following the underperformance of Flushed Away, DreamWorks Animation did not renew its partnership with Aardman. In April 2007, Aardman signed a three-year deal with Sony. Originally titled Operation Rudolph, the project was first announced in 2007. Aardman spent 18 months on pre-production on the story and design in the UK before relocating to Sony's animation studio in Culver City, California, for another 18 months of production. On 27 April 2009, it was reported that production had begun with Aardman and Sony Pictures Imageworks working together on animation.

Arthur Christmas was released on 11 November 2011 in the United Kingdom, and on 23 November in the United States, by Sony Pictures Releasing through its Columbia Pictures label.[4] The film received positive reviews from critics,[5] and earned $147 million at the box office.[3][6][7]


Instead of a single individual, Santa Claus is a hereditary title belonging to gift-givers that has been carried on for generations. The current Santa, Malcolm Claus, is heading his seventieth mission, but his role has largely been reduced to that of a figurehead. The traditional sleigh and reindeer have been replaced by the S-1, a high-tech vessel operated by hundreds of elves that use advanced equipment and military precision to deliver presents. The complex Christmas operations are micromanaged from a North Pole-based Mission Control by Malcolm's eldest son, Steve, who expects to inherit the role of Santa following his father's retirement. Malcolm's teenage son, Arthur, answers letters sent from children to Santa.

One Christmas Eve, during the delivery operation in Poland, a toy is accidentally activated, waking a child and nearly revealing Santa. A escape operation ensues, during which an elf aboard the S-1 leans on a button, causing a present to fall from the supply line and go unnoticed. Another elf, Bryony Shelfley, finds the present—a wrapped bicycle for a girl, Gwen Hines, from Trelew, Cornwall, whose letter Arthur had personally responded to. Arthur is upset that a child's been missed and urges his father and brother to use the S-1 and deliver the present but Steve, frustrated that Malcolm has chosen to stay as Santa longer, argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error, citing this year's Christmas as the most successful in history. Malcolm's elderly father and predecessor, Grandsanta, whisks Arthur away to deliver it in EVE, the original wooden sleigh that is pulled by the descendants of the original eight flying reindeer. Bryony, who actually stowed away, joins the pair, but they get lost on different continents, lose many reindeer and encounter obstacles, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Arthur is hurt to learn that Grandsanta only agreed to go on the trip to boost his own ego, Malcolm is indifferent to the missing present, and Steve refuses to help them because he believes Arthur's efforts could undermine his attempts to become the next Santa.

Eventually stranded on an island in Cuba, Arthur is disillusioned with his family but ultimately realizes that so long as the gift is delivered, the "Santa" Arthur and Gwen look up to exists in the hearts of children. Reinvigorated, Arthur tries to get the trio to England and manages to get the sleigh back. Meanwhile, the elves grow alarmed at rumors of the neglected delivery and the Clauses' indifference, sending them into a panic. In response, Malcolm tricks his wife Margaret into believing Steve gave them permission to use the S-1 to deliver Gwen's gift, only for a furious Steve to confront his father onboard and a dejected Malcolm recognises his inability to properly lead. Steve drives the S-1 and delivers a superior present, only to realise that Malcolm had accidentally set the address to the wrong child, revealing Steve's inability to connect with children.

Arthur's group reach England but lose the remaining reindeer. 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 paths descend on Gwen's house before she awakens, only to have everyone but Arthur quarrel about who gets to place the gift. Noticing that Arthur was the only one who genuinely cared about Gwen's happiness, the elder Clauses realize that he is the sole worthy successor. Steve recognises his own shortcomings, forfeits his birthright and acknowledges his brother's worthiness to take up the mantle, with Malcolm admitting he is proud of his sons. Gwen glimpses a snow-bearded Arthur in a wind-buffeted sweater before he vanishes up into the S-1, ultimately thinking she imagined "Santa".

Malcolm goes into a happy retirement with Margaret, becomes Grandsanta's much-desired new companion and plays Arthur's board game with him for hours. Steve finds true contentment as the chief operating officer of the North Pole. Bryony is promoted to Vice-President of Wrapping, Pacific Division. The S-1 is rechristened EVIE in honor of Grandsanta's old sleigh and refitted to be pulled by five thousand reindeer led by the original eight, all of whom have returned home safely. At the helm, Arthur guides the enterprise as Santa Claus XXI.

Voice cast

Top row: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy respectively play the roles of Arthur Claus, Steven Claus and Grandsanta.
Botten row: Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen respectively play the roles of Malcolm Claus, Margaret Claus and Bryony Shelfley.

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.


Arthur Christmas was first announced in 2007, under the name Operation Rudolph.[10][11] It was the first film made by Aardman in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and its subsidiaries (mainly Sony Pictures Animation), after they parted ways with DreamWorks Animation.[12]

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.[13] On 27 April 2009, it was reported that production had begun with Aardman and Sony Pictures Imageworks working together on animation.[14]


Main article: Arthur Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The film was originally set to be scored by Michael Giacchino and Adam Cohen.[4] But, both were replaced by Harry Gregson-Williams at the last minute, having a short span to score the film. The music was distinguished into two approaches on how the Santa Claus family sees Christmas, especially through details that determine the two distinctive characters. Gregson-Williams described the score is devoid of electronics and led by tunes, melody and themes. He used an ensemble orchestra containing 80 players, to provide a colorful orchestration.[15] The album was released on 14 November 2011 by Sony Classical.[16]


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.[17]

Home media

Arthur Christmas was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on 6 November 2012, in the US,[18] and 19 November 2012 in the UK.[19]


Critical response

Arthur Christmas holds an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 170 reviews, with an average score of 7.2/10. The consensus reads, "Aardman Animations broadens their humor a bit for Arthur Christmas, a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 69 out of 100 based on 32 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

John Anderson of Newsday praised the film as "not only funny and fresh, but . . . a new way of tackling the whole yuletide paradigm: Santa as a high-tech hereditary monarchy."[22] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post described it as "unexpectedly fresh, despite the familiar-sounding premise".[23] 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."[24] Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald stated that "the movie fails utterly at coming up with a story that merits all the eye candy."[25] Empire film critic Olly Richards gave the film four out of five stars, feeling that the "UFO plotline that doesn’t really hold together and, like Santa, the film’s a little flabby around the middle, where it briefly quite literally starts going round in circles and loses a bit of the fun. But it finds an ending that stuffs in all the Christmas jollity and huggy business that is absolutely core to a Christmas movie but without the overdone syrupy nonsense that makes you want to go to the nearest shopping centre and kick over a nativity scene." He concluded that the film "could very well come to be regarded as a Christmas classic".[26] Independent Critic called Arthur Christmas, "a good-hearted, silly and sweet film that it feels like the closest thing we've had in a few years to a minor Christmas classic. The film's mid-section flags a bit as Smith and co-writer Baynham can't quite seem to figure out how to completely flesh it out, but they recover nicely and serve up the holiday season's first salvo of cinematic delight", and praised the voice cast, though felt that Bieber's song was "a disappointingly commercial twist on an otherwise tender-hearted and infectious Christmas film for the entire family."[27] One reviewer, while light in criticism of the animation, called Justin Bieber’s rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" "blatant" and "inexcusable".[28]

Box office

Arthur Christmas earned $46,462,469 in North America,[3] $33,334,089 in the UK,[29] 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 £2.05 million and a total of £19.7 million.[30]

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 period. This was on par with studio expectations. The film went on to gross nearly $50 million domestically against a $100 million budget.[31][32]


Accolades received by Arthur Christmas
Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[33] Animated Film Nominated
Annie Awards[34] 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[35] Animated Film Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[36] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association[37] Animated Film Nominated
Golden Globe Award[38] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society[39] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Satellite Awards[40] Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[41] Best Animated Film Won
Visual Effects Society[42] 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[43] Best Animated Females Nominated
Young Artist Award[44] Best Performance in a Voice-over Role, Young Actress Ramona Marquez Nominated

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.[45] On 18 November 2011, the game was released worldwide on the iOS and Android platform.[46] 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.[47]

See also


  1. ^ "Arthur Christmas". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (24 November 2011). "Movie Projector: 'Breaking Dawn' to devour three new family films". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d "Arthur Christmas". Box Office Mojo., Inc. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b "Arthur Christmas (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  6. ^ "The 25 Highest-Grossing Christmas Movies Of All Time At The U.S. Box Office". Forbes. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Arthur Christmas: 5 Reasons It's An Underrated Holiday Classic (& 5 Reasons It Isn't)". ScreenRant. 23 December 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  8. ^ Michel, Brett (23 November 2011). "Movie review: 'Arthur Christmas' delivers a sleighful of fun". Morning Sun. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  9. ^ Hill, Jim (27 October 2011). "Arthur Christmas Preview Reveals the Celebrities Who Are Hiding Under Aardman's Tree". HuffPost. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Aardman reveals new slate". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. 18 June 2007. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  11. ^ Winning, Josh (3 November 2010). "James McAvoy cast in Aardman Animation's 3D flick". Total Film. Archived from the original on 6 November 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  12. ^ "Gromit animators sign Sony deal". BBC News. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  13. ^ Debruge, Peter (18 December 2010). "Aardman charts new course with Sony". Variety. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  14. ^ Moody, Annemarie (27 April 2009). "Aardman Partners with Sony for Christmas, Pirates". Animation World Network. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  15. ^ "Arthur Christmas composer Harry Gregson-Williams: from Venice Beach to the North Pole!". Animated Views. Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  16. ^ "Arthur Christmas – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Arthur Christmas 3D Blu-ray". Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Arthur Christmas (DVD)". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  20. ^ "Arthur Christmas Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  21. ^ "No Box Office Bounty For T-Day Weekend: 'Breaking Dawn' Still #1, 'The Muppets' #2, 'Happy Feet' #3, 'Arthur Xmas' #4, 'Hugo' #5". Deadline Hollywood. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  22. ^ Anderson, John (22 November 2011). "'Arthur Christmas': Santa's helper". Newsday. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  23. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (23 November 2011). "Arthur Christmas". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  24. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (22 November 2011). "Arthur Christmas (2011)". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  25. ^ Rodriguez, Rene (23 November 2011). "'Arthur Christmas' (PG)". Miami Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  26. ^ "Arthur Christmas Review". Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  27. ^ "The Independent Critic - "Arthur Christmas" review". Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  28. ^ "The Independent Critic - Arthur Christmas: 5 Reasons It's An Underrated Holiday Classic (& 5 Reasons It Isn't)". screen rant. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  29. ^ "Arthur Christmas (2011) – United Kingdom". Box Office Mojo., Inc. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  30. ^ "Arthur Christmas tops UK and Ireland film chart". BBC News. 29 December 2011.
  31. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 25–27, 2011". Box Office Mojo., Inc. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  32. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for Thanksgiving, November 23–27, 2011". Box Office Mojo., Inc. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  33. ^ "2011 EDA Awards Nominees". Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  34. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (4 February 2012). "'Rango' Wins Annie Award for Best Animated Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  35. ^ "BAFTA Film Awards Nominations in 2012". BAFTA. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  36. ^ "17TH ANNUAL CRITICS' CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS (2012) – BEST PICTURE: THE ARTIST". The Broadcast Films Critics Association. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  37. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards – 2008–2011". Chicago Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on 24 February 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  38. ^ "Nomination & Winners 2011". The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  39. ^ "15th Annual Online Film Critics Society Awards Nominations". Online Film Critics Society. 26 December 2011. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  40. ^ "2011". International Press Academy. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  41. ^ "2011 Awards". San Diego Film Critics Society. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  42. ^ "10th Annual VES Awards Recipients". Visual Effects Society. 7 February 2012. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  43. ^ Adams, Ryan (19 December 2011). "The Women Film Critics Circle Awards". Awards Daily. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  44. ^ Crump, William D. (2017). How the Movies Saved Christmas: 228 Rescues from Clausnappers, Sleigh Crashes, Lost Presents and Holiday Disasters. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-62770-0.
  45. ^ "Arthur Christmas: Elf Run". iTunes. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  46. ^ "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.
  47. ^ "iStoryTime Launches Arthur Christmas Movie Storybook for iPhone and iPad". 30 November 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2012.