This is a first for me. It’s not anime. And it’s not a Kaiju film either. And Christmas has already looong past. But this movie needs to be recognized as the a masterpiece of not only Christmas specials but animated movies as well. This is a Christmas movie featuring the folklore origin of Santa Claus. This is the Netflix movie, Klaus.
One of the main events of Christmas is the exchange of presents between friends and family. For the kids, it’s receiving presents from the Father of Christmas, Santa Claus. A letter is sent to Santa and after a full year of good behavior, Santa will drop in during the night and leave behind a present. And it all starts with a letter. The story of Klaus also starts with a letter.
This letter in fact.
Jesper Johanssen is the son of the Postmaster General. Being the son of a high rank man, he lived a life of ease and luxury. As per usual for anyone living in riches, he has become pampered and is adverse to work. His father pulled a lot of strings to have him attend the Royal Postal Academy. However, Jesper pulled his own strings instead.
He is in his ‘equestrian training’ right now. He pulled a lot of strings.
Jesper purposefully failed any attempts by his father to turn Jesper into a responsible postman. Now out of options, his father assigns him as a postman in a town in an island furthest north, Smeerensburg. Fulfill a letter quota in Smeerensburg within a year or be cut off from the family and live in the gutter. And thus, a reluctant Jesper sets off to complete his quota in the island town at the edge of the world. And it is exactly what one would expect for a town so far north that cold weather is a daily occurrence.
Those aren’t jagged rocks ahead. Those are the decrepit houses of Smeerensburg.
Despite the gloom hovering over the town, its true charm is in its townspeople. The residents are quite unique. They are separated into two clans; the Krum Clan and the Ellingboe Clan. And well, they have a deep rooted hatred for each other. So deep rooted that it has become a tradition. One that spans across the history of both clans.
All the way to the Stone Age. Goodness, that’s one hell of a grudge.
So with all these bad blood going about, no letters are sent since no one wants anything to do with each other and if they do, fists and weapons will do just fine. With no one sending letters, how is Jesper going to complete his quota? He tried asking the locals, but they are too busy fighting each other. He tried swindling a kid into sending his dropped drawing to himself as a letter but that ended horribly. With the whole town crossed out, Jesper follows his last lead. A secluded woodsman living on the opposite side of the island. And his name is…
Kl- Oh my.
Jesper’s first meeting with Klaus did not go as well as he had hoped. His first glimpse of Klaus is the great shiny axe he is holding. Thinking he encountered an axe murderer, Jesper sprints off in terror leaving behind his postman satchel. The satchel that dropped the letter containing the kid’s drawing. And as if by fate, or something more magical, that letter finds it was to Klaus’ feet. The first kid’s letter to Klaus delivered by postman Jesper.
And what comes after is a truly magical Christmas story.
I have one thing to say. WHY THE FLIPPING HECK IS THIS MOVIE NOT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE? This movie is released on Netflix and I only came across it during a Christmas get together. This should have been given a theater release. Incredibly beautiful animation, heartwarming stories and endearing characters. This movie may not beat Frozen 2 in the box office if it released in theaters but by god, Klaus will trample over Frozen 2 in terms of movie quality.
Many. MANY thanks to Netflix for funding this masterpiece though. This movie is not possible without your help.
So let’s get to one of the greatest aspects of this movie; the animation. IT’S. SO. BEAUTIFUL. Sergio Pablos, director of Klaus. Thank you. I thought I’d never see high quality 2D animation in a movie ever again after 3D animation have gone and take over. Toy Story, you are a great movie of my childhood, but you sparked a 3D revolution that puts 2D animation into decline. All of the animation studios, get bent. You put all your eggs into the 3D basket. A stupid move for you.
2D will never be beaten by 3D!
Pushing the salt parade aside, I am not joking about Klaus’ animation. It is 2D done on a completely new level. Do you remember reading those high end children’s books? The pictures are beautifully drawn and every detail in the picture is given proper effort an attention. Well, this is what Klaus looks like. A high end children’s picture book. Except that it is a glorious one and a half hour movie.
Straight out of a children’s book, ain’t it? Every frame is a high quality picture pretty enough to be in a picture frame.
While they do have the feeling of 3D, that’s not the aim of the animators. They had to break new ground to bring the next step for 2D. On top of using top notch 2D animation, using current 2D and 3D animation tools and the new tool ‘Klas’ (Klaus Light and Shadow) created specifically for Klaus, layers of lighting textures is rendered over the hand drawn frames, making the props and characters pop. They even do away with the outlines that are usually the standard for 2D. With high end lighting and texturing, there is enough color contrast and detail that the outlines are not necessary. Some lines are still seen, usually in the details of the face and hands. Overall, the result is a beautiful picture with sharp color contrast, effectively putting 2D and all its benefits on even ground with 3D. All those years of breaking a new frontier in 2D animation paid off.
Look at that. No outlines. Such crisp colors and contrast.
Now, on to the heartwarming charm of Klaus, the story. Beautifully crafted. Despite the movie’s name Klaus, the story centers on Jesper finding his place after he was kicked out of a life of affluent luxury. And in order to return to his life of comfort, he hatches a scheme that involves Klaus to fulfill his quota of 6000 letters. While this movie focuses on the story of Jesper and Klaus, there are plenty of small stories weaved in between. And these are by no means just for padding. They all have emotional weight. They all have heart. Klaus, Alva and the townspeople; their stories show how they can do good through the help of Jesper’s selfish scheme. “A true act of goodwill always sparks another.” As a great jolly man would say.
Alva, the local teacher turned fishmonger. Soured by the Krum-Ellingboe tradition, she’s saving up to leave town.
The third charm of Klaus is the characters. They are designed with a cartoonish look with each person given their own unique look. Even the children. No child is the same. A lot of care is put into making them and coupled with actual child voice actors, the children truly brings life into Smeerensburg. Furthermore, Klaus did something more and introduced the Saami people. First of which is the most adorable Saami girl.
Look at how adorable this little thing is.
But my favourite character is the one in the center of it all. Jesper. He has a very likable character that I’ve warmed up to him early into the movie. Jesper may be an affluent man at first showing but he is a very capable person. He may be quite a whiner but he is strong-willed and can still get things done. For example, when he is sent all the way north to Smeerensburg, he travelled there all the way from the capital to coastline on his horse drawn wagon by himself. He suffered major mishaps during his journey yet he still made the trip. Even though he laments his fate throughout the journey, he is very capable and powered through the rough road all the way to the boat station heading to Smeerensburg. That is quite an admirable feat. From that alone, I’ve lost my prejudice against him.
A pretty solid determination despite his dire situation.
That’s just the start of his adventure. During his stay in Smeerensburg he will face a pretty hefty share of hardship and troubles. At first, he would try to weasel out of the situation but he would ultimately face the problem head on with all his capability. And wow is he capable. Quick on his feet, diligent and driven, enthusiastic and focused on the task at hand. I am awed at his skill set. His father is right. Letting him laze around in luxury is a huge waste of his potential.
Diligent. Focused. Driven.
Lastly, Jesper’s character arc. Wow, it’s good. It is an amazing tale of self-discovery and redemption. Through his scheme in getting his letter quota, he changed the lives of a lot of people. And having seen all the good he has done, his life changed in turn. When I watched him discover the good potential within him, I was just beaming the entire time. He once held a firm belief that ‘everyone is out to get something’ and when his perspective changes at the end of his scheme; it was a magical moment.
One of the best scenes in Klaus featuring Jesper.
Klaus is a new landmark for 2D animation. Coupled with an amazing story featuring its cast of characters, it is a timeless masterpiece. One families would watch during the Christmas holidays from this point on. Klaus deserves the best recognition and more. This movie is made for the general audience. No religious themes nor political ones. Just a heartwarming story or a winter folklore. Klaus is the first of its kind. And I hope to see more movie done like these. With so much effort put into its animation, it’s a high bar for entry. So those studios that just churn 3D ripoffs or release terrible movies are shut out. Awesome!
What even is this shit.
Want a more experienced perspective on Klaus? Then I recommend watching both ClownfishTV's and Saberpark’s take on Klaus. ClownfishTV offer their own perspective of a cartoon fan and a parent while Saberspark offers his own perspective as an animation enthusiast. And here are two articles from befores and afters and Cartoon Brew detailing how Klaus’ animation is made.
So… uh… Hey, Japan.. Now that Klaus set a gold standard for western 2D animation, how about you.. uh.. dabble in their footsteps and make an anime movie with.. you know.. Those kinds of animation. Klaus is a high end children’s picture book made into a movie, so for inspiration.. How about looking at this artist, WLOP, and uh.. do that kind of art quality for an anime movie?
Like this. But for a whole movie.
Just don’t skimp out on the plot, characters, setting… All of those that make a story great. I can wait for the movie. Take your time. Years if you have to.
A suggestion you should consider.
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