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How Does Santa Do It?
Imagine a city under a starlit sky. It's Christmas Eve, and the children are nestled in their beds, dreaming of Santa on his sleigh pulled by eight beautiful reindeer. Suddenly, a shadow comes over the city. A million pinpricks of light. A million figures descend. The invasion has begun and there's not a jingle bell to be heard…

…but don't panic. This is how Santa gets the job done every Christmas: with a huge, mile-wide, state-of-the-art sleigh with stealth cloaking technology, and a million elves, working in precision teams of three, who have 18.14 seconds to get into each house, deliver the presents, and move on to the next one.

Santa Claus is coming to town, but this time, he's not coming down the chimney.

"They have all the technology in the world and no expense is spared,” says Sarah Smith, who directs and co-wrote Arthur Christmas, the new 3D, CG-animated film from Aardman for Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation. "This movie reveals what their equipment looks like and how they do it.”

Arthur Christmas is Sony Pictures Animation's first film collaboration with Aardman, the landmark animation company best-known for their award-winning and crowd-pleasing stop-motion films Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The winners of over 400 international awards, including four Oscars® (three for Best Animated Short Film, and one for Best Animated Feature Film for Were-Rabbit), Aardman delivers their second CG-animated project with Arthur Christmas, and takes on an ambitious subject: the delivery of two billion presents in one night.

At the top of the organization is the man himself, Santa – but these days, he's more of a figurehead facing the prospect of retirement. Arthur Christmas has a second incredible secret to reveal: the Clauses are a dynasty, a long line of Santas stretching back over 1,000 years! Running the day-to-day is Santa's firstborn son, Steve – an alpha male, the next in line to wear the red suit. Santa's own dad, Grandsanta, used to wear that suit – and he'll grumble to anyone that he wore it best – but he's long since been put out to pasture, along with his lovely old sleigh, "Eve.” Mrs. Santa, the North Pole's highly capable First Lady, keeps the home fires burning – in between opening elf hospitals, negotiating treaties with Greenland, completing online degrees, and stirring the Christmas Day gravy.

And then there's Arthur, Santa's youngest son.

"Arthur believes in Christmas, and not just because he's been born into the family business,” says James McAvoy, who voices Arthur. "He believes it in his soul – there's nobody else in the world who cares about Christmas more than Arthur.”

However, love of the holiday only counts for so much. Not the most practical Claus in history, Arthur's struggled in just about every job his father's placed him in – even ordinary tasks, from wrapping to maintenance. Yet, as the story begins, he's finally in a position he loves: in the Letters to Santa Department, where he revels in the hope of countless children – not just asking for presents, but sending gifts and drawings and asking questions about how it's all done.

Arthur is the unlikeliest hero—that is, until he discovers a single child's present wasn't delivered and he takes the reins to deliver the one last present the old-fashioned way

Arthur finds an ally in his grandfather, Grandsanta, who has his own reasons for wanting to go on the mission. "Grandsanta is cranky and a nuisance, but he and Arthur share something: an uncomplicated, deep, and profound commitment and enthusiasm for the idea of Christmas,” says Bill Nighy, who voices the role. "He's the only one who can truly help Arthur.”

Grandsanta isn't interested in saving Christmas just because it's the right thing to do – it's also a chance for the crotchety old codger to show his family that the old way of doing things is truly best by using the old sleigh. But even Grandsanta has a chance to come around: "I like that he starts one way and finishes another. All of his impulses in the early part of the movie are unattractive, but he is rehabilitated by events,” says Nighy.

Hugh Laurie joins the cast as Steve. "Hugh is marvelous as Steve,” says Smith. "The character is incredibly cool and slightly in love with himself – the kind of character that just doesn't quite get it. But Hugh completely gets it, and gave us a beautiful and funny performance.”

"Steve isn't the head of the operation. As part of the Claus family, he plays a subordinate Claus,” says Laurie. "But that is a terrible joke, unforgiveable, and if you use that, I will sue.”

The film is directed by Sarah Smith and written by Peter Baynham & Sarah Smith. "Pete is one of my oldest friends and collaborators,” says Smith. Not long after Smith started work at Aardman developing a new slate of films, "He rang me up and said, ‘I think I've had one of the best ideas I've ever had – and he pitched me the idea for Arthur Christmas. I loved it from the beginning. It's a big, emotional, funny story – my favorite.”

"I'd started to wonder how Santa actually does it,” says Baynham, whose many credits (including co-writing Borat) have earned him a BAFTA TV Award and an Oscar® nomination. "What does he get around in? Presumably something bigger than a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. How come, with all our radar and satellites, we don't see him? This felt like a very exciting world for a movie. But I'm always drawn to comedy; so then came the notion of what if Santa had a son as utterly impractical as me, massively into the magic of Christmas, but who you don't really want pressing any buttons, especially in such a high-tech operation.”

For producer Peter Lord, one of the founders of Aardman, the idea hit home immediately. "You get a thousand ideas a year, and you're waiting for the one that means something to you – the one that really works,” he says. "This was that idea.”

"When Aardman first pitched the story, we always saw it as such a big idea,” recalls Bob Osher, president of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, who, as the senior animation executive at the studio, was a frequent visitor to Aardman's Bristol base. "This was something that had the potential to bring the wonderful Aardman appeal to a wide audience.”

"It really appealed to us at Aardman because it was that big, simple idea, with broad appeal – but what we loved about it was the humor and the characters,” says Carla Shelley, a producer of the film. "It felt very Aardman – the characters are slightly flawed, not quite perfect.”

"The movie is really funny and very clever – in just the way that all Aardman material is,” McAvoy continues. "It's ingenious, inventive, irreverent, different, and funny – I suppose that's what drew all of us to do it.”

For Smith and Baynham, half the fun of writing the screenplay was working out the math of Santa's operation – and of Arthur's heroic mission. "Once you start working out how Santa does what he does, it's madness,” says Baynham. "You start thinking, well, he'd have to start at the southern tip of New Zealand and then zigzag around the world to do it in twelve hours. We got into a big argument about time zones and whether Santa could fly into daylight and then back into darkness. The idea that the elves have exactly 18.14 seconds per household is based on calculations we did.”

"We had to figure out how many children there are in the world, how many presents they'd get, how long it would take to travel,” Smith continues. "Then we rese

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