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ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

About The Characters
Arthur (James McAvoy)
"Santa's my dad!” Despite living in a world devoted year-round to the business of Christmas, Arthur LOVES everything to do with the season. He is especially passionate about what Santa – who he adores as both dad and figurehead – means to children, whose identities sometimes get lost in the huge logistics of the operation. Trouble is, in the ultra-efficient, high-tech delivery operation of Christmas, Santa's youngest son is a spare part. Allergic to snow and suffering from a fear of heights, reindeer, and high-speed travel, Arthur isn't exactly a natural Claus. The family loves him – but has never quite known what to do with him. And although Arthur's office in the Letters Department is a chaotic mess of snow globes and pictures of Santa, it's a magical little corner where Arthur alone revels in the joy of it all. In Santa he believes.

"Arthur reads every single letter that comes to the North Pole, because he believes that every child deserves to receive a present at Christmastime,” says James McAvoy, who voices the role. "You know, he's relegated to the mailroom, because he's caused a lot of accidents at the North Pole, but it's just perfect for him – he gets to read these letters about the importance and the essence of Christmas, every second of every day.”

"Arthur cannot bear the idea of a kid waking up on Christmas morning and finding out that Santa didn't come,” says Smith. "Arthur sees the world through that kid's eyes – it would be the end of the world.”

"Arthur is a fanboy and a workhorse for Christmas,” McAvoy continues. "He wouldn't want to do anything else – he lives for Christmas. It's exciting to play somebody that fulfilled because you get to keep increasing the energy, as the character tries to maintain that fulfillment.”

Steve (Hugh Laurie)
"Christmas isn't a time for emotion.” Santa's oldest son Steve is the hereditary heir to the Claus reign. He's extremely qualified for the job, having introduced high-tech efficiency, military-style precision and the S-1: a mile-wide, invisible sleighship. Steve has dreamed of being Santa all his life; he's even redesigned the Santa suit into something more akin to Versace than Saint Nick. But Steve might still have a little catching up to do in the heart department.

"For Steve, running Christmas is the biggest challenge he could ask for,” says Smith. "It's like he's running FedEx, UPS, and an army, all at once. But he's frustrated, because he can't take what he sees as his rightful place as Santa Claus.”

"Steve takes himself a bit too seriously – he's sort of laughable at times, because he gets it so wrong,” says Laurie, "But we all do that from time to time. He's a very confident fellow who has plans for modernizing and updating the operation – he's looking to run a state-of-the-art Christmas and he's impatient with the softer, fluffier sides of the holiday. He's driven to maximize the gift-giving. He might not have all the social skills you'd want in a boss, but he's just doing things the way he thinks they ought to be done.”

Grandsanta (Bill Nighy)
"I could still do it now! And I wouldn't need a trillion elves in bleepy hats.” Santa's father but also the previous Santa Claus, Grandsanta, now 136, is the archetypal old codger who complains constantly that "Things were better in my day,” when he used to go out in a lovely red sleigh pulled by eight beautiful reindeer. Frail old Grandsanta may have been put out to pasture, but he's still a proud man who has never fully adjusted to retirement. Arthur's mission just might be the thing to pull him back in for one more go.

"Arthur and Grandsanta share something special,” says Bill Nighy, "an uncomplicated, and undamaged enthusiasm, a deep, profound commitment and enthusiasm for the idea of Christmas. It's a tender relationship, and, ultimately, a successful and important one for them both.”

Grandsanta is stuck in his ways, but Nighy says that he sees the character's point of view. "Gransanta doesn't reject the ‘new, improved' Christmas out of nostalgia – it's because he quite properly considers it to be an inferior way of going about things. He doesn't consider what's happened to Christmas, technologically speaking, to be a progression of any kind.”

Santa (Jim Broadbent)
Ever think your dad works long hours? Spare a thought for Santa. A big, jolly, white-bearded man in a red suit, Santa Claus (the 20th in the line) is every inch the hero of children's Christmas dreams. However, in recent years, as the operation has grown more complicated, he's become more of a figurehead. He still delivers the presents as the General of his vast army of elves, but it's Steve who coordinates it all, even if dad seems a little oblivious to that fact.

"Santa has been running the show for the past 70 years – he is Santa as we know and love him,” says Jim Broadbent. "It's a great honor to be asked to play him. I didn't feel worthy of the responsibility, but I took it on with humility and excitement.”

"Santa loves being Santa,” says Smith. "He's the most adored man in the world – he's spent years and years being utterly beloved by children.” At the same time, he is a man of conflicting emotions. "He's very tired. He's been Santa for a long time, his every move is monitored by Mission Control. But he's terrified of retiring – he's been Santa for so long, what would he do if he wasn't Santa anymore?”

Finding the character's voice, Broadbent says, began with seeing a drawing of the character. "You get the image, and then you find the voice from the image,” he explains. "It was quite easy to imagine a voice to fit such a detailed and inspiring model.”

Mrs. Santa (Imelda Staunton)
Like the wives of most world leaders, Mrs. Santa is a highly intelligent, capable, caring woman forced to exist in her husband's shadow while quietly running a huge amount behind the scenes. But when it comes to the crucial moment when Santa has to step up and go back out into the world in order to do the right thing, it's Mrs. Santa who takes charge, using knowledge gleaned from decades of reading, studying, and taking internet classes in everything from global navigation to flying a microlight aircraft.

Smith says, "Mrs. Santa is a bit like the First Lady. She has to let the men run it – but behind the scenes, she keeps a lot of things in good running order. She's the power behind the throne.”

"Mrs. Santa is the one who keeps everyone together and keeps everyone organized,” says Imelda Staunton, who voices the role. "She is like most women – not seeming to run everything, but in fact running everything.”

Santa is getting to that age where he's thinking about retirement – an idea that Mrs. Santa fully supports. "What she'd really love is for Father Christmas to be at home a couple of Christmases, which is rather sweet,” says Staunton.

Staunton previously teamed with Aardman on their first feature film, Chicken Run, and takes on a third role in their next film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Not only that, but Staunton was the inspiration for the character of Mrs. Santa in Arthur Christmas, even before she was cast in the role. Of course, the admiration is mutual. "When it's anything to do with Aardman, whether it's one word or 10,000, you say yes,” she says. "Who isn't a fan of theirs? I feel lucky to be a part of it.”

Bryony (Ashley Jensen)
Bryony Shelfley, Wrapping Operative Grade Three, is an elf, a lowly member of Santa's Giftwrap Battalion. A loyal if somewhat manic footsoldier, she is

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