Klaus and Goodness

Klaus and Goodness December 23, 2023

Netflix Animation via “We Minored in Film”

Well, folks. It’s that time of year again.

And by “that time of year,” I of course mean, that time in which we all just stress and strain at how on earth Toy Story 4 won The Academy award for Best Animated Feature. It’s not like there weren’t better alternatives, including Disney’s own Frozen II which was not even nominated that year. Unlike Toy Story 4, Frozen II didn’t completely contradict the ethos of its predecessor. But there were also better options from the existing pool of nominees. I naturally mean Netflix’s 2019 animated holiday classic, Klaus.

The movie imagines an origin story for Santa Claus, showing how St. Nick got into the business before the magical elves and flying reindeer got involved. The story follows Jesper, the ultimate rich kid who has squandered every opportunity his lifestyle has just afforded him. But when his postman father sentences him to one entire year delivering letters for the morbid town of Smeerensberg, he’s in for a lesson in goodness he could never learn at the university. The people of Smeerensberg are no more abounding in generosity than Jesper, and they certainly have no interest in sending letters to each other. That would defeat the purpose of the daily brawls and bickerings.

But Jesper sees an opportunity when he encounters the formidable Klaus, a solitary woodcutter who has an inexplicably large bounty of children’s toys in his shed. The people of Smeerensberg may not be willing to write letters to each other, but he can probably get the children of Smeerensberg to write letters to this guy if he can just get him to give away all these toys he’s made. And so Jesper and Klaus enter into a partnership to deliver these toys to the children, and as they introduce more kindness and goodness into this frozen wasteland, a change starts to take root in the hearts of Smeerensberg, and in Jesper himself.

Netflix Animation via “Slant Magazine”

The movie hinges its entire theme on this one quote said by Klaus about halfway through the film, “A True Selfless Act Always Sparks Another.” But the movie also shows how that initial first spark can be the largest divide to overcome.

Jesper himself throws the practical of this endeavor into question when he expresses doubt over the intentions of the recipients of this kindness. In his mind, the kids only want the toys, and the adults only want the little acts of service. At the start, many of Jesper’s gestures of altruism are really just self-serving actions (e.g. helping Alva get her school restarted just so more kids can learn how to write letters for him to deliver). And this does bring up certain questions about truth vs intention vs merit. But the impact they leave is real, and as Jesper spends more time going through the motions, he discovers he really enjoys bringing more warmth into the lives of this city, whatever his initial motivations, maybe even more than he enjoyed his days at the spa.

We see this same throughline across all the players in this film. Even when we first see Klaus, he is large and imposing and hauling a very sharp weapon over his shoulder. See, Klaus has been hoarding his reserve of toys for years, never knowing on whom he should bestow his bounty of gifts. He had the means of goodness all along, and even the desire to enact that goodness, but in the absence of any direct action, Klaus only existed as this looming gargoyle with an overstuffed shed.

The movie then puts forth the idea that goodness is inherent in everyone, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Without an outlet for generosity, coldness festers, and bitterness takes the place of kindness. But even one selfless act always sparks another.

Anyways, Merry Christmas, folks.

Netflix Animation via “Metacritic”

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