Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is a 1972 Christmas film directed by Barry Mahon and R. Winer that aired as a weekend afternoon kiddie matinee. It stars Jay Clark as Santa Claus and "Kids" from Ruth Foreman's Pied Piper Playhouse.
Actually, no, that description doesn't nearly do it justice.
It's actually a complete and utter Mind Screw from start to finish. Standard movie-watching logic does not apply to this film. In fact, any attempt to apply basic storytelling logic to the film will probably give you a brain aneurysm. It ignores every basic dramatic convention. The final episode of The Prisoner was less of a brainrape than this movie.
Santa and his sleigh are stranded on a beach somewhere in Florida in inch-deep sand, his reindeer having flown back to the North Pole to cool off. Several kids (including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn) try to help him out with a variety of farm animals (and a guy dressed in a gorilla suit!), but to no avail. Just when all hope is given up, Santa is reminded of the story of Thumbelina, where the film sidetracks us to said plot. The eponymous Ice Cream Bunny doesn't show up to help Santa until the very end, where the two drive off in his old fire truck.
Did we mention that the Thumbelina segment is actually an entirely different film, complete with its own opening and closing credits left intact? Yep, Santa's story to the children includes detailed descriptions of who the executive producer was. By now you should start to understand why this film is basically a Logic Bomb for humans.
The Thumbelina segment was shot at the long-defunct Pirates World theme park in Florida in 1970, and stars Shay Garner as the title character. It is a re-telling of said story done in the style of a museum exhibit, complete with models of the sets. So, that makes the theme park itself a Framing Device, too!
Oddly enough, depending on where the film was shown, certain prints substituted the story of Jack and the Beanstalk for Thumbelina, also shot at Pirates World, with Mitchell Poulos as the boy hero. This was no improvement, especially as the Giant (Renato Boracherro) offered such lines as, "Wife, bring me my creepy-crawlies! Mmmm-mmmmmm!".
- Amateur Cast: The kids are actually billed as "'Kids' from Ruth Foreman's Pied Piper Playhouse".
- Canine Companion: Rebel the dog.
- The Danza: All of the child actors are called by their real first name.
- Deus Ex Machina: The Ice Cream Bunny and his fire truck. Though, that doesn't explain how Santa can return to the North Pole...
- It's strongly implied that the Bunny drives Santa to the North Pole on the fire truck. Santa's sled teleports back to the North Pole as a fail-safe, should it and Santa ever be separated. (Of course, there's no explanation why that fail-safe can't be implemented while Santa is in the sled. Perhaps in order to teleport you must be naked, which would be the reason why Santa and the rest of the world wouldn't want that to happen.)
- Framing Device: The whole bit with Santa was just one of these for Thumbelina, along with the theme park for said segment.
- Looping Lines: The entire thing was shot without sound, so all of it was dubbed in post-production.
- Mondegreen: Santa calling out "Kim!" is often misheard as "Kid!"
- Nested Story: The Thumbelina short...which even has its own credits.
- No Ending: The film doesn't end. It just sort of stops.
- Only in Florida: Where else could a film like this be made? Or take place?
- Out-of-Genre Experience: From Santa's sleigh predicament to a cheap theme park adaptation of Thumbelina.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Ice Cream Bunny supplies no ice cream whatsoever.
- Product Placement: For Pirates World theme park. The internal evidence suggests this film was created to double-dip off pre-existing movies previously funded by the park's owners for the kiddie matinée circuit.
- If you sense desperation, it's because Disney opened Disney World the year before. A year after the film was released, Pirates World was bankrupt. By 1975, the place was closed. Not long after, the park was razed and condos built in its place.
- Public Domain Character: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, who serve no purpose to the plot other than extra Padding. It also stars Santa Claus who gets stuck in Florida.
- Stock Footage: One of the elves peers outside the workshop to view a clip of some reindeer on a green landscape of the North Pole.
The Thumbelina adaptation contains examples of:
- Acting for Two: Shay Garner plays both the title character and the young woman who stumbles upon the exhibit.
- Amusement Park of Doom: That steeplechase ride near the beginning and end -- No safety belts, plenty of sudden turns, and dangerously fast. Have fun, kiddies!
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Thumbelina's dress never gets messed up, even during many months spent in the outdoors. Her hair is always flawlessly combed.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The witch certainly needs to reiterate the price of her services after singing about it for five minutes!
- Happily Ever After
- Mind Screw: Given the Acting for Two above, you've got to wonder if the girl listening to the story is hearing her own voice whenever Thumbelina talks.
- Narrator All Along: The narrator from the drive thru-looking speaker in the exhibit throughout the film is actually Mrs. Mole, who lets Thumbelina into her home during the winter.
- Nested Story
- Padding: The whole segment to SatICB.
- Or is it the other way around, as Thumbelina takes up most of the film? Or have we actually stumbled upon a film that is entirely padding?!
- Recap Film: Utilized in the ending for some reason other than more padding.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never stated what happened to Thumbelina's mother after her kidnapping. The last we see of her, she's sobbing over the kidnapping of her daughter.
The Jack and the Beanstalk adaptation contains examples of:
- Padding: Once again.