One of my favorite stories around Christmastime is that of Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. In this real-life event, eight-year-old Virginia asked her father if Santa Claus was just a character or if he truly existed. Her father suggested that she write to The Sun. The young girl’s question was answered by a former war correspondent that rose above the simple question and in turn, gave America one of its most beloved holiday stories.
I bring this up because what we are looking at today takes inspiration from this classic story. In 1998, Disney’s One Saturday Morning had an episode of one of their most popular shows deal with the very question of Santa’s existence and if one is ever too old to believe in him. Today, I am looking at the only Christmas episode of the ’90s classic Recess.
As I stated up-top, the plot is basically about one of the main characters, in this case, Mikey trying to prove that Santa exists. He is the only character of the core group that still believes in Santa. He faces the heartbreak of weasel Randall saying that Santa doesn’t exist and this is what sets Mikey on a quest to prove that Santa does exist from going everywhere to seeing a Mall Santa to overhearing a radio DJ doing a Santa voice and that is what causes Mikey to finally break down. While this is all going on, the school is holding a holiday pageant and Mikey has been cast as Santa but has lost his Christmas spirit when he is convinced that Santa doesn’t exist. That is until he comes across something that I love about this episode. as Mikey does meet Santa and he may not know it and he’s played by James Earl Jones.
This is something that on the surface is so small but think back to what Miles’ says at the end of Into The Spider-Verse of how anyone can wear the mask, well anyone can also wear the red suit. And that’s what we are seeing here. This episode doesn’t go for the traditional White-bearded Santa. Santa is instead a shaved Black man that lives at a retirement home. Oh sure, there has been merchandise of Black Santa’s before.
And of course, there have been Black men that dress up as Santa for the holidays but I cannot think of another movie or show where a Black actor has played Santa, and to have someone, as revered as James Earl Jones, playing Santa is just mindblowing. It honestly adds so much more weight and gravitas when he tells Mikey that sometimes the strongest things that we believe in are what we cannot see. And instead live in our heart. This gives Mikey the courage to show up for the show and this is where we get to hear Mikey’s singing aka Robert Goulet sing White Christmas. And the old man that gave Mikey courage and spirit to show up comes to the show and Mikey is confused as to how he knew where to show up. And he tells Mikey that Mikey invited him and this ties to when Mikey got the part of Santa, he wrote a letter inviting Santa to come to the pageant.
The episode ends with there being snow for the first time at the school in years and the kids see Santa flying off and all of them are left dumbfounded except Mikey because he still believes. This episode is great, and I wish that I watched this episode more before this year, but thankfully Disney+ had it.
Mikey voiced by Jason Davis
Using Mikey for this episode was a perfect choice as he is the most optimistic and has the biggest heart of the group. Seeing his belief shaken makes you want to root for him and has him proven right. And there is such a big smile when he is.
Santa voiced by James Earl Jones
I had no idea that James Earl Jones played Santa in this before doing research for this review and man does he knock it out of the park. He plays one of the best Santas in a piece of media that I’ve seen and part of that is because the episode doesn’t stick to the traditional idea of Santa. And thus is able to do some interesting things with Santa that you normally wouldn’t expect to see. And I actually enjoy this unique take on Santa here because it doesn’t stick to tradition.
My Final Thoughts
This episode is like I said great and part of that comes from it showing that Santa can be anyone and anyone can inspire faith in those that have left their Christmas spirit as seen here. It’s such a great episode and I love it because of that. Join me next time as we look at an early Bryan Cranston role as I look at…
‘Twas The Night