(A version of this article was shared with Laughing Place on December 22, 2022.)
Ho Ho Ho! It’s Christmastime again. That time of year when Santa invades almost every television and radio station – not to mention billions of homes worldwide.
Santa – also known as Kris Kringle, Saint Nick, Père Noël, and countless other names, is recognized worldwide for his jolly generosity. He is so respected that he is often imitated (though never quite duplicated). Let’s stake out the chimney drop and celebrate the top ten Disney characters who have dressed as Santa Claus.
#10 – Winnie the Pooh
“Oh Bother!” Disney’s Silly Old Bear took on Santa’s gift-giving responsibilities in 1991’s Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. When the Hundred Acre Wood gang’s wish list for Santa gets lost in the wind, Pooh takes it upon himself to try to give his friends the gifts they’ve asked for. Piglet gets into the act as Pooh’s lone reindeer. Pooh doesn’t succeed in giving the perfect gifts, but his friends truly appreciate the thought behind his yuletide efforts. In the end, Christopher Robin comes to the rescue with a slew of perfect presents!
#9 – Pete
Mickey’s long-time nemesis Pete takes his dastardly turn as the big man in the 2002 House of Mouse episode Pete’s Christmas Caper. In this story, Pete dresses up as Santa for Mickey’s party, but secretly plots to steal the gifts left under the tree. It turns out the presents Pete stole were intended for him, and he swallows a big mouthful of Christmas guilt when he finds out. Same Pete, different day. Lucky for him, Mickey is tirelessly forgiving!
#8 – Duffy
Duffy the Disney Bear – Minnie’s adorable plush gift for Mickey – once regularly greeted guests in EPCOT. Nowadays, Duffy primarily resides on the other side of the world, in the Asian Disney parks and at Aulani in Hawaii. But Mickey’s friend occasionally makes appearances at special events in Florida and California. Santa Duffy plushes, backpacks, and jewelry have also been available for purchase (he’s very popular in our family during the holidays).
#7 – Oswalt the Lucky Rabbit
Before there was Mickey, there was Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Mickey’s predecessor has the distinction of being the first animated Disney character to make an appearance as Saint Nick. Oswald did it in 1927’s Empty Socks, which is also considered to be the first Disney Christmas-themed cartoon. The plot of this short is exceedingly simple – Oswald plays Santa for a group of orphans. That’s about it.
Trivia Tidbit: Most of this early film was long thought to be forever lost, but in December 2014, an almost complete copy of the film was discovered in the National Library of Norway.
#6 – Donald Duck
Donald’s only impersonation as Santa came in 1949’s Toy Tinkers – one of many shorts featuring his famous rivalry with Chip ‘n Dale. When the two mischievous chipmunks sneak into Donald’s house to swipe his Christmas nuts, Donald fights back with increasingly sophisticated attacks on the pair. In one of his schemes, Donald dresses as Santa, gives his foes a single gift to quarrel over, then uses the gift (a toy gun) to shoot acorns at the chipmunks. Real classy, Donald.
Aside from his sole turn as Santa, Donald has also made occasional appearances in the red suit in Tokyo Disneyland Christmas shows and parades.
#5 – Lego Star Wars Minifigs
Lego has a long-standing tradition of presenting a creative assortment of Star Wars Advent Calendar minifigures and micro-builds. Undoubtedly, each year features at least one character dressed as their own unique version of Santa. Whether it be Darth Vader, C-3PO, Yoda, Darth Maul, or numerous other characters, the Santa Claus minifigure is always a highlight of the popular Christmas countdown gift set.
#4 – Chip ‘n Dale
Usually content to bother Donald Duck, Chip ‘n Dale occasionally harass poor Pluto. In the 1952 short Pluto’s Christmas Tree, the two chipmunks unwittingly lose their fir tree home when Mickey cuts it down for Christmas. With the tree proudly displayed in Mickey’s living room, Chip ‘n Dale decide they like their festive new surroundings. They also enjoy teasing Pluto, who very much wants the chipmunks out of his house. In one comical scene, Dale seeks to evade Pluto by hiding as a tiny Santa candle on Mickey’s mantle. Pluto doesn’t fall for the disguise, but the chipmunks manage to outwit him anyway. This classic Christmas short happens to be my all-time favorite Disney animated short film.
#3 – Mickey Mouse
The world’s most beloved mouse may top many lists, and looks quite adorable in a Santa Claus suit, but in this list he resides proudly at number 3. Mickey first appeared as Santa in Mickey’s Orphans in 1931. In this black and white short, a mysterious hooded figure drops a basket on the doorstep of Mickey and Minnie’s house. When Pluto investigates the basket, they find it is filled with orphan kittens. Mickey and Minnie take the kittens in, and spend the rest of the short trying to entertain their tiny guests. At one point, Mickey dons a Santa suit and gives gifts to the kittens. Does this sound familiar? It should, as the premise of this short is essentially a remake of the Oswald short Empty Socks, which we celebrated at number seven above. When Walt Disney lost the Oswald rights – including Empty Socks – to Charles Mintz in 1928, he decided to make a new version of this short film, and “plus” it up a bit.
Trivia Tidbit: Mickey’s Orphans was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 5th Academy Awards in 1932 – the award’s inaugural year. It lost to another Disney film, the Silly Symphony short Flowers and Trees, which was Disney’s first color film.
One year later, Mickey threw on the suit again for Mickey’s Good Deed. This 1932 short film is set during the Great Depression, and sees a down-on-their-luck Mickey and Pluto struggling to find food to eat. When Mickey observes a family of cats with hungry mouths even worse off than him and Pluto, he reluctantly sells his pet to a wealthy family with a spoiled son. With the money, Mickey purchases a whole host of gifts and food for the poor family, and delivers the gifts to them dressed as Santa Claus. Thankfully, Pluto’s new family (in particular their spoiled son) can’t behave well enough to properly care for him, and they kick him out of the house. Pluto follows Mickey’s trail and the pair happily reunite for Christmas.
Mickey has also appeared at various Disney Parks events dressed as the holiday hero, including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom.
#2 – Goofy
“Gawrsh!” The big red man with the long white beard can’t hold a candle to his famous Disney canine version. Santa Goofy visits many Disney parks every year, and appears in park parades and meet-and-greets. This festive version of Goofy is wildly popular in every Disney park he visits, and the lines to meet him are always super long. But the wait is worth it. Goofy is always one of the more enjoyable characters to meet in the parks, and his turn as Santa adds icing to this sweet yuletide cake.
Goofy has also appeared in several animated shorts, most notably the 1999 short A Very Goofy Christmas – part of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. In the short, Goofy briefly dresses as Santa in an attempt to convince his son Max that Santa is real. Near the end of the short, Max himself dresses as Santa to cheer up his dad and celebrate a deeper meaning of Christmas – faith and family.
#1 – Jack Skellington
“What’s This?” The number 1 spot on this Christmas list is occupied by a Halloween hero? Jack Skellington is one of the sweetest and most sympathetic characters in a holiday film, despite the fact that he spends most of his time with the undead. The Pumpkin King pretty much owns Halloween, and his heart is festive and his enthusiasm are contagious, even if his particular brand of cheer can be quite frightening. Jack may have almost ruined Christmas, but his intentions were merry, and his heart makes Tim Burton’s 1992 film The Nightmare Before Christmas sing with holiday cheer.
Santa Jack meets guests at Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and the line to meet him is second only to Santa Goofy. Santa Jack merchandise always sells well on ShopDisney, as well as third party retailers.
Where did your favorite Santa impersonation land on this list? Reach out here with a comment here to chat, or via social at one of the options below. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!