Disney’s new streaming platform Disney+ is jumping right into the holiday season with new original content.
Its new film Noelle starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader explores the Claus family from a perspective where the role of Santa Claus is passed down to the firstborn son. When Santa’s eldest, Nick Claus, (Hader) becomes overwhelmed by the prospect of taking over the big red suit, he disappears, and it’s up to his younger sister Noelle (Kendrick) to help find him and save Christmas. Last night, Noelle held a special screening at the SVA Theater in New York City, where star Anna Kendrick and writer/ director Marc Lawrence spoke to The Knockturnal about the film’s unique spin on Santa.
Anna Kendrick plays Noelle.
The Knockturnal: What tropes do you think it’s time for holiday films to escape from?
Anna Kendrick: Oh, it’s hard isn’t it? Because I feel like the holidays, you do want a Christmas movie to be doing something a little different. But at the same time it’s like you do want the stakes to be that they save Christmas. Like I remember reading that the ending of Elf, where Santa crashes in Central Park and they have to save Christmas, was like a last-minute addition. But it was like, yeah, because no matter how heartwarming and funny it is, it’s a Christmas movie and you have to save Christmas in the Christmas movie. So I think there were a lot of those kind of things that we ran toward because it’s like, of course, it has to be heartwarming and charming. And you know, Noelle has to save Christmas.
The Knockturnal: And on Disney+, do you have anything you’re especially looking forward to being reintroduced to?
Anna Kendrick: Well, I don’t know. I have to do a deep dive because so far I confess a lot of the stuff, I’m like, “This has never left my life.” Like The Muppets Christmas Carol has never left my life but I’m excited that it’s going to be on the surface.
The Knockturnal: And one more question. So in this, I feel like, in most Christmas movies, women have often been restricted to the romantic lead or Mrs. Claus. Why do you think it’s important that we see a non-romantic strong female character?
Anna Kendrick: Yeah. I hope that it’s something that resonates with little girls, but I also hope that it’s something that is a fun and heartwarming movie that any family would watch, whether they have little girls in their family or not. But I do like the idea of the groundwork being about the way that Noelle is socialized to not think she’s allowed to do certain jobs and that there’s a really organic, sweet way that we address that.
Director Marc Lawrence
The Knockturnal: So obviously this time of year we’re going to receive a lot of Christmas movies. What do you think sets this apart from all the other films out there?
Marc Lawrence: I don’t know what else is coming out this year. I haven’t seen the other Christmas fare, so I can’t really comment on that. I hope that what translates in this is that it’s not so much a movie about a female Santa Claus, it’s a movie about a woman with enormous potential who hasn’t reached it yet, and when she does reach it, she becomes Santa Claus, and that the real meaning of the holiday is not only the gifts that we’re getting, it’s the gifts that we give, and reminding ourselves that there are people around who don’t have as much as we have, and aren’t necessarily going to have a Merry Christmas. And that the importance of being nice is huge, that it seems like a small thing to be nice to get on the nice list, but actually it’s a real achievement, and it can make a real difference in people’s lives.
The Knockturnal: Absolutely. And this is obviously about turning a role of Santa on its head. What’s been your favorite interpretation of the role Santa Claus in past films or anything else you’ve seen?
Marc Lawrence: That’s a good question. I mean, I enjoyed the Tim Allen film, Santa Clause, and that was a really fun one. And of course, I guess the ultimate one would be the Santa Claus in Miracle On 34th Street. That’s the archetype, Santa Claus, yeah.
The Knockturnal: Absolutely, yeah. And last question … what inspired you to put the woman at the forefront of this film?
Marc Lawrence: Just, I love writing about women. Miss Congeniality, I mean, there’s been a lot that features women, so it’s just kind of a natural fit for me.