Scott Calvin is a divorced father and advertising executive with a young son, Charlie. On Christmas Eve, Charlie comes over to spend the night with him before going back to his mother and stepfather's house for Christmas Day. That night, they are awakened by a clatter on the roof. Going outside to investigate, Scott sees someone on there. He yells at the trespasser, which causes him to lose his balance and fall off. He appears to be Santa Claus.
He magically disappears, but his suit remains. They find a business card in a pocket stating that if something should happen to him, someone should put on the suit, and the reindeer will know what to do. They find his sleigh and eight reindeer perched on the roof. Scott puts the suit on to please Charlie, and begins delivering toys from house to house, with the chimneys magically adjusting to allow Scott in to make the deliveries, no matter what size they are.
Their final stop is the North Pole. Bernard the Head Elf shows him a tiny inscription on the card which says that, upon the death of the previous occupant, whoever wears the suit assumes the identity of Santa Claus and all the responsibilities and duties that go with it. This is the "Santa Clause," as stated by him: "You put on the suit, you're the big guy." He also gives Charlie a snow globe. Then, Bernard tells him that he only has eleven months, until Thanksgiving, to get his affairs in order before becoming Santa Claus full time, which he tries to refuse. He and Charlie spend the night at the factory. The next morning, they awaken back at his house, where the only indication of their previous night's adventure is his new silk pajamas with "SC" (Santa Claus or Scott Calvin) monogrammed on them. He dismisses it all as a dream.
Soon, however, Scott starts gaining weight and his boss, Mr. Whittle (Peter Boyle), likens him to the Pillsbury Dough Boy. He develops a ravenous taste for Christmas treats, like cookies and hot cocoa. He grows a long white beard, and shaving it off has no effect; it regrows instantly. His hair whitens, despite all attempts to dye it; it simply changes back. He somehow knows who has been "naughty" and "nice". Children (who somehow know he is Santa despite him not dressing the same) approach him with gift requests. His rapid transformation worries his ex-wife, Laura, and her new husband, psychiatrist Dr. Neil Miller, who try to terminate his visitation rights to Charlie. They question his mental stability, and believe that his changes are attempts at getting his son to like him.
Eventually, Scott's visitation rights to Charlie are suspended by court order. Disheartened, he begins to lose some of his certainty about his job as Santa. While visiting Charlie on Thanksgiving, whose insistence that he is Santa reawakens his magic, despite Neil and Laura trying to convince Charlie otherwise, he, with Bernard's help, whisks him away to the North Pole. Laura and Neil, who think he has kidnapped Charlie against his will, call the police, who make a massive investigation to find Charlie and, if needed, arrest Scott as well.
Meanwhile, at the North Pole, Charlie helps Scott and the elves perfect a new sleigh and communication devices. He calls occasionally, but this only reinforces Laura and Neil's belief that he is being held against his will, despite his happy tone of voice when he does call. Eventually, Scott, as Santa Claus, goes on with his Christmas Eve trip, but is arrested while delivering presents to Charlie's house, and is accused of kidnapping him, being taken away to jail despite the pleas of kids to have him released. Lack of contact with him reaches the North Pole after his arrest. A team of rescue elves, the E.L.F.S., dispatched by Bernard, free him from jail by tying up the front desk guard and fly him and Charlie home to Laura and Neil, to whom Scott/Santa gives the presents they always wanted since childhood, but never got: Laura gets a Mystery Date Game and Neil gets an Oscar Mayer "Wienie Whistle". (It was because of not getting these that they became convinced Santa didn't exist.)
Laura, finally realizing that Scott really is the new Santa, tosses the custody papers into the fireplace and welcomes him to come and see Charlie any time that he wants. Bernard tells Charlie that the snow globe is magical. Anytime he wants his father to visit, all he has to do is shake it. After ten minutes, he does so and Scott comes back, says he was on his way to Cleveland, and takes Charlie with him.
- "O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum)" - arranged by John Neufeld
- "Carol of the Bells" - written by Peter Wilhousky
- "White Christmas" - written by Irving Berlin; performed by the Drifters
- "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" - written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie; performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks
- "Jingle Bell Ride" - written and Performed by Johnny Hawksworth
- "Jingle Bells" - arranged by John Neufeld
- "Christmas Will Return" - written by Jimmy Webb; performed by Brenda Russell and Howard Hewett
- "The Bells of Christmas" - written and performed by Loreena McKennitt
Home video releases
|Tim Allen||Scott Calvin/Santa Claus|
|Judge Reinhold||Dr. Neal Miller|
|Wendy Crewson||Laura Miller|
|Eric Lloyd||Charlie Calvin|
|David Krumholtz||Bernard the Head Elf|
|Larry Brandenburg||Detective Nunzio|
|Mary Gross||Miss Daniels|
|Paige Tamada||Judy the Elf|
|Peter Boyle||Mr. Whittle|
|Steve Vinovich||Dr. Pete Novos|
- Disney Wiki: The Santa Clause
- The Santa Clause at the Internet Movie Database
- The Santa Clause at TV Tropes