It’s an age-old problem faced by many parents; they need to go Christmas shopping, but need something to distract the kids. In the 1960’s and 1970’s when malls became ubiquitous in the United States, the answer was simple; drop them off at the mall’s theater to watch a kid’s film of some kind. Mall theaters were more than happy to oblige, but often had problems finding something to show because the biggest producer of children’s entertainment- Walt Disney Productions- rarely released its films into second run theaters. Lucky for the theaters, since most of these pictures would only be seen by children they didn’t have to be of high quality. This opened the door to cheap no name entertainment like Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.
Take a producer who was famous for making sleazy films that existed mainly as excuses to show topless women, mix in a disreputable theme park, add a Santa who looks like he was found on a street corner and a flea ridden bunny rabbit costume and you get Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. The film takes a group of community theater kids and forces them to listen to a drunken Santa who has clearly soiled himself tell a Pirates World themed story about a braless young lady who looks like she is stoned out of her mind.
This ‘story within a story’ is clearly just a failed film that was repurposed with the Santa filler to qualify as a Christmas film. The picture was filmed at the dreariest place on earth- Pirates World In Dania, Florida, which was trying to gain traction against its much bigger, nicer competition.
Pirates World brought in notorious Florida-based producer Barry Mahon to make a picture that could double as an ad for their theme park. Prior to this project, Mr. Mahon produced a series of films that were merely excuses to show topless women. Needless to say, he was an odd choice to make a children’s film.
The film itself boasts the worst production values you’re ever likely to see. “Santa Claus” looks like a wino who is only doing this because he was promised a bottle of ripple at the wrap party. In one regrettable scene it appears that “Santa” has crapped his pants. Ho, ho, no! The kids are joined by a psychotically deformed “Ice Cream Bunny” whose mascot costume looks like it was fished out of the dumpster behind the mall on the day after Easter. Filmed on the filthy Pirates World premises near what looks like a drainage ditch, the film looks more like a cautionary tale against attending a dangerous theme park rather than a promotional film.
The Santa footage, however, is just a wraparound for a different film- Thumbelina. Featuring even worse special effects and acting than the wraparounds, Thumbelina looks like the legitimate scenes of a stag film which is to be expected coming from a past producer of soft core nudie pics. It’s the sort of film even Ed Wood would refuse to make.
Another picture based on Jack and the Beanstalk was also used with the same Santa filler material. Neither of them were any good. While the film was good enough to entertain a bunch of brats while their parents frantically shopped for Christmas gifts, it never led to further work for its cast, nor did it save Pirates World, which closed after some concert related riots later that decade.