Fred Claus Storyform Analysis

Anyone up for some more reindeer games :wink: and finding the storyform for another Holiday Comedy using the “Genre approach” used to analyze Elf?

Fred Claus is a favorite of mine (we watch it as we decorate our tree every year) but as a newbie I can find “evidence” to support several different Storyforms. However, I’d really like to try Jim Hull’s genre-al approach so here’s my attempt:

  1. “Feeling” (Internal/External/State/Process) = Internal (judging others as “good” or “bad”)

  2. Overriding trend for Holiday Comedy: OS= Psychology; MC= Universe
    -OS: tons of dysfunction in the Claus Family, Mom chides Fred to be “more like his brother” St. Nicholas who is deemed “good”(unfortunately SO good that it’s a bad thing at least for Fred)
    -MC: Fred needs money for latest business scheme but has to go to North Pole and work for his brother Santa to get it.

  3. Start/Stop: light/heavy : surmountable/overhwhelming

This story feels a bit heavier to me. The odds feel overwhelming given how ruthless the antagonist (Clyde) is. He’ll do anything to close down Santa/North Pole. But that leads to a stop story which made me wonder if Fred’s issue is centered on changing the way he thinks about Santa. He needs to stop being angry at his brother?

I can see Mind being Fred’s area of conflict (see below for points on Fred being steadfast) as he sees all kids as good…they just have messed up parents that cause the kids to be angry, confused, etc. Fred shows this while repossessing the little girl’s big screen TV. He describes what her life could be life if she stops watching TV so much in her room and then he tells the parents to stop using the TV as a babysitter because it’s making their daughter mean (she kicked Fred).

  1. That line of thinking puts IC (Santa) in Universe which is shown by the untimely evaluation of the North Pole’s efficiency.

  2. RS would be in Physics and I see potentially a hand-off Fred/Santa and Fred/Elves(?). Many of the physical activities involve Santa putting Fred in charge of managing the naughty/nice list (sprinkling the doo-dads on the cookies), but there is also the big scene when Fred puts DJ Donny into the closet for playing the same song and then he gets all the elves to forget their responsibilities and dance to the song Fred picks. Fred/Santa go at each other: snowball fight

  3. Fred seems steadfast to me. He believes all kids are good at the beginning and even finally sees himself as good when he decides to go back to the North Pole and be the best big brother like he had promised when Nicholas was born. Santa changes to see that all kids are good and deserve a gift at Christmas. He apologizes to Clyde and gives him the Superman cape he should’ve given him as a kid. Santa sees that Clyde was “bad” because he was bullied and teased because he wore glasses as a kid.

  4. Other Drivers: Success/Good

  5. Now we skip to the problem:

To me the resolution is when Fred decides to return to the North Pole and be an awesome Big Brother by overcoming his fear of flying and delivering all the presents in Santa’s place. Everyone now sees Fred’s “goodness” and he sees it in himself as well.

I’ll stop here as I have no idea if the above is even remotely correct or close. I’m stumped on the problem and can start confusing myself by thinking maybe OS=mind as everyone seems to have a problem with being stuck with their thoughts about good vs. bad; human vs elf love/attraction(Charlene/Willie); siblings of famous people (support group); Fred’s view of Santa (he tells Sam “Slam” that Santa is a Meglamaniac and then later reverses this attitude when he visits Sam in the orphanage).

Back to my original question: Anyone want to help me sort out the storyform on this movie? :smile:

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Welcome the board, @Kimb!

I haven’t seen this movie, but it sounds pretty entertaining. Thought I might be able to give you some pointers, and others can jump in if I’m leading you astray.

Judging others seems like something you’d find at the bottom of the chart, in the Character level. When you’re looking at the Domain level and thinking genre-ally, try to think more broadly. It’s a holiday comedy, right? So, where does the comedy seem to come from? Think of the parts that make you laugh out loud.

As of right now there are

  • 2 OS Psychology / MC Universe stories (Elf, The Santa Claus)
  • 2 OS Universe / MC Physics stories (Home Alone, The Simpson Christmas Special)
  • 1 OS Physics / MC Mind story (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

I wouldn’t say that’s enough for a definitive trend yet. You’ll see in the Elf analysis we started by going with the trend, and were completely wrong. A trend is just a trend, regardless. There is always the possibility for outliers. I’d use the trend to get a general sense of where the stories in that genre lie, and then compare Fred Claus to those. Think of the stories as people and compare their personalities.

I got burned by this on the Planes, Trains and Automobiles analysis. I thought there was enough Drama and heavy emotional moments to make it a Stop story. Turns out we were wrong. :smile: I think @jhull has a blog post somewhere where he used Audience Appreciations like Surmountable/Overwhelming odds to analyze Ex Machina and ended up with the wrong storyform! If he can mess it up, then we’re definitely going to! Audience Appreciations are more subjective. Let the story dictate to you and try to avoid projecting onto the story.

I’d say you probably have a handle on this so far:


  • Problem Solving Style: Linear (I’m taking this as a given. I can’t imagine Vince Vaughn comedy being a Holistic MC, but correct me if I’m wrong!)
  • Driver: Optionlock (Another given)
  • Outcome: Success
  • Judgment: Good


  • OS: ???
  • MC: Fred
  • IC: Santa
  • RS: Siblings

Which is good start. :thumbsup: I’d really try to get a feel for the Genre level and makes sure you’re thinking really broadly before you continue down to the other levels. Also, try to peg down the OS in a short description.

One last note, it is very possible that the story isn’t complete enough to find the Author’s intent. Just know that that is one the table and might be why you’re bouncing around so much. Even still, I think doing an analysis on anything will help you grow your knowledge, regardless of the outcome.

I’ll try to watch the movie if I get some time, but you’re off to a good start! :smile:

Thanks for the welcome @glennbecker! And thank you for taking the time to share your insights. You’ve given me lots of things to think about and revisit.

I think this might be the article you’re referring to?

In re-reading this article, it seems Fred Claus (MC) illustrates the surmountable odds perspective while the OS characters illustrate the overwhelming perspective. From the beginning, with Fred’s talk to the girl whose TV he repossess to his bell-ringing scam to make money to his fast-talking scheme to get money out of his brother (Santa), Fred shows how he can overcome all odds. In contrast, the elves and Santa are all ready to throw in the towel once Clyde gives Santa the pink slip. That is anyway until Fred convinces them to look again at their options…there is a viable solution. That said, I guess this is weighted towards the surmountable odds which would make it a start story.

I think the OS is simply “to deliver Christmas gifts to all the good boys and girls of the world.”

To me the author is arguing what it means to be “good” or the old Christmas version of “naughty vs. nice” and whether that’s a valid determiner for whether a child gets a Christmas gift from Santa.

Hope you get a chance to watch the movie!

This was the article I was thinking of. The point being, all the Audience Appreciations are neat, but they might not be the best tools in an analysis.

That sounds pretty Goal-ish to me, so you’re on the right track. :wink:

Try this. Forget Dramatica for a second. Imagine we’re on an elevator and I’m getting ready to hop off, so you have to be brief. I just asked you what Fred Claus was about. What would you tell me?

The movie is about saving Christmas and restoring the brothers’ relationship.

When I write that statement out it leads me to think the OS=Physics which is interesting because that goal is not really clear until the last 1/3(?) of the movie. The goal of restoring the brother’s relationship is really clear from almost the beginning.

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Nice! I watched a couple trailers, which I know isn’t the same as watching the movie :smile:

Take this as overall thoughts or impressions and not any conclusion on my part. This is based on trailers and what you have written and nothing else.

The humor definitely looks physical or slapstick in nature. (OS Physics)

Fred is the black sheep and everyone compares him to his brother (MC Universe)

Santa has a bad or rigid attitude about who is naughty and nice. (IC Mind)

The Brothers relationship is dysfunctional and needs to get it’s head around being family. (RS Psychology)

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Wow! That’s impressive you got all that from the trailer. :grinning: I wonder if that’s why sometimes we see a trailer and we feel like we already “know” the whole story?

So if we went with what you surmised from the trailer for now, would that make this a STOP story given the alignment (OS Physics / MC Universe) and it would also account for a heavier feeling I mentioned earlier?

The important thing to keep in mind with the Domains is that there are only 8 possible assignments. That’s why it’s important to keep it broad and genre-al at the top.

Yes and Yes. My light / heavy sense isn’t the best though. :smile:

So, here’s where we’re at.

  • Steadfast
  • Stop
  • Do-er

  • Linear
  • Optionlock
  • Success
  • Good

  • OS Domain: Physics
  • MC Domain: Universe
  • IC Domain: Mind
  • RS Domain : Psychology

I’m going to go out on a limb and say “Saving Christmas” is an Obtaining goal. (It feels really “achievement oriented”)

That gives us stories like:

  • Enchanted
  • Shrek
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Back to the Future
  • Big

Keeping subject matter out of it, and just trying to feel the “personalities” of the stories, does that feel like a group of people Fred Claus (the movie, not the character) would hang out with?

Does any one of those stand out as being particularly like Fred Claus to you? :wink:

Now let’s look back on some of the earlier things you said and see where they take us.

Your problem quad for the OS are

  • Consider / Reconsider - Logic / Feeling
  • Pursuit / Avoid - Control / Uncontrolled
  • Faith / Disbelief - Conscience / Temptation
  • Support / Oppose - Help / Hinder

Do you see the problem and solution you described in any of those? I do. :wink:

Interesting analysis!

Not be a devil’s advocate or anything :slight_smile: but are you sure this story is OS Physics? Genre-wise it sounds a lot more like a dysfunctional family comedy which would put it in Psychology.

From Wikipedia:

Believing that Fred is putting Nick under stress, a family meeting is called (which Fred was tied up and taken to) with Wanda present, and Fred leaves by saying that therapy is for families who want to be together, and their family does not have that problem.

Fred is confused and enters a Siblings Anonymous meeting. At the end, Bill Clinton’s younger half-brother, Roger Clinton Jr, makes a speech about his brother’s success.

Isn’t this is all problematic thinking stuff?

From your description, that sounds right to me:

… about every other gist in Mind is “fear of X”. And he certainly seems to have a bad attitude about everything.

That said, the more important question is: are you sure this is a complete story? From your description @Kimb , it sounds a little like the filmmakers are trying to have both Fred and Santa change, with Fred overcoming his fears and his bad attitude and Santa realizing that all kids are nice. (Though its possible I’m missing something here).

This might account for the less-than-stellar critical reception (though it does look pretty funny). I only mention this because if there’s something off structurally, it’ll be hard to come to consensus about where everything sits.

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It’s totally possible the OS is in Psychology or there is some muddling and it’s trying to be both. Or the RS is broader and is more about the whole family.

A Steadfast / Psychology / Mind story would be more like Being There, Chicago or Moulin Rouge.

I’ll cut to the chase and say look at the storyform for Big and see if it doesn’t seem like what they were going for (or a least what @Kimb is describing).

  • Triumphant ending
  • Bad considerations are solved by reconsidering.
  • An MC who stays Steadfast and is driven by Conscience.
  • An RS drawn together by Help and pushed apart by Hinder.

I agree the story is probably incomplete, but there might be enough there to get an author’s intent. Guess we’d both have to watch the movie to be sure. :smile:

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Thanks for jumping in @Lakis! It’s good to hear different perspectives and I’m not sure of the OS yet, but what does seem right is the dysfunctional sibling relationship which makes the OS in physics. I think the Siblings Anonymous meeting falls within the RS Throughline because it reinforces the dysfunction between Fred and Santa.

Clyde definitely is an antagonist to the OS Physics by trying to prevent Christmas and he provides the resistance.

However, Clyde could be an antagonist to the OS Psychology argument because he creates the resistance for resolving the family conflict and fuels the idea of reconsidering how Fred sees himself(the little tree vs. Santa is the big tree). Clyde knows what it’s like to grow up in the shadow of a sibling (big tree shadows and stifles the growth of the little tree). Mom seems like she’d fit the role of a contagonist in this scenario as well. She constantly hinders by reminding Fred how good Nicholas is and he should be more like him.

I am definitely not sure, but was hoping this would help me figure that out.

It might be my poor description, but I really don’t see Fred changing in regards to the basic premise of the story. He overcomes his fear of flying but that feels more like OS activity.

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I took a look. The Big Storyforming feels really close. I’m not sure about the Conscience though.

There is a line in the movie where Santa accuses Fred of only thinking of himself and to me, that gets to the heart of the story (does that make it RS?). Nicholas is so extreme in his thinking of others that he gives away the very gift Fred gave him as a kid. Nicholas chops down the very special tree Fred sat in and visited with his bird friend Chirp-chirp because Nicholas thinks others will love it in the house. Nicholas very much has a problem with awareness (at least in my opinion).

While Fred is accused of too much self-awareness (partially earned by reputation), he seems to be making the argument for less awareness and more self-awareness. He calls Santa out for all the stuff he does in the name of being a Saint (breaking into houses, eating cookies which make him fat and unhealthy).

Has this discussion intrigued anyone enough to watch the movie yet?:wink:

One thing to think about here is that a Steadfast character can “grow” in or out of their problem element without actually changing.

You could say Fred grows from a lack of Conscience into an abundance of Conscience. He’s not changed because he doesn’t switch gears into Temptation.

I’d be willing to bet there’s a part where Fred gets a chance to take the easy way out (Deomotivator/Solution of Temptation) but then decides stick to his guns and do the right thing.

I probably will, just won’t be able to until Monday at the earliest. :slight_smile:

The best is when they use Dramatica concepts within the trailer itself!

(The funny part being the actual final product suffered from a deficient narrative structure - victim of the writer’s strike).


I still haven’t gotten to see JoJo Rabbit to verify, but just from the description of heartwarming story of Nazi Boy befriending a Jewish Girl I have a pretty good idea of Domains and Dynamics. :smile:

@Kimb I have some me time tonight so I’m going to try and watch Fred Claus tonight.