Santa Who? Representations of Santa in the Archives

Santa Who? Christmas Pop-Up Event

In the spirit of Christmas, we decided to host our latest Explore your Archives pop-up event around the theme of the man in the red suit. Items displayed in the Christmas Pop-Up Event included material from animations such as The Christmas Dinner and The Mystery of the Missing Santa (both from the Henry’s Cat series) and Kevin’s Christmas Treat (from the Kevin Saves the World Series). The items demonstrate individual takes on the representation of Santa. The pop-up event explored questions such as “where does his reputation stem from?” and “how has his representation in popular culture developed over time?”

Christmas Pop-Up Display

Christmas Pop-Up Display

There are different suggestions for the origins of this holiday figure. Records date back to describe figures such as the Norse God Odin, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, with each displaying different characteristics now attributed to the modern day character – generosity, benevolence, kindness and good cheer.

As well as the name, the physical representations of Santa have developed over the years. In modern day the character is recognisable as a slightly plump older gentleman with a white beard, red suit and black boots. A common misconception is that this image derives from Coca-Cola. Instead, from the 1920s the company popularised a character design that was already imbedded in popular culture. The man in the red suit was a representation of Saint Nicholas by Thomas Nast, a respected painter who drew 33 Christmas drawings for Harper’s Weekly between 1863 and 1886.

Thomas Nast came to find inspiration from the poem by Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas, commonly known as The Night before Christmas, and depicted a jolly Santa in a red suit who gave gifts to children. In 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop a new Santa image for their advertisements. He produced new images every year through to 1964.

Sketch of Santa, Kevin’s Christmas Treat

The animation material held at UCA develops upon this traditional image, with artists demonstrating their individual takes on Santa. Although commonly depicted with the red suit and black boots, we see varying representations of Santa:

Henry’s Cat, The Christmas Dinner: Henry’s cat and his friends end up getting stuck together. Santa arrives in his sleigh, hears their dilemma and rescues them by coming down the chimney. Here we have a kind Santa who is willing to help those in need. He maintains traditional representations by arriving on a sleigh and travelling down the chimney.

Henry’s Cat, The Mystery of the Missing Santa: It is up to Henry’s cat and his friends to rescue the kidnapped Santa. This time Santa is vulnerable and needs help. The kidnapper threatens to cut the bobble off of Santa’s hat, a key icon of modern day Santa’s image.

Kevin’s Christmas Treat: Initial sketches demonstrate Santa as an unattractive character – he is shown shouting into a megaphone with large pointy teeth. In the storyboards we are presented with a mechanical Santa, the episode demonstrating the modern day commercialised side of Christmas.

Sketch of Santa, Kevin's Christmas Treat

Sketch of Santa, Kevin’s Christmas Treat

As well as archival material, we also made use of material found on the library shelves. An old-fashioned Christmas in illustration and decoration, C. Hornung, (New York: Dover Publications; London: Constable, 1970) contains black and white images portraying Christmas scenes.  Christmas: Vintage Holiday Graphics, ed. Jim Heinmann (Koln;London: Taschen, c.2005) pays homage to St Nick via vintage graphic and print media. The pages are full of colourful Christmas images, with one showing a Hawaiian scene with Santa and his reindeer sipping on cocktails! These sources complemented our theme on the representation of Santa.

Volunteer Altaira with the Christmas Pop-Up Display

Volunteer Altaira with the Christmas Pop-Up Display

Look out for the Kevin saves the World series, soon to be included in the UCA Archives and Special Collections online catalogue. An entry for Henry’s Cat can be found here: Henry’s Cat

Kevin’s Christmas Treat Images copyright Bob Godfrey and Daniel Postgate. All images are for educational purposes only.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer


Christmas Explore your Archive Pop Up Event

Explore your Archive this Christmas! Discover our hidden original artistic treasures at our archive pop up event!

On the 10th December UCA Archives and Special Collections will be hosting the next Christmas themed ‘pop-up’ event in the Farnham campus library as part of the Explore Your Archive campaign. This time we will be focusing on the different representations of Santa in the Archives. Join us to delve through a range of exciting material and to find out more about the archive and the services we provide.

Look out for our Explore Your Archive badges and pencils!

See attached poster: Christmas Explore your archive pop up event poster

To find out more email

Gender Portrayal with Bassett’s Jelly Babies

Jelly Babies – They’re in a wibbly wobbly archive of their own!

Whilst cataloguing the collection of Bob Godfrey, we came across some tasty treats in the form of Bassett’s Jelly Babies! The material relates to two television commercials for the product, and reveals a fascinating insight into character design and advertising.

Pack design with colour annotations

Pack design with colour annotations

Well-known confectionaries, Jelly Babies have a fascinating history surrounding their production and their name. According to Tim Richardson, author of Sweets: A History of Tempatation (Bantem Press:2003), Jelly Babies were originally invented in 1864 at Fryer’s, a Lancashire Sweets Firm. The tasty treats were an invention of Austrian Immigrant confectioner called Steinboch (known as Springbok locally). The name he coined and the name Jelly babies were initially marketed under was ‘Unclaimed Babies’.

In 1918 a firm named Bassett’s in Sheffield began the production of their “Peace Babies” to mark the end of the First World War. The production of the sweet was suspended during WW2 due to wartime shortages. The name ‘Peace Babies’ would also have been quite ironic given that war had just broken out. Following on from the end of the Second World War, in 1953 the product was re-launched as “Jelly Babies”.

In 1989 Bassett’s were taken over by the company Cadbury-Schweppes. This saw the re-marketing of Jelly Babies. Prior to this, all colours of Jelly Baby were the same shape. The new Jelly Babies were each given their own colour and name. Further re-marketing is demonstrated within the material held at UCA. The material in the animation archive relates to two television commercials produced in the 1990s: Cup Final and Eat to the Beat. Some items provide evidence of a new character design, and include character analysis sheets and drawing designs of each character. The development of the character traits can be seen in the animation cels used to depict the developing versions. One set of cels was accompanied by a fax from the advertising agency, approving final versions and suggesting amendments to other designs.

One note that caught our eye was the amendment suggested for the yellow Jelly Baby ‘Bubbles’. The amendment states ‘Version 2 was the closest colour however it was too bright and too yellow. She needs to be made paler with perhaps a bit of red. She is also a bit fat and needs to be slimmed down a bit’.

Extract from a fax asking Bob Godfrey films to slim down Bubbles (1994)

Extract from a fax asking Bob Godfrey films to slim down Bubbles (1994)

The animators followed this amendment, with the following annotation written on Bubbles version 2: ‘Make paler + more red. Slim down!’ We are then presented with a slimmer, paler Bubbles design in the New Version 2. This amendment of presenting a slimmer character is not used for any of the male characters. The other characteristics of the new female Jelly Baby are also of note. Prior to the redesign in Godfrey’s work, Bubbles was distinguished by larger ears and a bigger nose. In the new design, Bubbles is distinguished from the male Jelly Babies by focussing on her apparently ‘feminine’ aspects. She now features a long-haired ponytail, a red and white polka dot bow and a red beaded necklace. Bubbles also appears to be a little shorter than her male counterparts, as demonstrated in this video of Cup Final. It is relevant at this point to note that the other female character, Baby Bonny, is portrayed as wearing a frilly bonnet and is entirely pink.

Left: version 2 of Bubbles character design. Right: new version 2 of Bubbles character design.

Left: version 2 of Bubbles character design. Right: new version 2 of Bubbles character design.

It is possible to view this redesign in the wider context of gender portrayal in animation. Studies have been conducted in relation to gender representation in animation. Read papers from the same era as the Jelly Babies commercials here and here. The results suggest that extremes are used to depict female and male characteristics in order to distinguish between the two sexes. It is also suggested that animations have a male lead character majority. This is evident with the Jelly Babies, with a ratio of four male characters to two female.

So what about present day gender representation? After recently purchasing a packet of Jelly Babies (for research purposes, of course) it was apparent that the main characteristics of the Jelly Babies have not changed much during the past 20 years. We are presented with Bubbles on the front of the pack, beaded necklace and polka dot bow still intact. This more recent article discussing animations on Cartoon Network suggests that not much has changed in terms of disparities between male and female character animation: Animation and Socialization Process: Gender Role Portrayal on Cartoon Network

Look out for the Jelly Babies series, soon to be included in the UCA Archives and Special Collections online catalogue.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

AIDS in Image: World AIDS Day

For Worlds AIDS Day on the 1st December, we are shedding a light on our resources in Archives and Special Collections, and how material on AIDS or the body and disease, can be used in your creative practice. You can find our archive catalogue on our website, and you can search for keywords such as AIDS or disease.

Tessa Boffin, undertook photography work around AIDS, in the 1980/90s, a terrifying time when the stigma of AIDS was just emerging, and the persecution of the LGBT communities in this regard was most notable, with backlash from the media. The adverts around AIDS at the time, including this advert highlight the terror around this.

Tessa Boffin co-curated an exhibition, Ecstatic Antibodies, with Sunil Gupta in 1990 which played an understanding in how image contributed to the AIDS crisis; the finished book  is available on our library catalogue



Her archive  shows the whole artistic journey related to her work with AIDS. of her original notes shows exactly where she got her inspiration from, relating to the persecution of LGBT communities via the media. Her carefully articulated notes document different media forms and how they portray LGBT communities, and AIDS, such as radio and television, with the name and date of the programme. After providing a summary of the media, she analyses the material to see how it can be used in her own artistic practice.

Coursework regarding her AIDS work

Coursework regarding her AIDS work


Her study notes also use religious imagery, including images of Martyrs, and her work Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune: AIDS and the Body Politic, also references Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Her archive also includes reviews on Ecstatic antibodies.

We also have the archives from our previous 6 art schools, which includes student magazines, which highlight attitudes to LGBT issues, and safe sex, with one magazine with the front cover on AIDS.

So how can material on AIDS in the 1980s be used for Creative Practice today? Well one of the areas is theoretically to look at the social commentary related to this practice :-

how does the media’s voice differ from the 80s -90s? Does it? What do differing newspapers say? Why do they have that perspective?

What are the attitudes to safe sex then and now?

Is image and disease still a key area in Creative Arts? Why do you think that image and Disease works?

Look through the images related to AIDS in our archive.  What significance regarding the colour? Why are there allusions to Shakespeare?

The topic of persecution

Practice based creative work has also be created in relation to AIDS work. Recently first year Fashion Promotion students created responses to Tessa Boffin’s archive, in an exhibition entitled Stolen Glances, after a book by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser.  This was done as a homage to her, looking at her technique.

Another way of looking at this, is ‘then and now’- would these 1980s/90s images fit in today’s setting? How would you interpret them?

To find more about our AIDS archives, you can access our catalogue on our website, and search for ‘AIDS’. Alternatively you can email us at for 1-1 tutorials. We can also advise on other AIDS collections and archives.

For further inspiration take a look at library books in our library catalogue on AIDS