Ernest Saves Christmas

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Ernest Saves Christmas
Ernest Saves Christmas Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Cherry
Screenplay byEd Turner
B. Kline
Story byEd Turner
Produced byJoseph Akerman
CinematographyPeter Stein
Edited byIan D. Thomas
Music byMark Snow
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • November 11, 1988 (1988-11-11)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million
Box office$28.2 million

Ernest Saves Christmas is a 1988 American Christmas comedy film directed by John Cherry and starring Jim Varney. This is the third film to feature Varney's character Ernest P. Worrell, and chronicles Ernest's attempt to help find a replacement for an aging Santa Claus.


A man claiming to be Santa Claus arrives in Orlando, Florida, where Ernest P. Worrell is working as a taxicab driver. He picks up Santa, who tells Ernest that he is on his way to inform a local celebrity named Joe Carruthers that he has been chosen to be the new Santa Claus. Joe hosts a long-running local children's program with emphasis on manners and integrity, which Ernest remembers fondly.

While they are driving, a runaway teenage girl who says she is named Harmony Starr joins Ernest and Santa in the taxicab. When they get to their destination, Santa possesses no legal currency (only play money), so in his giving Christmas spirit, Ernest lets him ride for free. The decision gets Ernest fired from his job. Ernest later discovers that Santa left his magic sack in the taxicab, and Ernest begins a quest to find the old man and return it to him.

At the Orlando Children's Museum, Santa tries talking to Joe, but is rudely interrupted and rebuffed by Joe's rude agent Marty Brock. Santa begins to worry when he discovers his sack is missing, and becomes more discouraged because of his increasing forgetfulness, a result of being 151 years old. Santa tries to explain his predicament, but Marty refuses to believe and help him, and subsequently has him arrested. Ernest poses as an employee of the governor with Harmony as the governor's niece, and the two help Santa escape from jail by convincing the police chief that Santa must be taken to a mental hospital. Santa explains to Ernest and Harmony that he was handed down the job of Santa Claus in 1889 and has enjoyed it ever since, but the magic grows weaker over time. The only way to restore its full strength is to pass it on to someone else which is why he must find Joe and make him the new Santa Claus by 7 pm. Ernest disguises himself as a snake rancher so he can sneak Santa into a movie studio. Marty presses Joe to quit his children's job and instead land a part in a horror film titled Christmas Slay, about an alien which terrorizes children on Christmas Eve, a concept that offends Santa so deeply he punches the director.

Meanwhile, while all these events are taking place, two holding dock workers receive several large crates marked for release to "Helper Elves". The two dock workers argue over the shipping papers and the contents of the crates. The crates are revealed to contain flying reindeer. The dock workers seek help from the local animal control services only to be told that there is nothing animal control can do to help when they arrive and are shocked to see the reindeer walking on the ceiling of the warehouse.

Santa later tracks down Joe at his home. He explains about passing the position of Santa Claus over to him because otherwise the magic will eventually die. Santa also explains that from Orlando, Joe must leave to deliver the presents by 7 pm; if he leaves any later, he will run into daylight before he finishes. Joe declines, but later is overcome by conscience when the film director wants him to use foul language, which he refuses to say in front of the children on the set.

Ernest and Harmony (whose real name is later revealed by Santa to be Pamela Trenton) discover the magic power of Santa's sack, and Pamela starts to abuse it. She steals the sack, and attempts to run away again. However, on Christmas Eve, her conscience prevails, and she rushes back to find Ernest and Santa and return the sack. Ernest meets Santa's elves at the airport and they retrieve the reindeer from the dock workers and Santa's sleigh from the holding dock. Because they are short on time, Ernest decides to fly the sleigh to the children's museum, much to the helpers' objection. Having trouble controlling it at first, the reindeer and the sleigh fly all over the sky. At a meeting, Joe sees the reindeer and sleigh flying and it convinces him that everything Santa told him is real. Joe turns down the acting job and leaves to find Santa.

Joe finds Santa at 6:57 pm at the children's museum and tells Santa that he wants the job. Very pleased, Santa transforms Joe into the new Santa Claus. The new Santa uses his new magic to make it snow in Orlando. Ernest and the helpers arrive at the museum at 6:58. Pamela has called her mother and has decided to come home. The new Santa decides to have Pamela be his special helper and then take her to her home, and allows Ernest to be the sleigh driver for the night. The old Santa resumes his former identity, Seth Applegate, and spends Christmas Eve with an elderly museum employee named Mary Morrissey. The new Santa takes off at 7 pm to deliver the gifts.

An ending scene shows the two holding dock workers receiving a large crate with shipping papers marked "E. Bunny" and arguing over the name spelling when two large rabbit ears suddenly burst through the top of the crate just before the film credits begin to roll.


Filming locations

This was the first major feature production filmed almost entirely in Orlando, Florida, at the then-unfinished Disney-MGM Studios. Exterior scenes set at the house of Ernest's friend Vern were filmed at a house located on Residential Street at the park, and which was part of the Studio Backlot Tour until it was demolished in 2002.

The remainder of the scenes were filmed in various locations in the greater Orlando area, including Orlando International Airport, Epcot Center Drive, Lake Eola, Church Street Station and Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando, a toll booth on the Bee Line Expressway (now known as the "Beachline Expressway"), the original Orlando Science Center which is now the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center (used as the "Orlando Children's Museum" in the film), and the Orlando AMTRAK station. Scenes that take place at the movie studio and its hallways were shot at the facilities of the local FOX affiliate WOFL, which in the mid-1980s had its own custom promo featuring the Ernest character. A small number of scenes were filmed in Nashville.[1]

The House used in filming located by Thornton Park Drive in Downtown Orlando Florida was torn down in March 2022. The house was slowly decaying over the past couple years.


The film was not a critical success,[2][3][4] though it was commercially successful, being the highest-grossing of the five theatrical Ernest films. In its opening weekend, Ernest Saves Christmas was #2 at the box office behind Child's Play and grossed $5,710,734 from 1,634 theaters. Its domestic total was $28,202,109,[5] against an estimated $6.5 million budget. It holds a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[6]

Home media

The DVD was released on September 3, 2002 from Touchstone Home Entertainment. Ernest Saves Christmas is the only Ernest film out of the original "Disney Four" to not receive a release on Blu-ray.

The film was added to Disney+ on November 26, 2021.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Orlando Looking Good As 'Ernest' Hits Screens". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  2. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1988-11-15). "Not Even Christmas Can the Save New 'Ernest'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  3. ^ "Jim Varney Is Good For Some Laughs". Chicago Tribune. 1988-11-14. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  4. ^ "Ernest Saves The Day When Santa Needs Help". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  5. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Ernest Saves Christmas". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 6, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ Palmer, Roger (October 23, 2021). ""Ernest Saves Christmas" Coming Soon To Disney+ (US)". What's On Disney Plus?.

External links