Cheryl Ladd is a 'much more modern' Mrs. Santa Claus in Disney video
Soon after the classic female-detective show's "Complete Series" DVD release, the actress plays Father Christmas' spouse as Disney's direct-to-video offering "Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups" debuts Tuesday (Nov. 20). The title dogs talk, thanks to a voice cast that includes Richard Kind ("Argo") and Tom Everett Scott ("That Thing You Do!"), but it's hard to steal a movie totally from a Ladd clad as Mrs. Claus.
"I loved the script," she tells Zap2it, "and when I met with the producers, they kind of looked at me and said, 'You know, you're a little out-of-the-box.' I knew mine wouldn't be the first name that came to mind for Mrs. Santa Claus, but they liked the idea of reinventing her and having her with more energy.
"She's kind of a more Mary Poppins-y character, out of the kitchen from making the cookies and driving the sleigh, getting on with things and completely supported by her husband. It's a much more modern take on her."
Indeed, this Mrs. Claus takes command of her husband's reindeer -- with the "Santa Pups" also on board as stowaways -- and guides them to a town that's lost its seasonal spirit, though a disc jockey ( George Newbern) and his young daughter ( Kaitlyn Maher, a returnee from the preceding "The Search for Santa Paws" movie) also are trying to restore it.
"It's so heartwarming and family-friendly," Ladd confirms. "I mean, puppies and elves and children who sing ... who doesn't love that? Being on the set and watching what they got these four-month-old dogs to do was just fascinating. And I love the different personalities of the pups. This is one of the most fun things I've done."
Ladd is appreciative of her voice-only "Santa Paws 2" co-stars, since she started her career the same way. On the animated Hanna-Barbera series "Josie and the Pussycats," she was billed as "Cherie Moor" -- a variation on her real name, Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor -- in providing the singing voice of the character Melody.
In fact, Ladd also does quite a bit of singing in the rather musical "Santa Paws 2," which has a soundtrack of largely original tunes. "isn't that nice? It's like a musical play, really. That's one of the things that drew me to it, besides getting to play Mrs. Santa Claus. I haven't been doing a lot of singing, so it was really fun."
Young co-star Maher also does her share of vocalizing in the film, including a solo that stopped Ladd in her tracks, both in and out of character.
"She's extraordinary," Ladd reflects, "just a darling young person. When we were done filming the Santa's Workshop scenes, she went to the producers and asked what they were going to do with all the toys.
"They said they usually just get rid of them, and she asked, 'Could we donate them to children's hospitals and organizations?' And she called all these places and organized the distribution. She is just amazing. We both cried when the movie was over. We really got along well."
Setting the right tone for a Mrs. Santa Claus who's both traditional and updated was tricky, Ladd reports: "We had all kinds of visions for what her hair would look like. Sometimes it's quite glamorous, and other times, it's quite goofy. We wanted to have her sprightly yet old-fashioned, warm and cuddly but in a very modern way, and I think we found a good pocket for her."
While she's excited by the prospect of "Santa Paws 2" bringing her "a whole new audience," Ladd notes she always gets "a kick out of people talking about 'Charlie's Angels'," which cast her as Farrah Fawcett's younger sister when that actress left after the first season.
"I've joked over the years that it made me a seven-year overnight success, since I'd had a body of work before it, but that is 'the one.' The opportunity came, and it just blew up in a big way, which was fabulous."
Proud to have her first-ever collaboration with the Disney organization ("I love that they still do this sort of thing"), Ladd believes "Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups" is well-timed -- for her personally, too. She has three grandchildren she's happy to make an appropriate project for, including two boys who are "crazy about dogs.
"The world is a scary place these days," Ladd reasons, "and I think this is a movie that a family can make popcorn for and settle down together with. If you're 3 or 93, you can just enjoy it and get the holiday spirit going. That's really important right now."