Originally created 11/08/97

Brave new Santa



NEW YORK (AP) - Santa will be sledding into a high-tech new world this year at Macy's, home of "Miracle on 34th Street" and the world's most famous department-store Kris Kringle.

The man with the white beard will still be there, but Macy's is scrapping the quaint villages and woods of "Santaland" in favor of a fantasy forest with chattering trees, piped-in smells, interactive sweets and a talking robot.

"We've had a longstanding relationship with Santa for many years, but we felt it was time to catch up with the state-of-the-art entertainment experience," said Macy's spokesman Tim Ray.

The 6,000-square-foot "Santa Claus Adventure," which opens Nov. 28, features a train with bells, whistles, steam and a rumbling floor. Kids wander through an animated forest with a chattering tree and an "interactive patisserie," where they can pull levers and watch artificial sweets being made.

The children will be greeted by RH34, a blue robot. They will also see Tastey Town, where artificial food aromas are emitted, along with inedible munchies. Elves finally lead them to the human Santa.

For many, plain old Saint Nick will do just fine.

Santa is still so sacred that when the New York Post reported Thursday that Bloomingdale's was getting rid of its flesh-and-blood Santa this year - something the department store denies - there were cries of protest.

Bloomingdale's quickly sent out a communique of solidarity with Santa.

Most big department stores around the country are carrying on with their traditional Christmas displays and Santas.

So are small towns, like Winchester, Ill. - pop. 1,800.

"He rides in on the fire truck, and then sits in a little wooden house in the middle of the town square," said Anita Newman, who runs the local music store with her husband. "The kids go to the square and sit on Santa's lap and just tell him what they want for Christmas."