Back in 1898, film director G.A Smith made ‘Santa Claus,’ a short film seen today as being technically ambitious for its time. It uses pioneering visual effects in its depiction of a visit from St. Nicholas.
From British Film Institute:
A former magic lanternist and hypnotist, Smith was one of the first British film-makers to make extensive use of special effects to create fantastical scenes. It comes as little surprise that Smith corresponded with the French pioneer Georges Méliès at about this time, as the two men shared a common goal in terms of creating an authentic cinema of illusion.