Search This Blog

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Will Vinton's A Claymation Christmas Celebration

I am not sure exactly if you remember the blog entries that I did way back in February 2012, but on February 18 of that month, I had a bit of a discussion on the California Raisins, a group of Claymation raisins that ended up becoming the mascot for the food of the same name. The designs for the raisins were created by animator Will Vinton.

Well, did you know that the California Raisins were one of the main fixtures in a Christmas special that originally aired twenty-five years ago? It's true! Have a look and see for yourselves.

Now this clip brings me great happiness in being able to see it again, mainly because I remember being a kid and not being able to take my eyes off of the television screen whenever it came on. The whole television special was pure magic, and as far as I'm concerned, Will Vinton created a holiday masterpiece with this special.

At the same time, it makes me quite sad because I honestly can't remember the last time I actually watched the special in its entirety. It used to air on CBS when I was a child all the time for about five years after it debuted, but around the mid-1990s, it just seemed to stop airing. And for the life of me, I can't understand why that was.

At any rate, I really wanted to make sure that I brought up this television special for “The Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar” for today because for one, a lot of the younger readers of this blog may not know what this show is...and two, readers who are my age or older might have some holiday flashbacks coming back to them.

It's the least I can do for Will Vinton, the man behind “A Claymation Christmas Celebration”.

It seems almost hard for me to believe that this television special first aired twenty-five years ago, on December 21, 1987! I was in first grade then! My goodness how time flies.

But you know, even if someone was tuning into the television special for the first time, I don't think they would have ever guessed that the show was 25 years old upon first glance. To me, that's how timeless “A Claymation Christmas Celebration” was.

Critics also praised the holiday special, and in 1988, the show even won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program...a well-deserved honour as far as I am concerned.

There is nothing that would make me happier than being able to post the television special in its entirety for everybody to see...but unfortunately, I am unable to, because I simply cannot find a copy of it online (and I am really, really regretting taping over the copy that I had recorded on VHS).

Luckily, there are some stand-alone clips on video sharing sites from the special, so I'll just have to make do with those. Some will be embedded onto the blog itself...others I'll post a link. I think I can make it work regardless.

It's hard to describe the way that the special is presented, but the best way that I can explain it is that it's kind of like a cross between television coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and a Siskel & Ebert movie review.

Actually, come to think of it, the two hosts of the program do sort of resemble Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.

You know how on those Thanksgiving parades, you see clips of the two hosts describing various floats before cutting to a scene of the float itself? Well, that's similar to how “A Claymation Christmas Celebration” runs. You see our two emcees hosting from an exact replica of London's Christmas Square...the two hosts being Rex (Tim Connor), a tyrannosaurus who is far gentler than his prehistoric counterparts, and proves to be one smart cookie, and Herb (Johnny Counterfit), a styracosaurus whose huge appetite overcompensates for his lack of brain power.

Together, they are the people who introduce the viewing audience to the clips of the Christmas songs that are prominently featured in “A Claymation Christmas Celebration”. I suppose that you could also say that this Christmas special could be slightly inspired by MTV...but it's kind of a stretch.

I suppose that you want to know what some of these songs are. Fear not. I'll hook you up.

Have you heard of the song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” (usually just shortened to “We Three Kings”)? At first it seems like a classic Christmas moment with the Three Kings singing as their camels wait patiently beside them. But as you will see HERE, there's a bit of a twist, and yes it involves those camels.

Sometimes the Christmas carols don't even need to have lyrics presented with them, provided that the soundtrack enhances a comical scene. When you combine pair of walrus figure skaters and a half-dozen of the unluckiest penguins that ever lived, with the song “Angels We Have Heard On High”, you get a scene like THIS one.

I think the most beautiful scene of the whole Christmas special is this one below, set to the classic Christmas carol “O Christmas Tree”. Come and sit down, and watch it with me, will you?

I think that this clip alone is probably the one that cements the special as a holiday classic. I think that it is the one clip that best displays the magic of the holiday season through the eyes of children. Images that can only come from the imagination of children who still believe in the magic of the season. I must say that Will Vinton's interpretation of this clip wasn't too far off from the image that I always pictured as a child (and I admit that as an adult, I still carry that magic with me today).

And Vinton's interpretation of the classic carol “Joy To The World” is equally visually appealing to the audience. Have a look for yourselves below.

I think that's part of the reason why I love this special so much. For a person like myself who is easily stimulated by bright colours and energetic, happy images, this television special was the perfect one to watch. That's why I am so bummed that the show is very difficult to find now. I'd do anything to get my hands on a copy of the entire special again...

...well, within limitations anyway. I don't do public nudity.

And would you believe that if it wasn't for “A Claymation Christmas Celebration”, I would never have learned what the meaning of the word “wassailing” was? In between the videos of the Christmas carols, Rex was trying to clarify to Herb the true meaning (and pronunciation) of the term “wassailing” (as in the Christmas carol “Here We Come a Wassailing”). Unfortunately, the running gag is that a group of characters would come down the street completely butchering the main chorus of the song.

When you have a kennel of dogs singing about “waffling”, a gaggle of geese singing about “waddling”, and a herd of pigs singing about “wallowing”, Rex gets slightly annoyed and is aggravated by Herb caring more about the treats that the dogs, geese, and pigs feed him than the actual meaning of the word. But just as Rex begins to lose hope, a miracle occurs.

And there you have it...our look back on “A Claymation Christmas Celebration”. But before we end this blog off, there's one song that I have left off the discussion on purpose. It's because the song happens to be my all-time favourite on the whole special, and you know what they say about saving the best for last...

I think that about wraps things up.

Coming up on DAY #9...we pay tribute to a man who died a tragic death thirty-two years ago, and play a Christmas song that is still wildly popular today.

No comments:

Post a Comment