A Claymation Christmas Celebration Review
The Two Gay Geeks and our Staff are taking a much needed break from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. But, we still wanted to have content for you to read during that time. As such we got busy and watched all of our favorite holiday videos. Some are classics and others are off-beat and loosely associated with the holidays. We hope you enjoy our offerings and that you holiday season is safe, sane, and satisfying.
This year, the great animation wizard Will Vinton passed away. He was known for creating smooth stop motion animation with plasticine clay. In fact, he’s the one who coined the term “Claymation”. He is the main creator behind the 1980s icons the Noid and the California Raisins. In the early 2000s, his studio was the one that produced the Eddie Murphy animated comedy called The PJ’s.
That just barely scratched the surface of Vinton’s creative output. His two most popular creations: the Noid and the California Raisins were made to be mascots in television commercials. However, they branched out into becoming media sensations in their own right. My mom owned a California Raisin puppet that she brought with her to the music stand when she sang with the church choir.
Back on track, in the 1980s, the California Raisins were popular enough to have their own Christmas Special on broadcast television. It was called A Claymation Christmas Celebration. I’m glad this happened, because every vignette within that special was a work of genius in its own way. I highly recommend viewing it this holiday season if you can snag a copy of it.
The whole show is hosted by a pair of dinosaurs named Rex and Herb, because hey it’s CLAYMATION! Their personalities, animation, design, and even voice acting was on point. They’re puppets, but they are presented as if they are old-school television hosts and that they’ve had a relationship in doing this for years. You really believe that they have a past and it’s all coming into fruition now. Between each vignette the dinosaurs reappear to introduce the next piece and to be interrupted by various characters getting the term “wassailing” wrong. The wallowing and waffling segments were quite memorable.
There’s a very clever vignette of a ne’er-do-well bell amongst more professional bells there to play the song… “Carol of the Bells”. They are personified bells standing as if they are a coral group. Their conductor is Quasimodo. It is such a great visual as he conducts and the bells have to strike themselves on the heads with gavels to make the song happen. Our ne’er-do-well bell doesn’t quite have an easy time making his parts of the song sound nice, and Quasimodo gets frustrated. It ends with a fun twist, of course.
There’s also the great bit with a pair of ice skating walruses who seem to always ruin the lives of some nearby penguins as they go through their figure skating routine. This piece is very well timed to some famous Christmas music making the slapstick powerful and hilarious.
Vinton’s artistry and the artistry of his collaborators comes out more and more throughout the special. The vignette featuring the Three Kings was masterfully executed. Each of the Kings sings a verse of the famous “We Three Kings” song, they each sing with a somber and dark tone. Then at the end of each verse, the Kings’ camels bust in with the chorus, and let’s just say that they sing it in their own way. It’s a fun dichotomy and it blends two styles of music and visual art very well.
There’s also a vignette in which we completely put laughter to the side to take in some true joy. The “Joy to the World” piece is of this world and out of this world. It was done with stop motion animation using sand. As the carol is beautifully sung we see different images of joy creatively appear within the golden sand. It is a remarkable work of art and it could have easily earned an Academy award nomination on its own if it appeared on the big screen.
Also, the “O Christmas Tree” vignette was very artistic as it explored the worlds within Christmas tree ornaments. However, the silly factor did welcomely creep its way into this piece helping to also make it delightful and whimsical.
A Claymation Christmas Celebration ends with the stars of the show, the California Raisins, singing a very catchy version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That version is so catchy, that my heart led me to sing the song in that fashion at one of my comedy shows a couple of years back.
Overall, if you want to see the best of the Will Vinton Studios, look no further than A Claymation Christmas Celebration. It has the pep of his short films and commercial work, and it has unparalleled artistry woven throughout.
I give it a five out of five cannonballs.
It’s sad that Vinton is no longer with us, but art and comedy like this will endure forever.
(Portrait of the Artist by the Reviewer)
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