Remember Claymation? That painstaking process wherein people with much more patience than you or I created wonderfully three-dimensional, colorful little chunks of animation out of wonderfully three-dimentional, colorful little chunks of plasticine? Remember getting out your Play-Dough and deciding you were going to make your own version of the California Raisins, before giving up after ten minutes to go play Arkanoid, leaving a mess on the kitchen table? Me too.
Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas came out in 1987, the Year of the California Raisin. Watching it today, twenty years after its original broadcast, you can’t help but think how soulful claymation is when compared to, say, CGI. Although, that could just be because Will Vinton and co. obviously liked Motown a lot. Another thing you notice is how many things you could never get away with nowadays in a holiday special without someone throwing a hissy fit. Any conservatives watching may be pleased to note the presense of religious carols, such as “We Three Kings”, but would probably go into a blind rage over the fact that one of our two dinosaur hosts is reeeeally gay. Like, Liberace gay. If there’s anything conservatives hate, it’s a homosexual who challenges their belief in creationism.
Hardcoreicon6969 has posted the thing on YouTube for all to enjoy:
You will note that the California Raisins get top billing here, because seriously, they were freaking huge in 1987. If you weren’t there, I’m not even going to try and explain it, but we loved those singing fruits to pieces back in the day. They don’t show up until later, though, so first we’ve got Herb and Rex, a Jurassic era Felix and Oscar. Rex is trying to bring some class to the proceedings, while Herb is getting real excited about snacks. This leads to one of the best/worst musical puns in history, which involves waffles and I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Okay, okay, they sing “Here we come a-waffling.” Told you.
What follows is a pretty neat little piece of animation to the tune of “We Three Kings,” which features some doo-woppin’ camels. I’m sure someone nowadays would shriek about these figures being ethnic stereotypes or something, but this was 1987 and false outrage hadn’t been invented yet. After that, we get “Carol of the Bells”, as played by actual bells who whap themselves on the head. I’m sure some parent nowadays would shriek about kids imitating this and getting hurt, but this was 1987 and…. and so on.
The “O Christmas Tree” segment is chock full of mind-blowing Zen whoa that will make you question the nature of the universe, followed by penguins and walruses ice skating together. As we all know from Bloom County, penguins and walruses are natural enemies, but in the spirit of Christmas, the walruses are not ripping the penguins’ heads off or using their flippers for toothpicks. Not that the penguins care, because as you can see, the little bastards try to drown the corpulent walrus and his heavy hottie gal. This is because, despite what Morgan Freeman might have you believe, penguins are jerks. The blue stegosaurus, meanwhile, is very excited about the prospect of ice ballet. Go figure.
After that, we get some afro-hippy-religious art stuff my parents would probably dig to the tune of “Joy To The World.” Again, nowadays it would probably anger people on both sides of the political spectrum, and that’s sad. Honestly, it’s not that big a deal: it’s obviously someone’s expression of faith, and as such it’s fairly moving. Anyway, no one seemed to have any problem with it back in ’87, so I’ll get off my soapbox. Fewer straw men, more snowmen, that’s my motto.
Here’s part three. Finally, those damn Raisins show up to sing “Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer.” It’s pretty good, if that’s your bag, and it all wraps up nicely when everyone finally sings “Here We Come A-Wassailing” correctly, thus satiating Rex’s fussiness. In three years time, computer graphics would take over and no one would do stop-motion anything anymore except for Tim Burton and my girlfriend’s sister, but Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas is still a fantastic piece of work, and a wonderful example of a dying art form. Enjoy it.
Tomorrow: It’s cold enough out there to freeze your Winnebago!