Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Christmas Special Stuff

So, in something that I am regretting this morning, I stayed up late last night to watch some Christmas specials. Two classics, and one new one, so I thought I'd offer up some off-the-cuff observations on them.

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Ah, this is one I always try to catch every year. That's the Christmas trilogy for me: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and this one. I've always loved this origin of Santa Claus..."Santa Claus Begins," as it were. However, it's only in the past five years or so I've started watching it with a critical eye, and there are a few things that catch me as being a little bit dated. For example, the character of Jessica, the woman who will be Mrs. Claus. When she realizes her love for Kris Kringle and vows to assist him in his task of delivering toys to children, she has this musical number called "My World is Beginning Today." And it's accompanied by some rather psychadelic animation, which was the style at the time. One thing that always makes me chuckle about that number is, in order to show her newfound status as a liberated free spirit, Jessica...lets her hair down. Literally. I mean, how cliched is that? It happens in every movie to show that woman is bucking the system, from the highest calibre Oscar-nominated drama, to the lowest budget adult productions about saucy librarians. And don't get me started about the wedding scene! Since Santa becomes an outlaw for delivering toys, he and the soon-to-be-Mrs.-Claus can't risk their lives by going to town and having a wedding in a church. So they have, like, this pagan wedding ceremony in the middle of the woods. As I said, it's only the past five years I've turned a critical eye to this one, so it's only in the past five years where I've watched that scene and go, "Wait, what?" But, despite the kitschy stuff like that, I still regard it as one of my favourites.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Again, this one occasionally blows my mind how, for something that was made 44 years ago, still manages to remain topical. 1965, and already complaining about how commercial Christmas had become. And another reason why it stands out is because I don't think any other Christmas special has ever captured -- or even attempted to capture -- the depression that countless people feel during the Christmas season. Celebrating depression...that's what Charlie Brown is all about.

Prep and Landing - So, this is the new one that I wanted to watch. This one has been making lots of news in animation circles because it's the first animated Christmas special made by Disney. "But Mark," you're probably asking, "What about Mickey's Christmas Carol?" Well, that was originally shown in theatres, so it's not technically a Christmas special. Anyway, Prep and Landing explains how Santa Claus is able to get in and out of houses so fast on Christmas Eve. There's this elite team of elves called the Prep and Landing division that goes on ahead and prepares the house for Santa's arrival. Our story follows one elf on the Prep and Landing squad named Wayne. He's a long time vet of Prep and Landing, but when he's passed up for a promotion to Naughty List Intelligence, he kind of loses his Christmas spirit. It doesn't help that, this year, he gets partnered with a gung-ho rookie named Lanny. So, all depressed, Wayne decides to slack off this year, but his poor attitude means the house he and Lanny are assigned to doesn't get prepared for Santa, meaning that Santa will skip that house this year. Realizing his horrible mistake, Wayne has to jump back into action, get Santa to come back to this house, and save Christmas for this one little boy.

It was good, but it does have some of my earlier complaints about how, in newer specials, the magic of Christmas seems to have been replaced with a cynisism towards Christmas. "Ha ha! Elves are just cubicle jockeys like you and me! They also get passed up for promotions! Ha ha!" Yeah...elves getting mopey about not getting a promotion just doesn't scream Christmas to me. But there's some good jokes in it, and clever use of Christmas songs in the score, so I predict it'll be a timeless classic for at least the next 10 years.

And that's all for now. Still haven't caught other favourites like Frosty the Snowman or A Garfield Christmas, so let me know if you hear when they're coming on, OK? Cool.

No comments: