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Dec 212016

When it comes to old school clay animation, the kind that mainly comes to mind, next to Gumby, is the Claymation works of Will Vinton from such films as The Adventures of Mark Twain and Rip Van Winkle. Here’s a DVD that contains three holiday specials called Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Plus Halloween & Easter Celebrations.

Since Christmas is coming soon, let’s start with A Claymation Christmas Celebration, naturally. I can remember when this first premiered back in 1987 all that was advertised about it was the California Raisins performing. However, that was very misleading because this special wasn’t just about that.

Talking dinosaurs, Rex and Herb, host a variety of segments based on different Christmas carols while other folks walk by and sing Here We Come a Wassailing, but keep getting it wrong because no one really knows what “Wassailing” means. I can’t blame them since that’s not a common word used in simple conversation.

Image result for claymation christmas

The first segment is about We Three Kings. At the time I found the song difficult to understand, but what made it more interesting was when the camels, who were wearing tennis shoes, sang the chorus with a more upbeat tempo. That sure kept my attention.

Next was an instrumental version of Carol of the Bells with Quasimodo as conductor, which is appropriate if you think about it. The main focus is the dopey bell in the corner among all the classy ones. He’s always messing up his parts. Other than that, the music is beautiful.

After that was several slower paced, but very creative, segments based on O’ Christmas Tree, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Joy to the World. By this point all I could think about is where the California Raisins are. It’s just like in Fantasia, when the main highlight you look forward to is Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but you also have to sit through a bunch of other segments that feel long and boring, even if they are short and colorful.

The last segment is about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and finally we get to see the California Raisins sing. I guess they were saving the best for last. The waiting period was unnecessary but it was worth it because those singing raisins were awesome and still are.

The other two specials are about the misadventures of Wilshire Pig, who is always scheming to get rich. In The Claymation Comedy of Horrors (1991), Wilshire finds a diary that leads him to Dr. Frankenswine’s monster at a monster convention.

Then in A Claymation Easter (1992), Wilshire kidnaps the Easter Bunny so he can become the Easter Pig. These specials were good, but I never found Wilshire Pig likable as a protagonist.

There were quite a few other Claymation features over the years, many of which were short films. The only other one I know of that’s at least on VHS is The Little Prince (1979). As creative and colorful as it is, the story line is pretty boring. I always prefer the 80s animated series to any other version of The Little Prince.

Though it has been a long time since I have seen these holiday specials, they are still classics. In fact, seeing these again inspired me to look up other Claymation features. Unfortunately, they can only be seen on YouTube. Do you think they’ll ever release them on DVD someday?

Nov 062009

The Adventures of Mark TwainThe Adventures of Mark Twain was an old Claymation movie from the 80s, which was unlike any movie I had ever seen before. In this great adventure story, Mark Twain (voice of James Whitmore) tells tales to his crew, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher, to pass the time as he flies his airship to his destination, which is Haley’s comet. When I saw the preview for Disney’s Up, I expected a similar story line which made me look forward to seeing it. Boy, was I disappointed.

Anyway, this movie has provided me with a better understanding of Mark Twain’s stories and that he was a riverboat pilot before he became a writer.  The different tales he tells include, The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Diary of Adam & Eve, Mysterious Stranger, and Extracts from Captain Stormfield’s Diary. All of which were stories written by Mark Twain himself, according to the end credits. Mark Twain also had some interesting philosophies in this film. Such as, “A classic is what everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read.” and “A cauliflower is just a cabbage with a college education.”

I certainly liked this film. Rip Van WinkleIt definitely reminds me of Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Plus Halloween & Easter Celebrations with its style of animation. That sure takes me back.

A similar title from the 80s I recently discovered was Rip Van Winkle. Like The Adventures of Mark Twain, this short Claymation film had provided me with a better understanding of the classic story. Did I say “classic”.