25 Days Of Christmas: Community and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Claymation Christmas Specials

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Throughout the month of December, TV Editor Kate Kulzick and Film Editor Ricky D will review classic Christmas adaptions, posting a total of 13 each, one a day, until the 25th of December.

The catch: They will swap roles as Rick will take on reviews of classic television Christmas specials and Kate will take on classic Christmas movies. Today is day 7.

Some of the most beloved Christmas specials are claymated. From A Miser Brothers Christmas to the even more popular Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, these claymation shorts have become a staple of the Holiday season. Last season, the fine folks at It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia aired holiday special “A Very Sunny Christmas,” in which they included a brief two and a half minute homage to classic claymation Christmas specials of the past, injecting their own twisted dark humour – the kind that only the gang could deliver. Last year, Community took it one step further and did an entire Christmas episode with stop-motion animation. So on day 7 of our “25 Day Of Christmas” marathon, I’ve decided to write about both.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia Christmas Special

What’s it about?

The It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia Claymation Christmas bonus is really just one big musical number in which Frank meets one of Santa’s elves, who tries his best to show Frank the true meaning of the Holiday season. In true Christmas spirit, the Elf bursts into a song and dance – a tune designed as a brutal reminder that Christmas can have negative connotations for some. The lyrics of his song describes how Frank’s friends and family could eventually take revenge on Frank for all the Christmas wrong he’s done throughout the years – unless of course, he can change his ways:

“They’ll rip your arm off at the bone, eat it like an ice cream cone and gouge your eyes out with a spoon, blow them up like two balloons, keep them close so you can see as they chainsaw off your knee, bash your body with a board and hang you by your spinal cord…and then they’ll rip you down so you survive, grind your legs while you’re alive, throw you to a gator pit, let them gnaw on you a bit, pull you out and stab your face, spray your wounds all full of mace, now they’re really getting brazen, when you’re burned by racist singing raisins…”

Review:

Though Sunny’s claymation sequence is far shorter than Community’s, it’s far more entertaining. This clever and infectious “Torture Porn Party” in Santa’s playground, packs more macabre humour, sex, violence, and filthy language than the original Silent Night, Deadly Night – and all in under three minutes.

How Christmassy is it?

Makes the perfect stocking stuffer for misanthropic Scrooges and fans of the show, but this is not recommended or children (obviously).

Other observations:

Observe for yourself. I’ve embedded the video below. Enjoy!

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas Special from Darnell L.D. on Vimeo.

****

Community, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2010)

Season 2, Episode 11:

Directed by Duke Johnson

Telepay by Dino Stamatopoulos and Dan Harmon

What’s it about?

In what was the most anticipated holiday special of 2010, the meaning of Christmas is lost and Abed’s intense fixation on the holiday concerns his group of friends when he announces that they are now animated in the stop-motion style of the classic Rankin and Bass holiday specials. His friends’, concerned for his sanity, set up an intervention to free their quirky pop cultured obsessed ca-padre of his self-imposed claymation prison. Abed, however, takes their scepticism as a sign that he and the group must re-discover the meaning of Christmas, and takes them with him to a Winter Wonderland.

Review:

Taking a creative spin on the obligatory Christmas episode that every show is expected to do this time of year, showrunner Dan Harmon, along with co-writer Dino Stamatopoulos, loosely follows the plot of The Polar Express. The result is an unexpectedly touching journey that follows Abed’s search for the holiday spirit.

One of the things that works so well about Community’s “gimmick” episodes (like this one) is the fact that while the show is heavily concerned with respecting whatever genre it’s imitating, it never loses focus on engaging us with the characters on a personal level. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is surprisingly dark and Abed’s psychological breakdown is almost frightening. The group realizes the only way to get Abed through his pain, is to guide him on the right path, instead of trying to force him out, and the decision to frame his journey in animation only makes it all the more enthralling. The most crucial moment for the animation style comes with the climax, once the characters arrive at the Cave of Frozen Memories. Abed spends the entirety of the episode shutting out the real world and all the pain it brings, but in good old Christmas spirit, his friends come to the rescue. “Uncontrollable Christmas” has one simple message – no matter what religion you follow or none at all, Christmas is simply about spending time with the people you love.

Of course, while the episode is truly touching, the distinctly Community brand of humor was certainly present, as was the usual pop culture references we come to expect. In addition there’s also a Christmas rendition of the familiar opening theme to the show with holiday-centric lyrics sung by Abed. The animation of course is stellar, the process alone took over four months to complete, with animators of Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas called in to help. Drew Hodges won an Emmy award for Individual Achievement in Animation at Creative Arts Emmys, making it the first and only Emmy the show has taken home.

In short, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” could stand proudly alongside the great Christmas specials from the past.

How Christmassy is it?

This episode captures the classic sentimentality of traditional stop motion but manages to find ways to place it in a very real and surprisingly dark setting. Yet with all the references, musical numbers, and the Christmas Winter-land setting, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is 100% Chrismassy.

Final Thoughts:

An instant Christmas classic.

Extra Special Bonus:

The Philly and Greendale gang aren’t the only ones to step into the world of animation in recent years. To celebrate Christmas a few years ago, young Justin Bieber insisted on inserting an animated Bieber into visuals inspired from the classic Rankin and Bass holiday specials. Watch his video for his Jackson 5–ified cover of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” – done in claymation.

[vsw id=”MB3TCiA1rgI” source=”youtube” width=”500″ height=”425″ autoplay=”no”]

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