Nicholas Was: The Darker Side of Christmas

Nicholas Was: The Darker Side of Christmas

Nicholas was,
Older than sin,
And his beard could grow no whiter,
He wanted to die.

Nicholas Was is a darkly humorous animated short film, the 2010 Christmas Card created by the Beijing studio, 39 Degrees North.  The animated short is an adaptation of a wonderful poem by the fantastic Neil Gaiman.  The film begins by taking a rather unconventional route, and after that there’s simply no turning back. The pull of the dark side becomes just too strong, resulting in an arduous and thankless trip for St. Nicholas that is way beyond awesome.

Nicholas Was: The Darker Side of Christmas

(Best Watched in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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The Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas

The Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St. Nicholas

The Night Before Christmas was originally a 1968 animated television special, with background music provided by the Norman Luboff Choir.  It was regularly shown for about 10 years as a holiday special, but it has since disappeared from television.  The classic holiday cartoon tells the heartwarming true story of how Clement C. Moore came to write the Christmas poem beloved by generations of children, and includes a joyous retelling of the charming A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In the film, Clement Moore goes on a short trip just before Christmas to give a series of lectures at a university, and he promises to get his daughter Charity a storybook about Santa Claus for Christmas while he is away.  Charity develops pneumonia while he’s gone, and the doctor says she might not survive.  When Clement arrives back home, he’s distraught to see his beloved daughter near death.  Making things even worse, he hadn’t found any books about Santa Claus when he went shopping, and even through her fever she’s asking for one.  Feeling that he has broken his promise, he decides to write a story of his own and read it to her; it is the story which became A Visit from St. Nicholas.

The Night Before Christmas (1968)

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On the Bowery: A Fairytale of New York

On the Bowery: A Fairytale of New York

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Fairy Tale of New York

Some people feel that The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is the best Christmas song ever, and not just one of the best, but a gorgeous song no matter why or how you observe Christmas. Fairytale of New York isn’t exactly the epitome of restraint, with Shane MacGowan and the sadly departed Kirsty MacColl singing all over each other, slurring words and tossing all kinds of insults at each other.

The song starts out tenderly, with MacGowan recounting Christmas Eve spent in a Bowery drunk tank, but also his recent gambling win and dreams for the future.  MacColl lets us know, as the tempo picks up, that they met on a Christmas Eve, and after some light banter they really get into it, blaming each other for anything they can get their hands on, MacColl ending with “Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it’s our last.

But then they sing the chorus again, and a string section that actually sounds like it belongs in a Christmas song begins to take over.  And it all feels, in spite of itself, grand and sweeping and even a little touching.  They squabble a little more, the same as every Christmas, but they’re losing steam; finally MacColl accuses MacGowan of stealing her dreams when they met.  This is a terribly poetic way to depict the deadening of expectations in terrible lives.  But MacGowan’s voice turns gentle, even though it’s still rough, and he responds:  “I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own, Can’t make it all alone, I’ve built my dreams around you.”

It’s a tough old life, and Fairytale of New York practically oozes with the gritty spirit of urban decay, poverty, alcoholism and general dysfunction.  But as the sounds of those strings float off and out of sight, it doesn’t seem to matter.  Not to them and not to us, because it’s the day to sigh and give in to our better inclinations and hold each other and admit there’s still something there.   Christmas is the arbitrary day of the year that purely through willpower and tradition we’ve turned into the day where we all try just a little bit harder at being better than we thought we could be.

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Fairy Tale of New York

Slide Show: On the Bowery

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Peace on Earth: A Post-Apocalyptic World

Peace on Earth: A Post-Apocalyptic World

Peace on Earth is the widely acclaimed classic Christmastime animated short film, which was the masterwork creation of Hugh Harman released during the holiday season of 1939.  Peace on Earth was nominated for the 1939 Academy Award for Short Subjects (Cartoons) and was reported to have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as well.

The animated short was given its widespread public showings immediately after the outbreak of World War II in Europe, and it was viewed as a serious work that dealt with the idea of what a post-apocalyptic world would be like.  In the film, two young squirrels ask their grandfather on Christmas Eve who the “men” are in the lyric Peace on Earth, good will to men.  The grandfather squirrel then tells them a rotoscoped history of the human race, focusing on the never-ending wars men waged.  Ultimately the wars did end, but with the deaths of the last men on Earth, two soldiers shooting each other.   Afterward, the surviving animals were inspired to rebuild a society that was dedicated to peace and nonviolence.

Peace on Earth: A Post-Apocalyptic World

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On The Road For Christmas

On The Road For Christmas

On The Road For Christmas is an enchanting four-minute animated short film, directed and animated by Daniel M. Kanemoto.  Produced using a combination of hand drawn and computer animation, this music video is based on an original song written and performed by musician Joe Pleiman.  The film tells the story of a lonely snowman on Christmas Eve, who aims his 18-wheeler big rig towards the North Pole and puts petal-to-the-metal!

On The Road For Christmas

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