Without a doubt, one of my fondest childhood memories was watching this animated special every Christmastime. It wasn’t just an excited build-up to one of my favourite holidays. Will Vinton created something so incredibly unique that it gave me goose bumps even when I was all of five years old. It’s not a special that comes on anymore, which is a pity, considering how classic it is. However, I came across the entire special on YouTube, and everything was right again with the world.
I thought one of the best ways to spread some of that “Holiday Cheer” that everyone talks about (but has become more and more rare as time goes by) is to share some of my favourite moments from the special. There are so many vignettes to choose from, all of them special, having their own twist on classic Christmas tales, songs and even the Biblical inclinations of the story of Christmas itself.
Probably the most unique (read: ridiculous) aspect of the piece is its hosts. Two dinosaurs who are attempting to bring some joy and grandeur to the holiday. The hosts — Rex, the snobbish and self-proclaimed intellectual; and Herb, the somewhat slovenly yet incredibly lovable foodie — dissect the most classic Christmas carols, peeling back their meanings and histories and giving the audience more than just beautifully animated shorts, but also a surprisingly in-depth understanding of what each carol means and its origin.
What follows isn’t the entire special, rather it’s a look at my favourite segments and exactly what each did to my creative subconscious as a child.
I want to preface this by saying that there was and never will be an entertainer like Michael Jackson. Everything he did, down to the way he ran his stage shows, was done to a level of perfection that very few people had ever or will ever be able to emulate. That being said, one of his most incredible talents was being able to tell a story in every medium, none more potent than through his fascination with short film — what we mere mortals know as music videos.
“Leave Me Alone” is the first video I remember actually being completely captivated by. As a young girl, it had all the trappings of fantasy I could ever want — stop motion, claymation, and an array of objects flying around and interacting with our protagonist. As I grew up I came to realize that the level of poetic sophistication in this video is so overwhelming that it would take a dissertation to dissect every layer therein.
The symbolism, though many may find it overkill, is just subtle enough that most simply saw a crazy music video. What I once saw as incredibly fascinating I now see as sheer brilliance. Many, in fact, didn’t quite know what to make of the video and just brushed it off as over-indulgence. However, look at what he’s trying to reveal to us: his life, his very being, is a carnival. His body is an amusement park, a freak show that people want to ride and stare at until they can’t get the images out of their heads. The hounds are constantly nipping at his feet, behind every corner, breathing down his neck and keeping him from escaping their scrutiny.
The video is full of all the madness that surrounded Michael’s life from the mid-80s onward, though at that time the circus wasn’t nearly as sensational as it later became right up until the very moment of his death. Every aspect of his life that was put under the proverbial microscope of the wondering masses is put in stark relief with exceptional depth and intelligent poignancy in this video: from the supposed shrine that he built to Elizabeth Taylor to his collection of Joseph Merrick’s bones.
“Leave Me Alone” goes down as one of the most visually stunning music videos I’ve ever seen.