Will Vinton’s Claymation Comedy of Horrors

Tomorrow will be FFDC.com’s 1-month anniversary, if you go by the date. I started doing this blog on the 13th of last month, but since September only had 30 days, maybe I should count the 14th as my 1-month anniversary.

Nah. That would be stupid.

For tomorrow’s celebration, I’ll be posting a couple photos of me now. Probably wearing a mask. Hopefully you’ll be able to tell the difference between my “before” pics taken last month, and the “during” photos of my experimental prototype community of tomorrow.

Claymation Comedy of Horrors

I would really like to work some kind of “Clay Fighter” videogame reference in here somewhere, but I haven’t figured out how I’m gonna do it. I may hafta force it…

I’ve been trying to figure a way to work this Halloween Holiday special into my posts for several days now, but eventually gave up because I wanted to do the subject justice, but also didn’t want to blow my wad on a 5 gajillion-word post.

So it gets its own post. Congratulations to you, Claymation Comedy of Horrors. Congratulations on being featured on a blog that 3 people read. I’m sure you will go far with such a resounding endorsement.

Claymation Comedy of Horrors does not need my endorsement. It is a work of genius, done by a man whose passion for the art of animation rivals that of the greats (no need to name them here).

That man is Will Vinton. And the style that he is best known for, the style that he trademarked, and the style that he perfected, is Claymation.

Claymation is stop-motion animation, featuring characters and scenery molded by clay. Sounds easy, right?

Well, as with most anything, it is much easier said than done.

Most of you have seen the Nightmare Before Christmas (do I know my audience or what?) and know the kind of tedious work that is involved in any form stop-motion animation, but just to make sure we are all on the same page, here it is in a nutshell:

(quoting from wikipedia since I couldn’t come up with a good way to say this on my own. gimme a break, I was up till almost midnight dealing with slutty Princess Leias and jawas)

Stop motion (also known as stop action) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. Clay figures are often used in stop motion for their ease of repositioning. Motion animation using clay is called clay animation or clay-mation.

And if your name is Will Vinton, wikipedia, that shit is called Claymation.

On to the main attraction….

"... plus Halloween and Easter Celebrations"

Here’s the dvd case. Amazing, isn’t it? Just like the Garfield disc we posted about before, this Claymation disc features 3 different holiday “specials” on it. But this time, instead of Thanksgiving, we get Easter. I know Easter is a big deal to some people, but it seems like Thanksgiving has more “staying power” so to speak.

I’m disappointed that the Halloween special gets such lackluster treatment on here. It’s not even referred to by its proper name, which is “Claymation Comedy of Horrors”! It just gets the generic “plus Halloween […] Celebration!”

I know Christmas is a huge deal. Such a huge deal, in fact, that the grocery stores are already selling egg nog! What is the world coming to when a proper holiday such as Halloween can’t even have its time in the sun without some other holiday encroaching on its habitat??? Christmas, you’ve already annexed Thanksgiving, back off from the Halloween!!!!

Another reason the Christmas special gets such special treatment is because it features Will Vinton’s bread-n-butter, the California Raisins! Those confounded singing sundried grapes made their way onto, literally, everything in the 80’s. I had a “painter’s cap” that had the Raisins doing a conga line around it. I bet I could sell it to some stupid idiot for a ton of money now.

Since the Xmas one features them raisins, it got on the teevee every year. I think the year it debuted everyone, including myself, were disappointed in how little the Raisins were actually in it, but I’m sure I’ll get to that sometime in December. I don’t recall ever seeing the “Comedy of Horror” on television. Ever. Which is a shame because it’s really good.

"Do ya wanna party? It's party time!!!"

I promise not to overdo this review of the Claymation Comedy of Horrors. As in, I refuse to take on another scene-by-scene breakdown today.

But I just had to express how much I love this Creature with the party hat on. This is from the “pick a holiday special” screen. How this guy got the job of luring in potential viewers is beyond me.

It must be hard being a Creature from some Lagoon somewhere. He looks pretty depressed, like Steve Buscemi on New Year’s Eve (“No one’s gonna kiss me? But I’m Steve Buscemi!”).

Depressed or no, ol’ boy is ready 2 party! Nothing says, “Where’s the keg?” like a bowtie coupled with a party hat.

Today’s Halloween special starts with this…

in a Transylvania far, far away...

This is the abode of one Dr. Victor Frankenswine. Tonight, it is Halloween and he is cooking up something extra moustache-twirlingly dastardly…

Frankenswine

Ahhh, and here he is. Look at those rolling eyes, that maniacal grin, that Einstein hairbob. This is one porker who is obviously off his rocker…

I would like it if you’d click that picture with me for a second.

When I was a kid, I loved the Keebler elf commercials, but not because of the cel-animated elves themselves, but for the cool sets that they were always on, in their little cookie-factory tree next door to the Shirt Tales.

These Claymation sets are like that, full of detail that you just know took someone 15 years to put together.

I may be exaggerating a bit. Still, almost every set in this “special” is chock full of little detail that you won’t get just by glancing at the thumbnails.

Comedy of Horrors

Uhhhh, this is the title screen. Yep.

Magic Elixir

Dr. Frankenswine has invented a magical elixir which he seems to think will help him to rule the world and put all those naysayers in their place. At this point in the show, we have no idea what this magic smurfblood does.

The scene fades out with Frankenswine peering through the glass. The glass fades into this…

...in a neighborhood very close to you

"amusement rides are not for amusement!!!"

Here we have Sheldon Snail (on the left. the one that’s a snail), best, and presumably only, buddy to Wilshire (on the right at the control box) Pig. Inside the ride, the guinea pig (ha!) is Vince, whom I think is Wilshire’s uncle. You can forget about him, he’s a very minor character.

They are about to test out their newest invention: an amusement ride that shakes all the change out of your pockets.

I always wonder why Claymation never really caught on too much, outside of the Raisins. I think it may have been because the actual cartoons (like all three of these holiday specials) were a little too grown-up and had too many jokes that kids would not get. Irony and sarcasm and social commentary and whatnot. This was a long time before it was ok for adults to like cartoons and a long time before anime got big over here, so if the kids didn’t like a cartoon, it got the ax.

Sheldon Snail

Sheldon is the too-nice buddy whom Wilshire pushes around.

Wilshire Pig

Wilshire plays a stereotypical pig: fat, greedy, rude, and a chauvinist. He’s the character that we love to hate, and since he’s the main one, this could be why his cartoons never really caught on.

After the test fails miserably, sending Uncle Vince into orbit around Saturn, a huge hole is left in the ground. Sheldon goes down into the hole to fetch some loose change that has fallen down there.

He finds Frankenswine’s buried treasure; a tube thing that turns his head into a television and tells Wilshire that, if he follows the map (that is now conveniently drawn on Sheldon’s tongue), he will find an all-powerful monster that will help him to conquer the world. And also a lovely souvenir tote bag.

World Domination is right up Wilshire’s alley, so he recruits Sheldon and they set off to find the monster…

Directions to the prize!

When they arrive at Frankenswine’s castle, a convention of monsters is going on (this part is kinda similar in plot to “Mad Monster Party”, which we will definitely discuss later on this month). Since he is there, the monsters and ghosts and ghouls all just assume he is dead too. Which means Wilshire and Sheldon must “play dead” for a while. The lady monster who checks them into the convention thinks they are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so she gives them nametags and a program, and sends them on their way…

I didn’t get a good clear shot of her, but she looks rather like a melty, old lady version of the guy on the left in this screen from Clay Fighter (yes! that wasn’t too forced was it?)

the Blob vs. Helga

Inside BadGuy*Con 1991, the scene looks like this…

Inside the Con

Pocket Program Guide

Wilshire knows that the Monster is in a lab somewhere, so he asks the lady monster if there is a “laboratory” somewhere nearby. She giggles and gives him directions…

our first shot of Steve Buscemi in the film

to the LAVatory!!!! HA!!! The Creature is in there blowin it up…

When they leave the bathroom, they are seated in a restaurant.

But to get to their seat, they must walk all the way through the restaurant, which is populated by all manner of strange creatures. My personal favorite being this guy, whom I’ll call “Nervous System Guy”. He’s just a nervous system, having his tea! He must love it because he’s had several cups. I hope the caffeine doesn’t make him too nervous, amirite? Green lizardman behind him isn’t too shabby, either.

weird creatures abound!

They finally make it to their table, which they must share with Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Check out that fez! And when they get to the table, he’s passed out drunk! I love Famine! He also talks a little bit like Bill Cosby.

Famine

the other 3 horsemen

Famine knows that Wilshire and Sheldon are alive, but he won’t tell anyone. This is a little foreshadowing (that Wilshire and Sheldon are obviously alive, if anyone pays any attention to them whatsoever). The other 3 Horsemen show up and Wilshire and Sheldon sneak off to find the lab.

Following a sign that says “Science Demo” they wind up at a seminar on mad science, at which Dr. Jekyll is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. His opening act is a satire of self-help gurus, who gets eaten by the Blob.

"Every day I'm getting deader and deader!!!"

Addressing the conventioneers

*gulp*

"I'm a sweet little lollipop..."

Wilshire tries to mix up some stuff on the stage, but it backfires and keeps producing cuter and cuter byproducts…

He gets booed by the audience and thrown down a well or something and comes out in the demo hall where a self-carving jack-o-lantern is demonstrating himself.

And also where he meets up with…

"Grandma!"

Old ladies talk really loud because they are deaf. Wilshire’s dead grandma is no different, so when she realizes that Wilshire is alive, she can’t help but say it really loud

Gandalf!

Which draws a little unwanted attention…

was that guy on the right in Dick Tracy?

they're coming to get you, Wilshire!

Wilshire and Sheldon flee the marauding hordes of creepy creeps, but fall down a hole and end up in…

the Lab!

THIS is an all-powerful monster???

It doesn’t take them long to figure out that the magic elixir makes the tiny cute monster turn into a giant, all-powerful, pissed-off monster…

Yes. An All Powerful Monster

Wilshire, being a pig, dumps the whole vial of elixir on his head, which makes him outgrow the castle.

As you can imagine, things don’t go as Wilshire has planned. I won’t tell you how his plan is ultimately undone, but this final scene is of Vince trying to pump up the tiny monster with a bicycle pump…

"Hurry up! Blow him up!"

But every cloud has a silver lining…

"le tote Bag!!!!"

Sheldon has found the tote bag!!!

Which Wilshire immediately throws away.

The bag lands out in the woods, and an extra bottle of the elixir rolls out….

The End?

There’s a little surprise after the credits too, so don’t leave the theatre.

All in all, this one is worth watching for the animation alone. The sets, the character design of some of the creatures, and the painstaking work of stop-motion clay animation make for a wonderful time. And some of the jokes aren’t too bad either…

And ok, so maybe I let the breakdown get the best of me, but it was fun, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it???

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2 Responses to Will Vinton’s Claymation Comedy of Horrors

  1. Chaney says:

    I watched this movie and cannot for the life of me make out the third horseman with the chattering teeth’s name. Subtitles aren’t available on the Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas plus Halloween & Easter Celebrations. Does anyone know the name?

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