Friday, July 5, 2013

Animation Celebration: A Cosmic Christmas

Welcome to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'll be posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.

Today we feature a more rare, science-fiction animated TV special A Cosmic Christmas.   This essay is written by Jeff Fox.  Jeff knows a great deal about Christmas entertainments--check out his amazing website Name That Christmas Special.com.  Every time I visit his site, I spend several wonderful hours going through the images.  You can also follow him on Twitter: @chrspecials



A Cosmic Christmas (1977)


A Cosmic Christmas tells the story of three aliens who come to Earth on Christmas Eve in order to learn about a celestial phenomenon that happened two thousand years ago.



When they first arrive in their spaceship, they encounter young Peter, and his pet goose Lucy, and Peter tells them about Christmas and explains to them that it's about love, peace and caring for others. In an attempt to show them, he takes them around town, but all they seem to see are angry, stressed-out people in the last-minute holiday rush. 

"Is this Christmas, Peter?" they ask.

After several disappointing visits, Peter takes them to his own home where his Grandmother shares with them stories of the olden days and the aliens bring these visions to life: Magical strings of popcorn, dancing gingerbread men, and flying bells and angels… All the traditional elements of Christmas come to life once again.
 
 
But their celebrations are unceremoniously interrupted when Lucy the goose is stolen by one of the town hoodlums, Marvin. 
 
 
The whole town ends up chasing after them, but when Marvin falls off his bike and into a frozen lake, there aren't enough townspeople to reach him and Peter who has also fallen in after attempting a rescue. 
 

But the aliens, seeing this as a chance to help and learn the true meaning of Christmas, pitch in and help save the boys.


 
Afterwards, everyone heads back to Peter's house where they celebrate and offer food and comfort to Marvin and his friends who, it turns out, had stolen Lucy because they had no food.
 
 
 


Having learned the true meaning of Christmas, the aliens sneak out quietly, lighting up the night sky one last time as they go, mirroring the shape of Grandma's Christmas angel.



I first saw A Cosmic Christmas when it premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1977. I was just seven years old, and I remember it was a pretty big deal at the time and received a lot of advance press: It had songs by Canadian icon Sylvia Tyson (of 'Ian & Sylvia' and later the group 'Quartette'), it was the first television special produced by Canadian company Nelvana, it was one of the first animated TV specials syndicated for first-run broadcast during prime time in Canada, and it was getting a lot of attention just as Canadian animation was beginning to come into its own. There was a buzz to the special that it was something to be proud of, and while I probably didn't even know what that meant at the time, it certainly lent to the idea that this was a really special thing we were about to watch!

But hype does not keep a child interested for long, and it's the special itself that made me a fan. Despite wonderful animation, a terrific soundtrack and cute and quirky characters (and an entirely random dance sequence by the alien's flying robotic sidekick and the goose), it was the story and the way it was told, making a case for the simple goodness of the holiday, and for love, peace and caring for others, that struck a chord in me. The way the aliens ask plaintively "Is this Christmas, Peter?" when they keep seeing things contrary to what they've been told Christmas is gets me every time. The story makes a case for why the aliens would be confused being told that Christmas is this great thing, then seeing how it misses the mark, and I think I related to that then, and I still relate to that now. But thankfully it shows us that it's still there, the goodness of Christmas, despite not always being seen by those around us, it's still there, even if we occasionally need to be shown. 

I have no idea if seeing this special now for the first time would have the same effect, making it one of my personal favourites all over again, but I like to think it would, and in that sense, I recommend it to all. It is very much a piece of my childhood, and in a way a small piece of Canada's history, but its story and its sentiment are universal, making it one holiday special I love to revisit year after year.


A Cosmic Christmas is available to watch online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uItu9hMr8k


 

14 comments:

  1. Jeff - Thank you for taking the time to share about this special - I have never heard of it! It definitely appears (by the pictures) to have that late 70s "vibe" to it, including the way the aliens appear.

    I will definitely look around for this on YouTube and around the web.

    Much appreciated!

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    1. Excellent, hope you enjoy it. The animation reminds me of a couple of other things from the time too, and it reminds me of the movie Heavy Metal in the city scenes as well, which came out in 1981 from a different Canadian animation company (Atkinson Film Arts), and I was really hoping to find some kind of connection between the two, but I didn't. Not saying there wasn't one, it just wasn't obvious.

      And the grandmother looks to be very similar to the granny from Sylvester and Tweety, but that might just be a stereotypical granny thing :)

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  2. I love this Christmas Special sure it does not hold up very well to todays stanards. I wish it would hit Blu-ray or DVD! I know this stuck out in my head for years trying to remeber what it was!

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    1. I thought it held up rather well, but to each their own, but I guess more from the storytelling perspective more than anything else. Some wonderful bits of animation in there too, but I guess, yeah, it does look rather dated, and the pace isn't what kids expect, but I still watch it regularly. I think anyone who passes on it because it's not crisp and clear is really missing out, but obviously I'm biased... :)

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  3. I would love to see this!!! I love stories that show what Christmas is truly about. You did a great job of bringing it to life Jeff. Thank you very much. I look forward to hopefully find this on DVD or American TV. :)

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    1. Thank you very much. Hope you enjoy watching it!

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  4. I believe I found it on YouTube!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uItu9hMr8k

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    1. Actually, the link was at the bottom of the page, same link! But I hope you like it!

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    2. Sorry Jeff - I missed it while reading on my iPad. My fault...

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    3. No worries, glad that we found the same version! :)

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  5. I saw this special when it first aired in the late 70s and I loved it. When VHS became the big thing in the 80s I would check all of my local stores and flea markets for it on video. But I didn't remember the name of it. So I would just look through everything Christmas hoping to find it. It wasn't until the late 90s that I found the name of it (thanks internet). I hope it will be released on DVD some day.

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    1. Sadly, it's probably not anyone priority for a DVD release since it isn't likely to have a huge audience, but I know if they ever do put out a cleaned up version, I'll be one of the first pre-ordering. For me and a number of my friends!

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  6. Jeff--thanks for reminding me of this great animated sci-fi story.

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  7. And thank you for giving us such a wonderful forum! Loving Christmas in July so far - Can't wait to see what's next! Nice to rediscover lost treasures or even ones we've seen dozens of times through new eyes.

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