Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holidaze bits and pieces

Here's a rambly low-down on the sources of inspiration and imagery for this year's Santa/Bastard animation, aka "HUMBUG." Maybe more than any other Santa, this year's came busting out of my skull with lots of other denizens of my psyche, representatives of the cool and nerdy fanboy stuff I dearly enjoy. I hadn't thought about it when it came together, but given the context of the primary inspiration, that makes a kind of armchair psychological sense...


The main body and flow of my Santanime this year is ripped off from the gorgeous 21st-century-Saul-Bass opening credits sequence of MAD MEN, the dark and brilliant time machine of a drama playing on AMC (and now available on two seasons of DVDs). Everyone should be watching it! Especially if you're a designy or ad-world nerd.

The title, MAD MEN, is taken from the nickname given to advertising industry types working in NYC on Madison Ave of the period, the cusp of the 50s and 60s. At least, I assume it's of the show's period, as I'd never heard the reference before, and you know, I know everything.

The music, sans jingling bells, is taken directly from the credits sequence. Today I found a complete, full version of the music, created by DJ RJD2. Kind of a surprising source at first blush, but man, how perfect is the music? You can be sure I will be hunting for more of his stuff.

The environmental/background imagery comes from a bunch of places. Much of it is hard to read due to the pacing and real estate of the animation, but all of it was specifically chosen for some particular appeal to me. They kind of fall into types...

1. Screenshots from past Santa animations. The shot of me is from the "reward video" that plays after beating Donkey Claus in my 2007 Santa "game."

2. Comic book Santa imagery. Except for the first big comic book cover, which features alien snowmen, you'll see a lot of different versions of Santa Claus from comic book history, influencing or actually crossing over with marquee superhero/comic icons, a la the Hulk and Superman.

3. Santa in advertising imagery. If you look hard, you'll see Santa pitching Lucky Strikes, pipe tobacco, and Japanese beers. In my source files, I had a still from the classic Norelco/Noelco ad, but it ended up being cropped out.

4. Santa from animation, films, and TV. Mostly modern appearances or references, from VENTURE BROTHERS, SOUTH PARK, BOONDOCKS, and REINDEER GAMES (which is a lot of fun, but frankly, was a huge hit with me in just the first two minutes or so), and also a still from MIRACLE ON 34th STREET.

5. Commercial illustrations of Santa, including a few Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations of Santa. Dropped in one by Norman Rockwell and a couple of other Post regulars. I never went looking for these depictions of Santa while growing up, but they ended up being absorbed into my pop subconscious over the years, y'know? All-American, somehow. Wholesome. Instantly classic and traditional.

On the wall in the home that Santa invades at the opening of the animation, I included some decor that highlights some of my political, pop cultural, and artistic fanboy faves. Left to right, there's a copy of the Stephen Colbert portrait that's currently hanging in the National Gallery, a really cool promo poster for DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG, and my ticket stub calendar, inaccurately turned to October, to show off the sickness of my Brattle Theater Watch-A-Thon 2008 month.

I hadn't thought of it while in production, but the closing of the animation mirrors the opening in that way. When Santa's vertiginous fall ends, he ultimately lands in the balcony seats at the Brattle (where I and some other 'thon watchers were treated to a showing of DR. HORRIBLE on the big screen—awesomely mcawesome =) and, just as the MAD MEN music drops out, a WristStrong bracelet slides out from Santa's sleeve. I couldn't NOT pass one on to the fat man.* I mean, who's got more visibility and appeals to more markets than Santa, right?

I hope you enjoyed Santa's cathartic animated fallabout without knowing any of this referential whatnot, but maybe filling in those blanks will enhance your experience, and lead you to check out all the Good Sh!t I Love for yourself! =)

Happy frickin holidaze~

Keep on keepin on~

* If you're not familiar with Stephen Colbert's wrist and wrist violence awareness initiative, here are a couple of Colbert Report clips to fill you in...

In response to his becoming a victim of wrist violence in July 2007, Stephen Colbert launches his WristWatch campaign and the WristStrong bracelet...

"Awareness is like a virus, and celebrities are like Typhoid Marys..."

Stephen Colbert explains his "fame food chain" promotion strategy for raising wrist awareness...

p.s. Found out that THE SIMPSONS did a MAD parody to open one of their shorts from this year's "Treehouse of Terror XIX." =)

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