BEST & WORST CHRISTMAS COMMERCIALS, 2004!
(Also, thoughts on the newer Peanuts special)
Okay, just one more post. Just to give you a little something to chew on for a couple of days.
I have so much else to think about right now, it's hard for me to remember that Christmas is less than two weeks away. However, I've seen enough Christmas commercials by this point that I can confidently declare my most and least favourite Christmas campaigns.
Office Max: "Santa's Helper" ("Rubberband Man")
This commercial has a stop-motion animation version of the very seventies Blaxpoitation-type "Rubber Band Man" character from Office Max's continuing campaign (the live-action version is played by actor Eddie Steeples) going around old Christmas special settings like a wintry town and the North Pole, giving kids, elves, and Santa Claus alike untraditional gifts of the sort you'd buy at an office supply store like Office Max.
I'll admit, I didn't know what to make of the "Rubber Band Man" song since I couldn't really make out what the kids were singing in the song the first dozen times I heard it, but it's hard not to love the stop-motion animation, directed by Chel White of Bent Image Lab in the style of the 1960s Rankin-Bass specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and you can see in the (visual only, though with the song) "making of" video on the official OfficeMax.com "Rubberband Man" Holiday site that it all really is stop-motion animation done without cheating using CG like that Rudoplh the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys sequel special from a few years back where they sort of captured the look of the original but the CG animation was just too smooth and lacked the jerky-animation charm of the original (and the textures were too obviously CG). As far as I can tell, only small touches were added in post-production using computers: erasing the electrical wires for the lights using compositing software like Combustion and adding snowflake effects (since there is no practical way to do falling snow in stop-motion animation as you can't make the "flakes" stop in mid-air; even in the old Rankin-Bass productions, they had to draw in the snowflakes separately).
You can read more about the commercial here, and Bent Image Lab has a better-quality version of the commercial than the one seen on the Office Max site.
Here are the lyrics, which are an edited version of The Spinners' "Rubber Band Man". I put the lyrics for the Rubberband Man in BLUE, the kids in RED, and the Abominable Snowman in GREEN.
Hand me down my walkin' cane,
Hand me down my hat!
Hey y'all, prepare yourself for the rubberband man.
You're bound to lose control,
When the rubberband starts to jam.
A-ha! This dude is outta sight!
Everything he does,
Seems to come out right.
Hey y'all, prepare yourself for the rubber band man.
You're bound to lose control,
When the rubber band starts to jam.
How much of this stuff does he think we can stand?
So much rhythm, grace, and debonair from one man.
(Just one man.)
Rubber Band Man
(Gotta Get Down! Gotta Get Down!)
(Sung vaguely to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"/"Oh Christmas Tree"... or the old Labour Party anthem.)
Have really gotten on my nerves.
They ignore the rhyme and the rhythm of the stanzas,
Which is the joke, but that's no excuse.
I can't believe that I'd prefer,
The Old Navy "Holiday Hotline" commercials,
The ones from last year with "The Nanny", Fran Drescher,
saying "My shizzle's gone fazizzle" or something.
(Now sung vaguely to the tune of "Good King Wencelas", since I ran out of space.)
Wasn't as annoying as this.
Lasr year's commercials had kind of
A "so awful, they're good" quality about them.
I'd say that I'd boycott Old Navy,
But I prefer buying clothes at department stores anyway.
I don't like pushy boutique salespeople,
And they don't have many stores in Canada.
Also, I saw, for the first time, last year's Peanuts Christmas special, "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown". I was prepared to hate it, especially since it was on the wrong network, ABC, so I was deprived of the spectacular "A CBS Special Presentation" sequence with the spinning "SPECIAL" logo and the music, even though I don't think that CBS has actually used that logo sequence, originally from 1973, since the 1980s. The CBS Special logo music is one of the earliest sounds I associated with Christmas, and, to a lesser extent, Hallowe'en. (Fear not, you can get your CBS Special logo sequence fix here, and the "Brothers Chaps" recycled the music for the HomestarRunner.com "specials" "A Holiday Greeting" and "The Best Decemberween Special" and is Strong Bad's Marshmallow Roast invitation music in "Luau".)
Plus, the quality of the Peanuts specials basically has been in decline since the early 1980s. I won't discuss the horrors of the hilariously dated 1984 special, "It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown", spoofing Flashdance, though Matt Caracappa should consider reviewing it in X-Entertainment sometimg.
And the biggest strike against this character was that it featured the character Rerun Van Pelt, Lucy and Linus's little brother, who seems to be a year or two older than he was during the Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show days of the mid-80s but who is still in Kindergarten. Rerun is basically the Peanuts version of the "ancillary character who is basically a younger, often smarter, version of an existing popular character on the show" and joins the ranks of The Muppets' Robin the Frog, Scooby-Doo's Scrappy Doo, and Sailor Moon's Chibi-Usa/Sailor Chibi Moon/Rini/Sailor Mini Moon (though, don't worry, Stephanie Beard a.k.a. "Sugar"/"Suga Baby" from YTV's The Zone and the dub voice of "Rini", I like Chibi-Usa and think she gets a bad rap). And how retarded is it to have a younger version of Linus? Linus is already a fairly young boy, not being any older than about 7 years old.
But... sorry, I liked the special overall. Why? Because it actually showed Snoopy's brothers, and not just Spike, the mustachioed version of Snoopy who lives in the desert in Needles, California, but also Andy, the one with frizzier fur, and, Olaf, the chubby one. Even though the Peanuts strip was declining in quality in the final few years leading up to Charles M. Schulz's death in 2000, with the farewell retirement message strip published on the day he died in many newspapers that run the Sunday strips on Saturday, a rather freakish and tragic coincidence, Olaf was still a great addition to the strip and... it's just impossible for me to hate anything with Olaf in it. So, it was nice to see him animated, even if it was just a cameo. Made the entire special worthwhile. And you got to love Spike too, who was featured in this episode, moreso than any other Peanuts special or Saturday morning episode I remember.
And, while the Christian subtext of the original special is mostly gone, they did have a token Christmas story pageant scene so you can't complain that it's completely secular, which would be fine for Garfield, but Charles M. Schulz was a man with a very sincere religious faith, so it wouldn't be appropriate for them not to mention Jesus at all in a Christmas special, regardless of whether or not you think of Jesus as being "all that".
Overall, I thought it was the best Peanuts special *that I have seen* since, at least, "What Have we Learned, Charlie Brown" from, I think, 1983, but that's not saying too much. It doesn't approach "A Charlie Brown Christmas" but it still can be appreciated for what it is, even if you don't care for Rerun in general, it's still a cute enough story of how Snoopy and his brothers try and compensate for his parents' total dislike of dogs.
By the way, I'm not going to make any promises I can't keep, but I will try and get at least some of the remaining chapters of "30 Days, 30 Years, 30 Boring Stories" finished during the holidays. I wanted to finish it in September, but those things were a lot more energy-draining to write than you'd ever believe, and, by the middle of the month of September, I was increasingly getting too distracted when the plan to sell the house and move to Ottawa went from being a vague idea to something much more concrete.