Claymation Christmas, Part 1: California Raisins

California Raisins sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in Claymation Christmas.

It’s sometimes odd the things from your childhood that endure in memory. I’ve lost the sound of my uncle’s voice, for instance, but I remember Will Vinton’s Emmy-winning Claymation Christmas Celebration special which first aired on CBS in December of 1987. A later VHS recording of this broadcast would become a precious family possession for many years.

The Claymation Christmas special ambitiously combined light-hearted stop-motion cartoons with more artistic animated renderings of classic Christmas imagery. Two dinosaurs loosely modeled after film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert hosted the program, progressing through a series of independent clips. I have fond memories of this special from my childhood, but it occurs to me that it’s the sort of thing that networks would never broadcast these days.

I’ll be sharing several of the segments from the Claymation Christmas special in honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday. First up, the anchors of Vinton’s famed 1980s Claymation enterprise: the California Raisins.

Wikipedia, you’ve got this one:

The California Raisins were a fictional rhythm and blues musical group as well as advertising and merchandising characters composed of anthropomorphized raisins.

They lead off the Claymation Christmas with a soulful rendering of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Though what we did was different, the “vibe” of this video was a loose inspiration for the opening segment of my Great Northern Radio Show holiday special in Bigfork last Saturday.

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