Will Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)

will vintons claymation christmas dvd cover
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Family friendly holiday special, great animation

Hard to find on TV

TV Show Info

Show Name: Will Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration

Studio: CBS

Genre(s): Cartoon/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 21, 1987

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

will vintons a claymation christmas california raisins rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Hey, Rudolph Won’t You Guide My Sleigh?

The holiday season is upon us and Rex and Herb are here to guide our trip to the holiday celebration. While trying to prove the term is “a-wassailing” and not a-waffling, a-waddling, or a-wallowing, Rex and Herb show classic holiday songs that will stay with you the season.

Released December 21, 1987 on CBS, Will Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration was produced and directed by Will Vinton. Well received, the animated special aired regularly for a number of years and was the recipient of a Primetime Emmy Award for Best Animated Program in 1988.

I was a big California Raisins fan and remember being so excited for this special.  While acclaimed, the special kind of fell out of circulation after a few years, but is readily available on different mediums.  As a holiday special, it should be checked out for its fun, style, and simplicity.

will vintons a claymation christmas o christmas tree

I remember just staring at the tree with wonder…

The art design for each of the characters is fantastic and the stop-motion is very smooth. The special blends in well with other long running stop-motion holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town which undoubtedly had some effect on the special.

The soundtrack is all over the place and each piece has its own theme and style. “We Three Kings” mixes a traditional performance of the song with a more jazzy style chorus for one of the best performances of the show. “Carol of the Bell” puts a lot of life in the totally instrumental performance by giving personalities in each bell and setting it in Notre-Dame with Quasimodo as the angry conductor. “O, Christmas Tree” is a subtle but nice version of the song sung by children with an almost puzzle like aspect with a worlds within worlds on a Christmas tree (and might actually be my favorite). “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a rather dull instrumental piece with skating walruses. “Joy to the World” is traditional animation and has a lot of African-American themes. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” brings in the California Raisins at the high of their popularity to perform the song. It is fun, but not as creative as some of the other pieces. The show if finally rounded out by a real performance of “Here We Come A-Wassailing” for Rex and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” over the credits.

will vintons a claymation christmas carol of the bells

This damn bell…

So many Christmas specials are played into the ground, and it is nice that this special provides a different and fun entry in the Christmas specials.  Honestly with the continued popularity of stop-motion animation (like Shaun the Sheep and other continued used of the style), I don’t quite know why this special has never taken hold as much as some of the weaker Rankin-Bass animated specials.  With many of the Rankin-Bass animated specials, nostalgia hangs heavy among the viewers (and the parents of the viewers).  With kids of the ’80s all grown-up, maybe Will Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration will have a resurgence…we can hope.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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