He Watched It Sober.

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Will Vinton's Claymation

Comedy of Horrors

     "You don't have to worry about me 'cuz I'm on sabbatical. But if the others found out your alive, they'd rip your snout off!"

--  Famine: the Snockered Horseman of the Apocalypse   





Holiday Specials




Drunken monsters in fezzes?

 Greatest. Children's. TV. Special. EVER!


Watch it!



Sights &
Will Vinton's
Comedy of
 Original Airdate:
 May 29, 1991
 Will Vinton Productions /
 Columbia Broadcasting
 System (CBS)

One Frame
at a Time:
Creep & Kooky

A Claymation Comedy of Horrors


We open on Halloween night a long time ago in the lab of Dr. Victor Frankenswine, where, while working himself up into a good lather, the mad scientist rants and raves that mankind won’t be laughing at him anymore. No sir. With his monster almost complete, he promises everyone a night they’ll never forget, and then laughs maniacally while holding a jar of magic elixir as the credits roll...

We then jump ahead to Halloween night a short time ago, and spy Wiltshire Pig and his employees, Vince (...another pig), and Sheldon (...a snail), field-testing a new rocket-themed carnival ride. We quickly deduce that Wiltshire is one greedy little pig as Vince is strapped in as the unlucky test subject -- a guinea pig, sure. And when Wiltshire flips on the power the rocket violently goes into action. Attached to an arm that's firmly anchored, the rocket repeatedly arcs high into the air and then crashes into the ground, like a giant hammer, jarring all the loose change out of Vince's pockets into a waiting bucket. Ecstatic over these results, with dollar signs spinning in his eyes, and in spite of Sheldon's protests, Wiltshire cranks things up to full blast. But the ride can't take the stress, and overloads, causing the rocket to dislodges and fly off into the wild blue yonder with Vince still aboard.

Having fallen into the blast crater the rocket made when launched, Sheldon rights himself and finds a glowing medallion, attached to a journal. Picking it up, the talking gastropod is immediately possessed by his discovery, morphs into a multimedia center, and then expositions the plot:

It seems that back in the day Frankenswine’s Castle was raided by a bunch of pitchfork-toting and torch-bearing villagers before he could jump-start his monster. The mad doctor did manage to launch his journal out a window before they could get to him, but Victor was eventually struck by lightning and killed while fleeing the mob ... Now that Wiltshire and Sheldon have found the lost journal of Victor Frankenswine, if they act immediately, and follow the map imprinted on Sheldon’s tongue (-- don’t ask), they can win an instamatic camera, a tote bag, or the all-powerful monster!

Seeing this as his ticket to world domination, Wiltshire must first convince the nervous Sheldon that all he's really interested in is the tote bag, not that all-powerful monster. Once that's accomplished, they follow the map to Frankenswine's Castle. Posing as trick-or-treaters, the duo knock on the door and are answered by a hideous, undulating, multi-eyed thing. Terrified by this creature, who squeals and cordially invites them in, it seems there is a Halloween Gathering of Spirits -- or more appropriately, a Monster Convention -- being held at the castle, and it’s in full swing. The "I’m Dead -- You’re Dead" seminar is in the Cottonwood Room, while the De-composium is being held in the Oak Room. Anyways, the Thing mistakes them for Dr. Jekyll (Wiltshire) and Mr. Hyde (Sheldon). Lucky for them, as no non-monster mortals are allowed. And as she -- at least I think it's a she, gives them their nametags, Wiltshire asks where the laboratory is. But she mishears this and they wind up in the lavatory instead.

Rereading the map, this time our party-crashers wind up in the cocktail lounge, where Dracula doubles as the maître d' and seats them at a table occupied by a collapsed skeleton, whose passed out after imbibing one too many martinis judging by all the empties. A freaked out Sheldon wants to leave, but Wiltshire calms him down, saying not to worry because no one knows they’re really alive. Overhearing that last bit, the skeleton rouses, obviously still drunk, and introduces himself as Famine -- one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, currently on sabbatical. He also warns these two mortals that they'll be dead meat if anyone else finds out they’re really alive -- right before the other Horsemen arrive.

When Famine introduces them to his more menacing brethren, turns out they're all just as gregariously wasted as he is, allowing Wiltshire and Sheldon to sneak away. In the hall, they spot a sign for a science demo, assume it's the lab, but wind up in an auditorium. On stage, serving as the emcee, the Blob assumes Wiltshire really is Dr. Jekyll (-- the demo’s featured speaker), and rushes him on stage, interrupting Dr. Nietzsche's self-motivational speech. ("Every day and every way, I’m getting deader and I’m getting deader.") Trapped, Wiltshire quickly mixes a bunch of noxious chemicals together in a beaker until they explode, causing the audience, wanting him to drink the residue, to chant "Chug it! Chug it!" (God I love this movie!) Wiltshire declines, and brings out his assistant, Sheldon, to drink it instead. When Sheldon retreats into his shell, Wiltshire just pours it in the opening. After a few seconds out pops a cute Care Bear, singing a happy song, much to the unruly audience’s dismay. In a panic, Wiltshire throws more chemicals into the shell -- but this only makes things even more cute and cuddly, and they’re quickly yanked off the stage.

Dumped into a dark room that turns out to be the wrong end of a bowling lane, Wiltshire and Sheldon quickly become part of someone’s strike, are scooped up, taken on a ride on a conveyor belt, and then pop out with the other bowling balls. Realizing these monsters are bowling with their own heads, the two barely escape Damnation Alley with their own still attached. Still wanting to go, Sheldon is told he can leave anytime -- but his tongue has to stay. So stay he does, and the duo follow the map, misread it yet again, and wind up in the convention's product show and demo area, where the creepy conventioneers try to hoc their wares and show off the latest and cutting edge of monster technology.

There, they run into Wiltshire’s dead grandmother (-- a skeleton with an old lady hat and cane), who recognizes them, realizes they’re still alive, and tries to raise the alarm. Trying to keep her quiet, Wiltshire only manages to pull her apart; but, despite all the damage, she keeps right on screaming. Alerted to their presence, thus the chase begins. But our heroes manage to stay one step ahead of the mob until they pass a pay phone, and, Wiltshire being Wiltshire, he can’t help but stop and check for any loose change. All he finds in the coin slot, though, is another medallion -- like the one they found before, which triggers a trapdoor underneath them.

Somewhere below, Wiltshire and Sheldon land with a thud, find a light switch, and, lo and behold, finally find themselves in Frankenswine’s lab. As the doctor’s equipment sparks back to life, Wiltshire starts to look for his monster. Then, a beaker of that magic elixir bubbles up and starts flowing into a tube. Following the liquid's progress, through the twisting and turning tubes, this eventually leads them to the monster, lying dormant on its slab. The only problem is, this all powerful monster is about the size of Wiltshire’s thumb. 

An angry Wiltshire can’t believe his rotten luck, when a drop of elixir plops down on the monster's head, bringing it to life. And while the cute little guy is happy to be alive, Wiltshire pokes at him with a pencil, wondering if he bites. Then another drop of elixir hits him, and the monster goes through a violent growth spurt, doubling in size. But before they can add anymore, the other monsters start to break in and our heroes accidentally knock their prize down a floor drain. Unable to reach him, Wiltshire pours more of the elixir down the drain, hoping to make him grow bigger. But nothing happens, and the other monsters finally break in, who turn these mortal intruders over to a creature with a chainsaw for disposal. But he can’t get it started -- until Sheldon, being Sheldon, helpfully advises him about the choke-setting. So, as our boys are about to be filleted, the ground starts shaking, everyone freezes, and Frankenswine’s monster pokes its head through the drain. (It’s considerably bigger.) Seizing the moment, Wiltshire pours more elixir on him until he grows big enough to fill the entire lab, scaring the other monsters off.

His megalomania getting the better of him, Wiltshire goes bonkers and pours even more elixir on the monster. It grows at a tremendous rate, to colossal proportions, and as the castle crumbles around them Sheldon yells at Wiltshire to stop. Too late, the elixir bottle is completely empty. With the castle destroyed, all the other monsters flee in terror. (The castle’s top balcony rings the monster’s head, and that’s where Wiltshire is positioned.) Surveying the countryside and soaking it all in, Wiltshire commands the giant monster to walk, and as it takes its first few, tentative, steps, Wiltshire is so overcome with joy he breaks into a chorus of "Climb Every Mountain" as his mammoth minion stomps around the countryside. However, before the song reaches the climax, a rocket roars into view. It’s Vince on the runaway carnival ride, that ricochets of the monster's head, taking Wiltshire with it. With Wiltshire riding on the nosecone, the runaway rocket buzzes around the monster's head until it crashes right into his nose and sticks there. Then, after a pregnant pause, the hissing sound of rapidly escaping air can be heard...

Wiltshire is beside himself as his monster rapidly peeters out, like a punctured balloon, until it reaches its original size. And after another pregnant pause, they all plummet to the Earth.

A short time passes, and we find Wiltshire and Vince trying and failing to re-inflate the monster with a bicycle pump. Appearing out of the wreckage, an excited Sheldon happily announces that he found Wiltshire’s tote bag. Seizing this, Wiltshire angrily throws it away and out of sight. When it lands, out pops another jug of elixir that breaks open and spills onto the ground.

The End

Well, almost ... wait for the end of the credits for one more joke.

I believe this little film will cut at least two years off of Will Vinton’s purgatory sentence for poisoning the world with those singing California Raisons. It was Vinton, a pioneer in stop-motion animation, who coined the phrase Claymation. He's won an Oscar and several Emmys for his work that we’ve already seen a sample of with the opening credits of Brain Donors. His studio was also responsible for the Noid, Domino’s Pizza former accident-prone pitchman (-- now who remembers that thing?), and the current animation for the new M&M commercials. My favorite, though, was that Nissan commercial where the GI Joe doll comes to life, hops in his car and takes Barbie for a spin (-- while a disappointed Ken looks on --) to the tune of Van Halen’s cover of The Kink's "You Really Got Me."

Wiltshire Pig and Vince would return a year later in a similar Easter Special, where, in another attempt to make money, Wiltshire conspires to become the new Easter Bunny and get rich on endorsement deals. To do this he has to engage in gladiatorial combat in a converted VW Rabbit robot with other contenders. It’s not quite as good as this one but well worth a rental. Vinton also has a Christmas Special out featuring the Raisins, so I won’t be touching that, sorry. Always got a Michael Bolton vibe off of those things. *bleaugh*

Now, one of the prime reasons I really love animated films like this is because the creators took the time and care and applied a wicked sense of humor in the attention to details in their characters and sets. You’ll find yourself freeze framing constantly to read the graffiti on the bathroom stalls, and laugh as the Creature has a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his foot. And Frankenswine’s lab is amazing: beaker’s bubble, liquid oozes and Tessla Coils spark off. (This is Claymation, mind you.) I also got a kick that they dressed the monster in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. And his growing sequence is matched only by his deflating sequence for animated technical skill. And on top of it, it’s absolutely hilarious to watch. The most important thing in comedy is timing. In animation, I would think it would be more difficult to accomplish this but the filmmakers get the job done. The traditional monsters are also wonderfully realized, especially the Blob and the Four Horseman. At the convention itself, I laughed because most of the monsters are half crocked and everybody wears a nametag and a Fez. It’s like an old Cracked Magazine salute to monsters issue beautifully come to life.

In fact, I enjoyed this film so much I decided to keep the monster party going. So pack your bags and make reservations for the Isle of Evil. Then put on your tuxedo or cocktail dress, and grab yourself a Fez and a martini glass because we’ve got a Mad Monster Party to attend.

Claymation Comedy of Horrors (1991) Will Vinton Productions :: Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) / EP: Will Vinton / P: Paul Diener / D: Barry Bruce / W: Barry Bruce, Mark Gustafson, Ryan Holznagel / M: Jon Newton / S: Tim Conner, Brian Cummings, Krisha Fairchild, Todd Tolces

Originally Posted: 07/26/01 :: Rehashed: 10/05/2010

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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