Deciding which is your favourite Christmas film is tougher than deciding your favourite film.
It’s harder because it has to be perfect; you can watch most movies any day of the week but Christmas films only have a short window in which it’s acceptable to watch them.
A chat at Curly Production towers revealed that the majority of Christmas films at the top of our lists have really great visual effects, motion graphics and animation. This probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Filmmakers are going to be putting their biggest budgets into movies that are released when people are off work or school and are actively looking for something to do. Big budgets, increased production value, the belief goes, means bigger audiences.
Visual effects are about more than having more cash to splash around though. When they work well they elevate the story. Even if you’re making a short film or an online promo, visual effects can help make your audience feel like they’re part of a different world; they are immersive and make it easier to articulate ideas.
This Christmas the cinemas will hope we’ll all flock to see The Hobbit but having special effects on at Christmas is nothing new. Here are our top Christmas films with the best visual effects;
1. Die Hard. Yippee Kai Yay Melon Farmers!
Yes, Die Hard IS a Christmas film. John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, obviously, fights to save his wife and her colleagues who have been taken hostage during their Christmas party. Sounds quite dull when you read it like that. It is the visual and sound effects though that lift this film and make it a classic. It won two Oscars for sound and visual effects. The best effect is when the top of the building blows away as McClane jumps from it. Astounding.
2. The Snowman
There are many who will shed a manly tear when they watch The Snowman. It’s such an important part of our childhood we can sometimes forget that it’s an astonishing piece of animation. It could be argued that the stripped back graphics are what makes it so personable. A silent film with just a few sketches and beautiful music. When it’s one of the key ingredients the animation had to be a step above the rest. The effects are done using traditional animation techniques with pastels and crayons drawn onto celluloid and then traced over hand drawn frames. It makes it timeless and nostalgic, as the best children’s illustration should be.
Pixomondo, who worked on the visual effects in Hugo, won their first Oscar for the film. Directed by Martin Scorcese it’s a story about the birth of cinema so it seems fitting it should be the first film that uses 3D in the most successful and arresting way so far in film. The inspiration for the visual effects was the “persistence of vision” of early filmmakers. It mixes homages with a use of innovative technology. The film creates a new world in the train station it’s filmed in and the shots as the camera ducks and weaves to follow the action – reminiscent of the epic Orson Welles shot as the camera flies through a neon sign – which makes it immersive as well as thrilling.
￼4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Christmas films don’t have to be mushy. Tim Burton taught us that. The film tells the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King who presides over a world of ghouls and goblins who celebrate Halloween. Disillusioned with the holiday Jack explores the world outside his own front door and discovers Christmas. The film uses stop motion animation which is the perfect video production technique to bring the weird and wonderful creatures to life.
What are the three rules for looking after a Mogwai? If you know that without using Google then you’re probably aged between 28 and 35 and you grew up with Gremlins. Written by Chris Columbus the movie won the Best Special Effects Oscar in 1985. The guy who worked on it, Chris Walas, also worked on The Fly and Arachnophobia. Perhaps that’s why the Gremlins are always a little creepy. Who wouldn’t want a Mogwai for Christmas?
Merry Christmas to all our lovely Blog readers.
The Curly team x
Curly Productions are online video production specialists based in Liverpool, UK.