The Gift of Winter (1974)

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In the enchanting realm of The Gift of Winter, a captivating Canadian television Christmas special emerges from the depths of 1974. Despite its humble production values, this extraordinary spectacle brings together the unexpected duo of Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd, casting a spell of wonder and delight.

Portrayed as the genesis tale of snow, the narrative revolves around a cluster of individuals embarking on a mission to file a grievance against Winter (depicted as a peculiar amalgamation of a pagan god, a colossal ice entity, and a bureaucrat) owing to the ceaseless, desolate season. The characters – whom I shall introduce shortly – harbor the aspiration that Winter will completely annul his season and substitute it with an abundance of spring or summer.

Well, the majority of the characters. Two of them are plotting to murder Winter using explosives.

“Personalities” is barely a fitting term. These can be more accurately portrayed as exaggerated representations of 70’s stereotypes. They go by names like Goodly, Nicely, Rotten, Malicious… You catch my drift. Their unique traits are intricately intertwined with their appearances, akin to whimsical sketches crafted by a youthful prodigy. And mind you, this observation is not meant to be derogatory – the aesthetic was deliberately chosen.

Consequently, we have the dynamic duo of Goodly and Nicely endeavoring to present a humble appeal, while the villainous duo of Rotten and Malicious scheme to execute their nefarious plan against Winter. In addition, we encounter two mischievous youngsters who go by the names of Small and Tender, boldly defying orders to remain in their designated place. And, if my assumptions are correct, there was an eccentric individual named Bazooey, who appeared to be under the influence of mind-altering substances, passionately advocating for the dissemination of joy and contentment.

The narrative of this tale is rather sparse – initially, it sets the stage and revolves around the expedition towards Winter’s intricate abode. In this phase, Small and Tender find themselves alone, venturing through a woodland where conversing trees aid them with guidance, only to fade into oblivion soon after. Eventually, they reunite with the other characters and successfully complete the remaining portion of their journey.

Now, the narrative takes a daring turn, placing great emphasis on the lingering uncertainty of their return by Christmas, a promise initially made by Goodly, the esteemed leader. With Christmas Eve upon them, the odds seem increasingly unfavorable as they step into the unknown. The ensuing moments unfold as a cleverly crafted satire, playfully exposing the sheer absurdity of bureaucracy. Although this exceptional tale cannot be blamed, it is worth noting that these very notions have been exhaustively explored in the realm of storytelling for countless decades.

Eventually, the characters went their separate ways and began engaging with Winter. Goodly and Nicely presented their argument but were swiftly dismissed, while Rotten and Malicious covertly rigged the explosives and ignited the absurdly slow-burning fuse. As the rest of the group departed, the children unknowingly stumbled upon Winter’s office. Unaware of his presence, they conversed amongst themselves, causing Winter to shed tears of snow. Surprisingly, the children found this enchanting, leading Winter to laugh tears of snow. Unexpectedly, the snow extinguished the fuse, leaving no trace of the attempted assassination. Winter conjured a heavy snowfall, ensuring everyone could return in time for Christmas, as snow facilitated easier travel (although their return was more akin to sliding, which made little sense, but that was typical for their adventures).

The final outcome may not be classified as excellent, yet it would be unjust to label it as poor. Certain elements exuded originality, however, when viewed holistically, it resembled a stylish endeavor rather than a cohesive narrative. The animation bore a striking resemblance to cut-out construction paper, evoking nostalgic memories of early Sesame Street clips. Evidently, it was crafted with limited resources and a small team of animators on a tight budget.

I cannot endorse this film due to its outdated comedy and animation. However, it is undeniably intriguing to witness the involvement of Radner and Aykroyd in a project of such modest scale. It is worth mentioning that a sequel titled “Witch’s Night Out” takes place during Halloween and showcases animation that appears more conventional. This particular installment holds up slightly better, boasting improved pacing and a few well-crafted jokes. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the original’s rough style. If you find yourself contemplating which one to watch, I would recommend opting for Witch’s Night Out.

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