Situated in a facsimile of London's Christmas Square, the special is co-hosted by Rex (Johnny Counterfit), an erudite and intellectual Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Herb (Tim Conner), a dimwitted, bespectacled Styracosaurus with a voracious appetite. Some critics have cited similarities between these two characters and film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Rex and Herb previously appeared in Vinton's Dinosaurs! - A Fun-Filled Trip Back in Time!, but this is where they were given speech and more complex personalities.
Recurring characters in Vinton's films dating back to 1980, Rex and Herb introduce several stand-alone videos of Christmas carols and standards and discuss the origins of each song relating to different holiday traditions around the world.
The songs featured were:"We Three Kings" by the Three Wise Men and their doo-wop-singing camels
"Carol of the Bells" performed at Notre Dame Cathedral under the direction of Maestro Quasimodo by The Paris Bell-Harmonic, a group of anthropomorphic church bells who strike their own heads with mallets to achieve their respective notes, with the low B bell (the tonic) constantly goofing off and enraging Quasimodo.
"O Christmas Tree" performed by a children's choir, showing various scenes taking place inside of Christmas ornaments
"Angels We Have Heard On High", an instrumental version of the carol with an interpretive ice ballet performed by a pair of walruses and several dismayed penguins.
"Joy to the World", a soulful rendition of the carol featuring images depicting African-American culture
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sung by the California Raisins (a cover of The Temptations' version of the same song)
"Here We Come A-Wassailing" sung by the entire cast
Throughout the program, Rex futilely attempts to clarify the true pronunciation and meaning of the term 'wassail', featured in the Christmas carol Here We Come A-Wassailing. As the show progresses, Rex is dismayingly accosted by different groups singing the song, though each version is lyrically incorrect.Here We Come a-Waffling, sung by a kennel of dogs selling waffles from a vendors wagon.
Here We Come a-Waddling, by a gaggle of straggling geese carrying baskets of goodies.
Here We Come a-Wallowing, by a herd of slovenly pigs on a field wagon gorging themselves on an abundance of assorted fruits. (The driver is driving a green and yellow tractor, suggesting John Deere, though no logo is found on the tractor itself.)
Though Rex is convinced his own definition is correct, he finds himself continually being questioned by the others, including Herb when he is not busy excessively partaking of the various Christmas treats offered by each group. Finally, near the program's end, a large truck loaded with elfin, cider-swilling townsfolk arrives on the scene, singing the correct version of the carol, validating Rex's theories much to his delight. When asked, one of the townies explains the real meaning of wassailing: going around the neighborhood singing Christmas Carols, and getting treats and cordials. After that, the entire cast performs Here We Come A-wassailing, and then We Wish You a Merry Christmas as the end credits roll.
This special was released on the Hen's Tooth Video DVD Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Plus Halloween & Easter Celebrations in 2003.
1988—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program given to Will Vinton (executive producer/director), David Altschul (producer) and Ralph Liddle (writer)
This special was spoofed as Christmas with the California Prunes in the 2003 Christmas episode of The Simpsons ("'Tis The Fifteenth Season")
The Prunes sing "O Pruney Night" (a parody of "O Holy Night") which includes the lines:
"O Pruney Night, the stars are slightly wrinkled
We are the fruit that your grandmother loves".
(Lisa remarks that the song is "offensive to Christians and Prunes!")
A companion soundtrack album was released by Atlantic Records in 1988 and was originally available on LP, cassette, and compact disc. The album contains six songs not featured on the special, including an alternate version of "Angels We Have Heard On High." The song "O Christmas Tree", as featured in the special, was excluded from the soundtrack.
Track List:Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Good King Swing
We Three Kings Bop
God Rest Ye
Carol Of The Bells
Silent Night Jazzy Night
Up On The Housetop
Waffle, Waddle, Wallow, Wassail
Angels We Have Heard On High