Christmas on Mars is a science fiction film from the alternative rock band The Flaming Lips, written and directed by the band's frontman, Wayne Coyne, and featuring the entire band in the cast, as well as many of their associates, including Steve Burns, Adam Goldberg, and Fred Armisen.
The film began development in 2001, filming was completed in October 2005, and the film premiered on May 25, 2008 at the Sasquatch! Music Festival. For its general release in the United States, Christmas on Mars was booked into several dozen cities for unconventional screenings, in venues which included a former Ukrainian Socialist Social Club in New York City. The film was released in three different packages on November 11, 2008 through conventional retailers as well as through the band's website. A vinyl edition was released November 25, 2008.
The film tells the story of the experiences of Major Syrtis during the first Christmas on a newly colonized Mars.
The main character, Major Syrtis (played by Steven Drozd), is trying to organise a Christmas pageant to celebrate the birth of the first colonist baby. Coyne explains that this birth is also special for other reasons,
Fortunately, Major Syrtis finds an unlikely ally in Coyne's strange and mysterious character, a "Martian that lands, but the Martian isn't really perceived as a Martian. People just sort of think he's another crazy guy who's flipped and turned himself green. They can't find a quick replacement for Santa so they just use this Martian guy. So the Martian guy becomes the Martian and Santa Claus at the same time."Steven Drozd as Major Syrtis
Wayne Coyne as The Alien Super-Being
Michael Ivins as Deuteronilus
Kliph Scurlock as Orcus
Steve Burns as Astronaut
Scott Booker as Sirenum
Adam Goldberg as Dr. Scott Zero
Fred Armisen as Noachis
Mark Degraffenreid as Captain Icaria
Jimmy Pike as Jim Eleven
Kenny Coyne as Ed Fifteen
Contrary to early reports, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and Elijah Wood do not appear in the film's final cut. However, a scene with Isaac Brock and Adam Goldberg exists on the DVD as an Easter egg.
At the beginning of 2002, over 20 minutes of edited film were ready, with music and preliminary sound effects also completed for these scenes. Most of the movie was shot on 16 mm film, with most of the sets based in Wayne's Oklahoma City house. Most scenes were filmed in and around Oklahoma City, using locations such as old industrial facilities. Further filming was done in Austin, Texas.
Originally, Christmas on Mars was not to be released at conventional movie theaters. Instead, a DVD release would be preceded by a number of screenings at rock venues. Speaking to mtv.com, Coyne has explained "We want to show the movie with a mega-sound system and snow machines and just make it like a bigger event than what has become the typical movie-going experience. I'm hoping that people can watch this movie while they drink beer, smoke cigarettes, and have a good time."
By October 2007, the film was in the final editing stage and the band was also transferring it to HD and adding "in-depth special effects." On September 12, 2008, the film made its New York City debut at 7am within the KGB Complex, a former Ukrainian Socialist Social Club, on the Lower East Side.
The film was released on DVD November 11, 2008 in three different packages designed by the band's visual generalist George Salisbury. One is a conventional DVD available at conventional retailers. There is also a deluxe edition containing the film on DVD in addition to a soundtrack CD. The Mega Deluxe Edition includes: The Film and Soundtrack (in special Deluxe Edition packaging), an exclusive T-shirt, a collectible movie ticket replicating those used during the rock festival tour, trading cards featuring all four members of the band from the movie on one side and performing on stage on the other, an "Eat Your Own Spaceship" bumper sticker, and a box of "Flaming Lips" popcorn featuring Wayne as The Martian. The first 1,000 Mega Deluxe Edition versions will have the popcorn boxes signed by all four members of The Flaming Lips. Of those 1,000 copies ten will contain a "golden ticket" good for two tickets to the Lips annual New Year's Eve concert in Oklahoma City. The vinyl edition is slated for release on November 25, 2008. The DVD contains at least one easter egg.
A trailer for Christmas on Mars was first made available on the band's Fight Test EP, and can now be found along with movie information on The Flaming Lips' own website.
A second trailer was released on the special edition of their tenth album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Further trailers were made available through the band's website and the Warner Records YouTube channel.
Under the English closing credits are what appear to be Russian translations. But the Russian translations seem unrelated to the English credit listings. For example, "Make Up & Hair" has Russian under it that translates to "The sparkle on the mountain peak". "Feature" has Russian under it that translates to "Loud sounds make me feel fine." "Marching Band & Bubble Room Extras" has under it "Science can be magical".
Two tracks from the movie soundtrack, "Protonilus Death March" and "Syrtis Major" were released as a 5000-only picture-disc EP late in 2004, available only through the band's online store in conjunction with the purchase of their limited-edition pictorial biography Waking Up With a Placebo Headwound. "Syrtis Major" and another soundtrack cut, "Xanthe Terra", were also released as B-sides to the 2-part European single release of "Do You Realize??" These songs are both entirely instrumental, in a similar style to acclaimed Lips instrumentals such as the Grammy-winning Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia). For the final soundtrack release, "Protonilus Death March" has been renamed to "The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia," "Syrtis Major" is now "Space Bible With Volume Lumps" and "Xanthe Terra" is now "Suicide and Extraordinary Mistakes."