Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Original Story of Christopher The Christmas Tree

Having rediscovered the Christmas special "Christopher the Christmas Tree," and learning that it was a record before it was an animated special, I set out to find out what I could about that record. Which wasn't too much, other than it had 11 songs and came out in the 80's. But I found a place that sells CD-rips of the record, so I was able to listen to it firsthand. For the first half, the story plays out as an extended version of the animated special, although there are certain differences:
  • Instead of just nine named trees, the album names 36(!) trees.
  • Tommy and Hooty never meet, and Tommy never even gets a name. Anytime he shows up, he's referred to as "the little boy who wanted to be president." (Granted, I didn't bother to reveal his name when I wrote up the animated special, so there you go then.)
  • The boy also has a sister, but she's only mentioned in passing.
  • There is no scene with the fox and weasel.
  • Everything happens pretty close together. Hooty and Christopher meet on the same day that Hooty runs away, which is also the same day the other animals show up, and Christopher is chopped down the very next day.
The album and animated special deviate quite a bit after Christopher is loaded on the truck. Once Hooty learns to fly and catches up with Christopher, instead of trying to get him off, the two of them just ride along, wondering what's going to happen when the truck reaches its destination. And once they get to the White House, there's a rather pointless sequence where Hooty flies into the George Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial, and then sings a song about it. It takes Christopher forever to figure out that's he's finally become a Christmas tree, even after he's been all strung up with lights and set up on the White House lawn. A syrupy chorus sings about how unsure he is about what's going on, and how he's dying. Sheesh.
But soon people filter in (including the boy who wanted to be president), and the President gives his speech about naming Christopher the official tree and lights him up. As the people leave, the boy wants to stay and look at Christopher some more, which his parents okay for some reason, and then all the animals (who apparently followed the truck on their own) show up to reprise "Christopher, We Love You," but Christopher shushes them all so he can sing to the little boy (I guess finally finding out he was a Christmas tree gave him a second wind). Here the record gets on track with the animated special once again, as Hooty laments Christopher's imminent death, and Christopher charges Hooty (in song) to plant the pinecones (and also to figure out which tree is going to be put up next year, so he can tell it what's going on ahead of time). The record ends with Hooty, overseeing the planting of the pinecones back in Hidden Hollow, imagining the pinecones growing into bigger and bigger trees, and a reprise of the title song.

The entire thing runs a little over forty minutes, and is mostly narration and songs, with all the voices (except for the little boy) performed by the same person (I'm assuming it's George T. Bowers). If you would like a copy, you can get it from http://www.christopherthechristmastree.com/.

Now, the biggest difference between the record and the animated special is that while in the animated special, most of the animals were pretty annoyingly sweet, in the record all the animals are complete and utter jerks. I mean, in the special, Hooty runs away because he's tired of being treated like the Unfavorite by his family, but in the album, it's because he's mistreated by the other animals. And when those exact same animals show up to live in Christopher, Hooty tries to keep Christopher from letting them in, and then they purposefully keep a skunk from dancing with them (in the animated special, the skunk has trouble joining the dance, but he's not kept out by the other animals), but Hooty makes a point of bringing him into the dance. However, the animals learned nothing from this, as after Christopher has been chopped down, and they're all gathering around his stump, the narrator explicitly tells us, "Now that Christopher was gone, they didn't need Hooty anymore, so they pushed him to the side." And when they all go to follow after Christopher, the other animals give up after reaching a small town, so Hooty has a moment of indecision about whether to keep following after Christopher (which is seemingly impossible) or "go back and be abused by his would-be friends." Sheeeesh! It's no wonder the animated special made the animals be so annoyingly sweet; it was overcompensating for the jerkitude they display in the album.

To close, here are a couple of tracks from the album:

1 comment:

TIM & JEN said...

This takes me back many, many years when I was a kid. My mom and I were just talking about how I used to rent this album from the library all the time. For some reason, though, I thought the back of the album was songs about a raccoon family or other woodland creatures that was totally separate from Christopher.
Is this true, or am I just not remembering it right?

Tim