Earlier this month, my girlfriend asked me what I had in store for this year’s Christmas video. My mind drew a blank. Fortunately, she came locked and loaded with a sharp concept: recreating the 12 days of Christmas as a man travelling between apartment floors, encountering various pixelated characters from my past projects. I kept the core of the idea and swapped the style and added Santa.

The visual style is something that has been on my to-do list: choppily animated craft and Claymation, similar to Little Big Planet meets Aardman Animations. The biggest inspiration for me here is SouthernShotty who a few years ago modelled Claymation-like birds that I replicated here quite faithfully, and provides many tutorials on how to achieve his clay and plush miniatures look that were invaluable for this video.

In the end, Santa was none too pleased with all the gifts and wildlife that he had to manage, so left me a lump of coal.

Individual Renders

As I worked on this throughout the month, I modelled each of the twelve gifts first and rendered them separately, acting like small teaser loops that I posted on social media.

The partridge in a pear tree contains an idea that I later abandoned, modelling the wings and plumage of the birds as decorated plastic pieces. In the end, I preferred SouthernShotty’s original style more. The pear tree was heavily inspired by toast.tv’s colourful nature explorations.

The two turtle doves literally mount a turtle, and they cuddle occasionally like the two love birds they are.

The three French hens are quite French indeed, enjoying a baguette and wearing berets.

The four calling birds here are operating old-ish telephones. Though the original meaning of “colley” isn’t applicable any longer, I did make one of the birds black as a nod to the original meaning.

The five gold rings are break dancing enthusiastically. I opted not to model the original possible meaning of a pheasant as that might stray too far from the familiar.

The six geese a-laying are quite cheeky, sitting atop piles, popping more out, and having fights with them.

The seven swans a-swimming involve some who enjoy sifting the mud and others snorkelling.

My favourite, eight maids a milking are working on a cow with a very long udder.

Nine ladies dancing are modelled as wooden “manikins” with painted on faces, tutus, and puppet strings.

Ten lords a leaping are nutcracker like figures bouncing on springs.

Eleven pipers piping are in fact, in a dramatic twist, rats piping.

Finally, the drummers drumming are monkeys, a reference to those monkey toys with the cymbals.

Music

This is the standard, well-known arrangement of the song, but with the alteration where “five gold rings” is changed to “five golden rings” and goes from two 4/4 bars to one 3/4 bar to keep the rhythm consistent.

Instrumentation builds up in layers, similar to how the song adds gifts and becomes more chaotic. The first is a simple video game square-saw synth then layers of bass, sleigh bells, bongo drums, triangles, xylophone, glockenspiel, flute, synth pad, and finally drums all add on progressively as the chaos grows.