It will not surprise you to learn that I am a pop culture addict.
It’s most obviously evident in this blog, but my great love for TV and movies, (and of course books and music) and the characters that inhabit them makes its presence felt in all sorts of other areas from the prints I have on my walls to the Jim Shore figurines and Pop Funko collectables on my bookshelves and, most appropriately at this time of year to the ornaments that grace my Christmas tree.
While I can appreciate the beauty of classically-decorated trees with their precisely-placed red baubles and gold tinsel, their silver and black trims, their beads and their angels placed oh-so-daintily atop the pine needles, the reality is my tastes to more wild, vibrant colours and ornaments that pay homage to Looney Tunes, Star Wars, Peanuts and a whole host of other franchises.
So less Buckingham Palace or White House, and more a festive Andy Warhol vibe … well sort of. Very sort of to be fair, but you hopefully get the idea.
I expect no one but myself to really enjoy this riotous pop culture wonderland, but to my surprise people who visit my apartment during the festive period love the concept, partly due to nostalgia I suppose but also because the tree just looks like an immense amount of insanely-colourful fun.
This year as always I added some new ornaments to my tree, enlarging a collection that has grown by leaps and bounds since 1992 when I bought my first adult tree and the additions quite nicely reflect the wide range of characters that have come to dominate my tree.
Tom & Jerry were created in 1940 by two of my favourite animators ever – William Hanna and Joseph Barbera while the two men, who later went on to found their own cartoon studio, were work at the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.
So successful was the pairing of Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse, engaging in a slapstick-heavy ancient rivalry between feline and rodent that produced 163 shorts in all, becoming at one point grossing more than Looney Tunes in theatres.
I always loved them because of their slapstick antics.
To a child who developed a love for Laurel & Hardy, Marx Brothers and Abbott & Costello very early on thanks to their re-runs on Australia’s national broadcaster in the 1970s during the day, Tom & Jerry were cartoon manna from heaven, an hilarious delight that amused me no end.
Oddly my love of slapstick didn’t make it intact into adulthood but I still derive immense pleasure from watching Tom & Jerry, and their human contemporary comedic counterparts do their thing, and I was thrilled to bits that Hallmark added this very funny classic pairing to their ornament line-up this year.
This year is a BIG year for Star Wars fans.
The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been a massive talking point for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the franchise which has unfailingly endured in popularity since the release of the first film, now titled Star Wars: A New Hope, in 1977.
So adding C-3PO and R2-D2 to the line-up this year makes perfect sense, especially because, along with a great many people, they are my two favourite characters from the franchise (sorry Han but there it is).
I have quite a few other Star Wars Christmas ornaments including Han on Hoth atop a Tauntaun and and Darth Vader with a Santa hat on – yeah kinda ruins the evil Sith Lord vibe but I love the hilarious juxtaposition of evil and happy festiveness – but I am fairly certain that these guys will appear on the tree every year, something that doesn’t happen to every ornament simply because I own so many.
As a child, I LOVED The Rescuers books featuring Miss Bianca and the ever-loyal Bernard, both mice of small size but big bravery and heart, by Marjory Sharp.
I clearly remember walking into Dymocks bookstore in Lismore, NSW (Australia) and buying up the entire rest of the series, having fallen head over heels for the characters, their idealistic raison d’être after reading the first book, which was originally published in 1959.
The Rescuers is perhaps best known for the 1977 Disney film but for me it was always about the book and I was prepared to devote what seemed like an eternity of pocket-money saving to get all the books into my possession.
And of course to spend as much time as it took to read them all and soak in the marvellous adventures of Miss Bianca and Bernard who risked a great deal to help both man and beast.
Finding this ornament recently on Ebay was a real joy, a chance to once again have a pop culture property that means a great deal to me represented on the tree.
One of the best parts about being a fun-loving, fly-in-fly-out crazy gay uncle, quiet part from spending time with my delightful nieces and nephews is that I get to watch some enormously enjoyable animated feature films.
Frozen is one that stands out, thanks in part to its amazing Oscar-winning score, which spawned the ever-played “Let It Go”, the fact that it was the first movie I took my then 4 and 3 year old eldest niece and nephew to on Boxing Day (kicking off a tradition that continues to this day), and the presence of Olaf, comic relief and a sweet snowman who dreamt of getting to see summer despite it being the literal death of him.
He was an absolute delight – funny, insightful, caring, earnest and slapstick comical and if anyone deserves a spot on my tree it’s him.
I love his character and the movie he’s in sure, but more than that he represents family and the joys of spending time with him, which for me is one of the most important parts of Christmas.
Disney formed a huge part of my childhood, as it did for many people.
I watched their movies at the cinema, read their comic books and watched the The Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night without fail, and while Goofy was my favourite characters by far – yes once again good old contrary me ignored Mickey and Donald, the two big stars, in favour of the lesser but still utterly adorable characters – other characters like Minnie Mouse captivated me too.
I also remember my dad coming home from a trip away with an LP of Disney songs that featured “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo”, a song that first featured on the Mickey Mouse shirt Mickey’s Follies in 1929.
So while she may not have been my favourite Disney character, she was well and truly up there and so finding this ornament as part of this year’s Hallmark line-up was a real pleasure, a chance to have Minnie join Goody, Mickey, Donald, Chip ‘n’ Dale and the others on my tree.