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A Christmas Wish

The family comedy “A Christmas Wish” (1950) features a group of lovable down-and-out performers who are rescued from poverty by the intervention of a squirrel. Times are so tough for animal trainer Joe Mahoney that he gives up his apartment and releases his dancing squirrel Rupert into the wilds of a city park. Soon after, Joe’s old friends, the Amendolas, move into the unoccupied apartment, which happens to have a broken skylight. When money starts falling into the apartment from the sky, the Amendolas credit heaven. Things look up for the Amendolas—they can even pay their rent in advance, little suspecting it is with their stingy landlord’s own money!

Also released under the title “The Great Rupert”, the film stars Jimmy Durante as a singing, piano-playing Louie Amendola, Queenie Smith as his wife and Terry Moore as their ingénue daughter, Rosalinda. Rupert, however, is the product of stop-motion animation—a technique that today’s viewers can spot easily, but which appeared so realistic to mid-century audiences, it’s said numerous people inquired into the origin of the trained squirrel.

Stop-action animation has been used in film for more than a hundred years. Reportedly launched by “The Humpty Dumpty Circus” in 1897, the technique grew in popularity, even spawning a fad for “Claymation”—stop-motion animation using posed clay models. Other notable appearances of the techniques include the first “Star Wars” trilogy. You Tube has infused new life into stop-motion as new generations find it a fun, accessible means to animate their digital films.

The Science

Lien Fan Shen

Lien Fan ShenProfessor Lien Fan Shen of the Film and Media Arts department at the University of Utah discusses animation and the film A Christmas Wish (The Great Rupert).

 

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