Merry Christmas – Terry Gilliam style, circa 1968


This 1968 gem from a pre-Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ Terry Gilliam is what the internet was made for. In those early days, Gilliam was kicking around London, working as an animator. He was asked to put together an animated segment for a Christmas show, so he hopped over to the Tate and photocopied a bunch of Victorian Christmas cards for inspiration.

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As the story goes, Gilliam was having trouble making a living from magazine work, so his friend John Cleese suggested he get in touch with Humphrey Barclay, who was producing a slightly subversive television show for children called Do Not Adjust Your Set.

Subtitled “The Fairly Pointless Show,” it featured a group of previously unknown actors including Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and attracted a cult following among adults. Barclay looked at Gilliam’s portfolio and decided he would fit right in.

For one early assignment, Gilliam was asked to prepare something for a special show to be broadcast on Christmas day, 1968, called Do Not Adjust Your Stocking. Looking for inspiration, he decided to visit the Tate Gallery. The resulting film, The Christmas Card, is brilliant, bizarre, and delightful. Enjoy some pre-Python madness from the master animator himself.

 

In The Pythons Autobiography of the Pythons, Gilliam remembered the project and how it figured into his emerging artistic style:  “I went down to the Tate and they’ve got a huge collection of Victorian Christmas cards so I went through the collection and photocopied things and started moving them around. So the style just developed out of that rather than any planning being involved. I never analyzed the stuff, I just did it the quickest, easiest way. And I could use images I really loved.”