The movie “Nightmare Before Christmas” first released in 1993 has, over the years, acquired a huge cult following of fans of both Halloween and Christmas. Creator Tim Burton, a Burbank, California native expressed that “anytime there was Christmas or Halloween, it was great. It gave you some sort of texture all of a sudden that wasn’t there before.” It never left him.
There was always a thought in the back of his mind to expand on the dual theme.
Finally, in 1990, Burton worked out a deal with Disney to begin the project which was a huge success with the film being nominated for best Visual Effects.
In 2017, Department 56 has been granted the licensing rights to produce three-dimensional pieces from this popular movie, each hand crafted and hand painted in resin. Village artist, Tom Bates, enjoyed the project. He shared that he watched the movie with his daughter who loved the movie and” has seen it many, many times.” What he enjoyed most was watching the added features that showed how the Stop-motion photography was accomplished. “Each movement consisted of dozens and dozens of images put together to create a seamless action, and it they got it wrong, they had to start all over.”
The first mention of the phrase, “Christmas in July” is found in Werther, an 1892 French opera with libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet, and Georges Hartmann. It had an English translation published in 1894 by American playright, Elizabeth Beall Ginty. In the story, a group of children rehearses a Christmas song in July, to which a character responds: “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.”
The earliest known celebration in the United States to make the phrase Christmas in July literal was in July, 1933 at Camp Keystone, a girl’s summer camp in North Carolina which celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts, and a visit by Santa Claus. In 1935, the National Recreation Association’s journal Recreation described what a Christmas in July was like at a girl’s camp, writing that “all mystery and wonder surround this annual event.” It was definitely something that the girls looked forward to.
American advertisers began using Christmas in July themes in print for summertime sales as early as 1950. In the United States, it is more often used as a marketing tool than an actual holiday. Television stations have chosen to re-run Christmas specials, and many stores have Christmas in July sales. Some individuals choose to celebrate Christmas in July themselves, typically as an intentionally transparent excuse to have a party. This is in part because most bargainers tend to sell Christmas goods around July to make room for next year’s inventory.
People who love the season sometimes use “Christmas in July” as the kick off to start talking, planning and buying things they need for the upcoming holiday. It has become the official start — to the most wonderful season on earth!
Ok, it’ true confessions time, who plays the video game “Candy Crush”? Show of hands? Who not only plays it, but is addicted to it? That’s better!
Ever wonder about how it came to be? Me, too! “Candy Crush” is a product of King Digital Entertainment, based in London, with studios in Stockholm, Sweden. The game’s inventor, Sebastian Knutsson, is credited with creating 10 of the company’s 15 worst games. I guess that means that it only takes one success to be remembered and the failures can long be forgotten.
Experts tell us that part of the fun comes from being able to play the game for free, although there are paid incentives to climb levels more rapidly. It must be a matter of patience to play the same level for hours before your capture all the correct candies.
Department 56, eager to appeal to fans, whether they be youngsters, or long time players of the game and collectors of Villages, entered into a licensing agreement for the rights to produce not only the “North Pole Candy Crush Factory”, and two adorable accessory sets, but a variety of iconic ornaments to hang from the branches of your Christmas tree. Look for “Mr. Toffee”, “Tiffy” and many of the brightly colored candies so familiar to players of the game.
We discovered VillageVignettes owner, Mike Landry, on Instagram and loved the detail of his Village displays. There are so many possibilities when it comes to creating a display, and his attention to detail is impressive. We wanted to know a bit more about Mike and what inspires him to create these intricate scenes.
An Interview with Village Vignettes Creator, Mike Landry
1. What are three words your friends and family would use to describe you?
Creative, enthusiastic, and fun.
2. What are your hobbies?
When I’m not working on or thinking up ideas for my next village display, you can usually find me spending time with my family (my wife, new baby boy, and our dog), drawing, playing video games, listening to audiobooks, tasting craft beer, or tinkering with house projects.
3. Where are you from/where do you currently live?
I grew up in a small town called Shirley, Massachusetts, about an hour west of Boston. I moved around the state a bit through college and early adulthood, but I’ve never lived outside Massachusetts. My wife and I eventually bought a house in Shirley, about 10 minutes from where I lived as a kid. That’s where I am now, raising my own family in my hometown.
4. How long have you been creating Village displays?
I’ve been building foam display platforms for about 3 years now, but my love for holiday villages has been around much longer than that. I was always fascinated by my grandmother’s Christmas display, a wonderland of fluffy white cotton and fun little houses and figures. I was honored to inherit most of her pieces and still proudly include them in my vignettes today.
5. What was your first display design?
My first foam display platform was very simple compared to the detail I add now. I started with scrap bits of white packing styrofoam and managed to cobble together a basic town square with a small mountain to one side. It had a few levels and some stairs, but no paint or carved stonework.
6. What are your “go to” tools?
I couldn’t do my work without Hot Wire Foam Factory’s tools. I use a variety of their hot wire tools, but the workhorse of the bunch is their sculpting tool. My next most-used tool is a hobby knife/box cutter and infinite replacement blades. The insulation
foam I work with is a sharp blade’s worst enemy, so I’m constantly replacing blades. My crafting utility belt also includes xacto knives, pens & pencils, aluminum foil rolled into various shapes, stones from my backyard, and a paintbrush with the bristles removed that I use as a cobblestone stamp.
7. Where do you find inspiration when you’re creating a display?
As I mentioned before I live in New England, where I’m lucky enough to find inspiration everywhere I look. From the brick and cobblestone streets of Salem and Boston, to the fields and forests of Central and Western MA, my state is full of inspiration for Halloween and Christmas landscapes. I’m constantly looking around wherever I go. There are so many stone walls, streams and ponds, rocky cliffs, and other details that are staples of any village display. Inspiration is always just around the corner
8. What is the most challenging part of designing a new display?
It’s definitely trying to work out the size of each piece and how they should all fit together. Sometimes I’ll design a generic display where I try to provide areas to display small, medium, and large houses; and other times I’ll work from a list of specific buildings and accessories with exact measurements. It’s an ongoing challenge to make sure that there’s enough space to display everything while leaving room for the details of the landscape to shine through. It’s also a challenge balancing my desire to put a ton of character and detail into my displays without them becoming overwhelming and distracting from the actual village collection being displayed.
9. What is your favorite Department 56 Village piece?
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, so I think this answer is a no brainer. I added The Griswold Holiday House to my collection last year and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to eventually collecting the entire set, but the house that Clark built is by far my favorite piece.
10. If you could create a display for anyone, who would it be and why?
I would absolutely love to create a display for the owners of Ralphie’s actual house from A Christmas Story. For those who don’t know, a fan purchased and renovated the house used in A Christmas Story, and it has now become a sort of museum and sightseeing destination. It would be fantastic to recreate scenes from the movie (using the wonderful D56 pieces of course) to display in their museum. If the A Christmas Story House owners end up reading this, give me a call!
If you’re interested in seeing more of Mike’s work, make sure to check out his Instagram by clicking here. We love seeing our customers creations! Make sure to tag us in your Department 56 Instagram and Facebook posts so that we can see them.