Satan—the original Heat Miser!—reduces Santa Claus to a pile of ash, but ultimately saves Christmas, sort of, in this fiendishly farcical animated holiday film from Anomaly London.
The heavenly voiced Patrick Stewart narrates “Dear Satan,” portraying various characters with impressive wit and charm. Dude’s on fire throughout, basically.
“We do a festive project every year,” agency CEO Camilla Harrisson tells AdFreak. “We started out wondering what we might create instead of a physical Christmas card, and then it kind of escalated.”
Anomaly’s holiday film last year, “The 12 Days of Christmas: A Tale of Avian Misery,” narrated by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, proved popular. For 2017, the creative team aimed lower. Much lower.
The new six-minute film begins with a little girl named Hope mistakenly asking Satan, rather than Santa, for a puppy at Christmastime. (She makes an unfortunate typo in her letter, and on the envelope, you see.) Naturally, her note goes straight to hell. And if you’re thinking the plot takes an infernal turn at that point, you’re getting warmer. Much warmer.
After reading the child’s sweet sentiments, Lucifer finds himself “plagued with kindly urges, disgusting feelings like pity, empathy and compassion,” Captain Picard informs the viewer.
In fact, Beelzebub is so discombobulated and confused, he continually vomits gallons of oil and bile into the faces of the damned (as if they didn’t have enough to deal with already), and wrestles with a sudden overwhelming desire to do good deeds. Soon, he dons yoga pants and friendship bracelets, plays John Lennon’s “Imagine” on keyboards and gives a lecture on tolerance and oneness.
Alas, “the elders of hell had gathered for a secret meeting,” says Professor X, “and Satan was cast out of the netherworld for being, in their words, a pussy.”
Once on earth, Mephistopheles learns of Hope’s mistake, realizes her missive wasn’t meant for him, and, naturally, all heck breaks lose for the holidays.
If you’re wondering how the agency hatched the idea, well, “we were planning on writing a really sweet story about a girl writing to Santa,” recalls Conrad Swanston, who co-wrote the script with Alex Bingham and Craig Ainsley. “But we spelled Santa wrong, so we just rolled with it.”
Lucky thing they did, because “Dear Satan” provides some damnably divine diversion from this season’s corporate Christmas messaging.
The vibrant visual palette is infernally effective, with a Roald Dahl vibe that suggests illustrations from a twisted children’s book (of the dead). And this version of Old Scratch makes for a great antichrist—er, anti-hero, channeling South Park’s demonic denizen with his funny flights of fury tempered by tedious introspection.
Deliciously devilish details—including the Dark Lord’s tatts, wiggly live-bat sandwiches, and a wickedly appropriately way of indicating when a rest-room stall is “occupied”—reward repeat viewings.
As for Sir Patrick’s involvement, the agency wouldn’t say how that came about, or whether he waived his fee. (Perhaps he got trapped in some sort of pact, made a diabolical deal … who knows?)
Meanwhile, Anomaly has really taken the whole chthonic concept to heart, adopting a “Secret Satan” gift exchange at its holiday party. We wonder if anyone there will gift a three-headed hound that pees lightning. (It’d make a welcome change from reindeer sweaters and Chia Pets.)
Narrated by: Patrick Stewart
Written, directed, animated and produced by Anomaly and 7th Flr:
Written By: Alex Bingham, Conrad Swanston, Craig Ainsley
Animation Direction: Ben White
Animated By: Ben Pearse, Joao Pereira, Tom Malins
Illustrated By: Serge Seidlitz (B&A)
Typography By: Kerry Roper
Asbestos Compliance Officer: Oli Beale
Directed By: Alex Bingham, Ben White, Conrad Swanston
Produced By: Tara Oliver
Sound Design By: Mark Hellaby, Mike Bovill (750mph)
Composed By: Ashley Bates, Jamie Masters (Adelhoi)