Community‘s second Christmas episode, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” is viewed as a masterpiece when it comes to TV holiday specials, but it almost didn’t get completed in time. Season 2’s Christmas special became extremely noteworthy for the fact that it was presented in full stop-motion. The series, created by Dan Harmon, was known for taking risks, but “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” served as the riskiest decision in the show’s history. Despite the tough task, paying tribute to Rankin/Bass’ beloved stop motion Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town truly paid off.

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“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” traded in the traditional live-action format for a claymation environment with Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) at the front and center. Oddly enough, Abed was the only one in Greendale’s study group to be aware that their lives were being presented through stop-motion. Due to the transformation, Abed believed it was the most important Christmas ever, but his friends were too concerned about his mental health to focus on the holiday. After being forced into a therapy session, Abed led his friends on a journey through a Christmas-themed planet as he searched for the true meaning of the season. Along the way, the group encountered a winter wonderland full of mystical figures and musical performances.

While it was important to put Abed’s mental breakdown on display with his perceptions of Christmas and loneliness, it was crucial for Community to hone in on traditional stop-motion specials. Though Harmon was on board with the animated idea, the concept actually came from an NBC writer. Writer Dino Stamatopoulos, who played Star-Burns in the series, came up with the stop-motion route, and he suggested that Duke Johnson direct. On October 1, 2010, the episode was officially greenlit by NBC, and production moved forward, lasting over four months.

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Writing “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” took about two weeks before the script could be sent to animation. With the help of 23D Films, the holiday special was created through Stamatopoulos’ newly formed animation studio, Starburns Industries. For the next few months, a crew of around 70 people designed 19 different sets in addition to 66 puppets. During this time, Harmon and much of the cast and crew were hard at work on developing the other episodes for Community Season 2. Though the cast wasn’t directly featured for the Christmas special, they were still needed for voice work.

About six weeks into developing “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” the actual animation process began. Normally, it would take an entire day to complete just 10 seconds of stop-motion animation, but due to the limited timeline, multiple animators were working simultaneously. The crew ran into an issue when Chevy Chase’s character, Pierce Hawthorne, was put into a wheelchair in Season 2 before the Christmas episode aired. The animators quickly created a stop-motion wheelchair so it would follow the show’s continuity as much as possible.

The episode wound up going over budget, which was a common occurrence for Community. In the end, the studio turned in the final shots of the episode just a day before it aired to the public on December 9, 2010, meaning that it took over 18 weeks to complete. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” received average viewership during the original broadcast, but it has since become a fan-favorite. According to all of those involved in the making of the special Christmas stop-motion episode, it was all absolutely worth it.

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