Holiday Funnies - Little Nemo and Santa Claus
11 months ago
– Fri, Dec 24, 2021 at 07:58:36 AM
Hello dear Dreamers and Backers,
Happy Holidays from Team Nemo! We're going to take a few days of well-earned rest but we wanted to post some updates of what we've been working on, along with sharing some holiday cheer with you all who have so generously believed in our project.
Game design update
If you follow us on social media (including at our new Instagram page!) or listen to the weekly Brainstorming podcast, you may have seen that a lot of our current work is high-level planning for the rest of the game. Behind the scenes, we've been blocking out areas like the Forest and Nemo's House to give them the same treatment we've given the Night Sky in our vertical slice.
Along with these efforts, I've also been updating our render pipeline to produce a more realistic Ben Day dot effect and aged look on the background. We've even utilized some of Unity's internal post-processing effects (specifically "Chromatic Aberration") to simulate the overprinting effect that caused some of the colors in the original Nemo comics to be slightly misaligned. Not only does this give the game a more stylized look, it also helps players better distinguish between foreground and background (something that's been very positively received in playtests so far!)
I've been working on converting other scenes to the new camera and rendering system, along with adding more depth to Nemo's House using 3D backdrops and layered foreground and background sprites. The latter is still a work-in-progress (we haven't textured the backdrops or created all the sprites yet), but early tests are VERY promising.
Little Nemo meets Santa Claus
Working on the ice level and the toys in Little Nemo's room this week definitely put the team in the festive spirit, so I thought we could revisit some of Little Nemo's visits with Santa Claus for a special holiday edition of "Sunday Funnies."
Santa Claus, of course, is derived from the informal Dutch word Sinterklaas, an abbreviation of Sint Nikolaas, or Saint Nicholas, a very-real 4th century Greek saint known for his gift-giving. Public Domain Review's Pictorial History of Santa Claus credits the modern incarnation of Santa as the creation of poet Clement C. Moore (author of The Night Before Christmas) and Civil War-era cartoonist Thomas Nast. Moore's famous poem codified many of the aspects we associate with Santa, including his fur-trimmed suit and "Little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly." As a well-published cartoonist, Nast's Santa illustrations were likewise widely distributed and influential to how people perceived the Jolly Old Elf.
Despite what the Coca-Cola company would have you believe (a popular myth is that their illustrators were the ones to establish the look of the modern Santa, despite it most certainly being Nast), as a figure in the public domain, the "rules" of Santa's look were very much in flux in Winsor McCay's time.
Santa first appears in Little Nemo in Slumberland on December 17th, 1905. In this strip, Santa gives permission to give Little Nemo a tour of his workshop to one of his assistants, an adventure requested by King Morpheus himself. The comic gives us the sense that Morpheus and Santa are on equal and amicable terms in the dream world, a nice piece of lore for McCay's comic.
Despite being in his workshop, Nemo did not meet Santa until a week later - 116 years ago today, on Christmas Eve, 1905. In this strip, Nemo finds Santa on the roof of his house on his yearly trip to deliver toys. Santa asks Nemo to watch his sleigh and reindeer while he is delivering Nemo's toys, but the reindeer themselves have other plans. They dart off, leaping from rooftop to rooftop with Nemo and the Sleigh in tow, eventually leaving Nemo behind dangling from a weathervane (an image that appears several times among McCay's comics.)
This comic shows McCay's mastery of both layout in composing each panel to integrate Santa's reindeer, as well as his skill in conveying motion well before his work in animation - the reindeer are rendered in convincing poses that imply not only running, but leaping and tumbling over rooftops.
McCay's Santa in these comics is very in-line with what we might recognize as a modern Santa, with a few details off of the usual model: he has a red coat and hat with fur trim, but the trim is brown and he wears blue pants. The following year would see an even more unique Santa, with a blue coat and heavier fur trim to keep out the cold. In this comic, a more mischievious Nemo gets another behind-the-scenes look at Santa's workshop, needing to continually be stopped by the Princess from exploring every door, and peeks at the present that his parents are getting from Santa, a pony (!!!).
Over time in McCay's comics, aspects of Santa's personality would be revealed, including that McCay saw Santa as something of a speed demon. This is hinted at in the 1905 Christmas Eve strip in the reindeer's disposition towards speed, but is expanded in 1907, when Santa is sent by Morpheus to find the missing Nemo and his friends. Rather than use his traditional sleigh, Santa opts for a modern motor car, speeding through and decking Morpehus's halls with scattered toys (content warning: racial caricature by way of the Impie character.)
Nemo is not the only one of the Slumberland gang to be visited by Santa, as McCay also depicts visitations to the Princess and other Slumberland residents throughout the comic's years of publication. In the several story arcs that saw Nemo and the Princess separated by fate, other adventures, or Flip's temporary destruction of Slumberland, Santa delivered Nemo himself to the Princess. In another strip, Flip dresses as Santa to deliver toys to underprivileged children during the gang's cross-country airship tour. This shows that even the trouble-making Flip isn't immune to the spirit of giving! (content warning on the Flip-as-Santa comic for an appearance by Impie and the racial caricature he brings.)
While McCay had some mixed success with incorporating seasonal strips into his comics (Welcome to Slumberland has speculated that some may have been at the behest of his editors), McCay seems to have taken particular pleasure in creating strips with Santa Claus, making him an integral part of Slumberland.
We hope you've enjoyed our look at some of our favorite times that Little Nemo met Santa! What are some of your favorites?
As an FYI, we're going to take some well-earned offline time and have our own holiday adventures (we hope you can do the same!) We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. See you soon, and thank you again for a wonderful year and for believing in our game!
Best and brightest holiday wishes,
Chris and Team Nemo