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"Fair warning, guys. A journey through Winter Wonderland tends to test your commitment to Christmas. So when I say test, I mean Wonka-style. I'm talking dark. My advice: Stay honest, stay alert, and for the love of God, stay between the gumdrops."—Abed
It's Christmas time again for the study group when Abed announces that everything's in Stop Motion animation. The group, suitably worried, take Abed to Professor Duncan for therapy. Though Abed at first rejects this, he's tricked into going to the study room for a group therapy session...which he immediately turns into a magical trip through the mind, Willy Wonka-style.
To accomplish this, he turns his friends into variations of toys from the Island of Misfit Toys (see image). Now they have to trek through the Winter Wonderland wilderness, avoiding the perils along the way, going through the Cave of Frozen Memories, all to reach the North Pole and find the True Meaning of Christmas.
The Community episode "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas specials, but especially Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Professor Duncan and Britta. Especially Britta, as she honestly did try to help Abed.
- All There in the Manual: This interview with Dan Harmon (warning: spoilers for upcoming episodes) explains the reasons why Abed chose those toys to represent his friends:
"Abed sees Jeff as a big talking head with limited practical functionality, and he sees Pierce as maybe deserving of more love than he gets, and sees Troy as a soldier, and sees Britta as a malfunctioning device, and sees Annie as a creature of grace, and sees Shirley as a big baby who feels entitled to the Christmas of her choosing."
- An Asskicking Christmas: The group beats the snot out of Duncan.
- Art Shift: The entire episode is Stop Motion-animated afterall, and Abed's noticing of the art shift that no other character notices is central to episode's plot.
- Awesome Yet Practical: A Christmas Pterodactyl... that self destructs!
- Big Red Button: It summons the Christmas pterodactyl! Also initiates the self-destruct.
- Break the Haughty: Abed does this to Duncan, making him relive his tenth Christmas with his dad nowhere to be found.
- Break the Cutie: Duncan later does it to Abed, using his mother's absence.
- Call Back: This episode isn't the first time that Abed has managed to turn one of Professor Duncan's rather self-serving psychological experiments back on him.
- The Cast Showoff: Somewhat averted; Alison Brie, who sings a bit in real life, was asked to tone down her performances because people would find it unrealistic that Annie is a good singer. Played straight with Yvette Nicole Brown, who belts her section of the song.
- Christmas Episode
- Cool Train: The Planet Abed train. Going at the speed of Bjork.
- Crowning Moment of Awesome/Heartwarming: The end, where everyone comes back to beat up Professor Duncan and sing about it.
"Aaaand...Christmas pterodactyl! Initiate self-destruct." "Don't you think that's a little--" BOOM!
- Crowning Moment Of Funny: The tag: "Troy and Abed in stop motion!"
- Deadpan Snarker: Jeff gets eaten by "hum-bugs" because he is one.
Britta-Bot: If only he could find the power to not be a smug douche.
- Deconstructs Abed's Genre Savviness and Leaning on the Fourth Wall. In this episode, he breaks the fourth wall...and all his friends worry about his sanity.
- It also deconstructs the "true meaning of Christmas" by saying that the true meaning is that Christmas has whatever meaning we impose on it - thus meaning there is no "true" meaning.
- Designated Villain: Britta mostly, but Duncan too. Granted, he was trying to help Abed for his own purposes, but he was trying to help him. And what Abed was doing isn't healthy.
- Duncan stops being 'designated' about halfway through the episode, when his motivations switch from helping Abed so he can study his condition and possibly secure a publishing deal based on it (motives which are self-interested but more-or-less benevolent) to gaining revenge on Abed dredging up memories of his own unhappy Christmases, where he's clearly motivated by little more than spite.
- Disappeared Dad: Apparently, Professor Duncan had one.
- Dwindling Party: Only Pierce manages to make the trip with Abed to the North Pole. Everyone comes back in the end though.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Christmas pterodactyl! And even better, an exploding Christmas pterodactyl.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Sad quick Christmas song..."
- Food Porn: The Tag involves Troy imposing stop-motion on reality again for the sake of delicious-looking fake food.
- Fridge Brilliance: A stop-motion episode, co-written by Dino Stamatopoulos.
- The episode's last scene shows the group watching a Christmas special on TV. In the final shot, the screen on the set goes blank and we briefly see a reflection of the characters in live-action form, signifying that Abed's breakdown has finally ended.
- Funny Background Event: As Dean and Duncan drink together, the gang breaks into the holiday-zone and steals the tree. Then Shirley comes back and takes the menorah.
- A snowman peering at the group behnd the tree is highly likely to be Chang in real life.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: After Abed walks off from the Snow-Chang, Chang says that he could've spent more time on the third button... which is approximately located at Chang's crotch.
- The Grinch:
- Duncan's not a fan of Christmas, most likely because of his Disappeared Dad.
Duncan: Hey, this is not my fault! This is what Christmas does to people. We put too much meaning into it and it lets us down!
- Britta, with her outspoken dismissals of Christmas and many of the holiday trimmings, also comes off as a bit of a killjoy as well. This is, however, not why Abed ends up excluding her from his Christmas journey.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Troy Soldier, Humbugs.
- Hypocritical Humor: Annie plans to spend her holidays getting all the reading done for her relaxation course.
- Jerkass: Duncan is less interested in helping Abed than in getting a paper published on his delusions, making the enabling of Abed's delusions less worrisome and more heartening instead. And towards the end of the episode, even these self-interested-yet-mildly-benevolent intentions appear to be replaced by simple spite towards Abed for reminding Duncan how crummy his own Christmases were as a kid.
- Jerkass Woobie: He becomes a lot more sympathetic once we see how unhappy his own Christmas' were after his dad left.
- Matryoshka Object: A gift labeled "Meaning of Christmas" has two nested boxes inside. Inside the last one is a DVD of Lost, which represents "lack of payoff".
- Medium Awareness:
- Abed sees that they are all in stop motion. Nobody else does - until the end credits, when Troygoes into it.
- Chang seems to know where Abed sees his third button.
- Medium Shift Gag: Done in clay animation to go along with Abed's breakdown.
- Missing Mom: The reason that Abed's trying to find the meaning of Christmas.
- Musical Episode: Abed breaks into song several times. The entire gang gets in on it by the end. Reluctantly.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Or rather, as Duncan's controlling of Abed's hypnotherapy session demands:
Abed: I'm on the roof of the train!
Duncan: Oh, great! Well... I'm teleporting there! Because I can do that! I'm a wizard!
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Pierce claims he's there for the cookies, but he's really just lonely this time of year.
- Odd Name Out: The first episode whose title doesn't follow the series' Idiosyncratic Episode Naming.
- Palette Swap: Duncan's wizard outfit becomes darker when he's revealed the Christmas Warlock.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: "It's that very special time of year, Greendale! A time for me to remind you that your school acknowledges no specialness to this time of year. You do, of course, have a constitutional right to lend this season the significance of your choosing in any of our designated 'holiday zones'." Said 'holiday zone' is a taped-off corner of the cafeteria with a miserable looking tree and a menorah.
- Subverted when the Dean gives in to the urge to just wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: The Cave of Frozen Memories & Christmas Pterodactyl each have one.
- Ship Tease: At one point Annie kisses Abed on the cheek, and at another she sings the line "saying 'I love you'" in unison with Jeff.
- Shower of Angst: Snowman Chang claims Abed's molestation of him is the reason Chang will be crying in the shower tonight.
- Snowlems: Snowman Chang.
- Something Completely Different
- Special Edition Title: Abed sings a revised version of the theme song before being tased:
Give me the snow,
Light up the trees,
Deck every hall,
And while you can see.
Roast every nut
Mistle the toe
This needs to be the best Christmas
Since the original
20,000 years from now
The most successful Christmas was to-day!
- Stop Motion: Abed even points out that they aren't clay, but rather silicone over ball-and-socket figures.
- Take That: A DVD of Lost Season 1 is a metaphor for "lack of payoff." (Surprisingly, Damon Lindelof found that hilarious, and even sent the writers a Lost Set Blu-ray. It is worth noting that after coming out of his catatonic state and delivering his heartfelt message, Abed does whisper "Thanks Lost" as well)
- Abed expected to find the True Meaning of Christmas wrapped up and ready for him, but he was really supposed to figure it out himself based on everything he'd seen and heard on the journey. Very Lost-like and all the more heartwarming for it.
- Before being eaten alive by Humbugs, Jeff mutters that "Somewhere out there Tim Burton's gotten a boner."
- Tear Jerker:
- The reason why Abed's searching for the true meaning of Christmas: Every year his mother would visit on December 9th to celebrate Christmas with him and watch Rudolph. This year, she didn't because she has a new family.
- Abed's song about Britta when he leaves her behind:
Wires with fraying ends.
Mad and sadly.
No faith in herself
- Any sympathy gained by it is pretty much negated by his Jerkass behavior at the end of the episode, but Duncan's outburst about his missing father and terrible home life counts.
- One that doubles as Fridge Brilliance: Of course Pierce is the only one to stay 'til the end: this is his first Christmas without his mom, too.
- Took a Level In Jerkass: Duncan, normally abrasive and lazy but not cruel, takes several levels in this episode. Even Pierce calls him out on it.
- Traintop Battle: Christmas Warlock Duncan chases Abed atop the train.
- True Meaning of Christmas: Of course. It turns out to be that the meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has no inherent meaning, and it means different things to everybody.
- What Could Have Been: This episode could've been much darker. From this AV Club article:
Dan Harmon: I remember there was this little elf girl. There was a visit to Duncan’s office where you actually meet all the broken toys outside the hallway. Christmas is a booming time for Duncan because of all the suicide attempts and thoughts and things, and there’s this little redhead elf girl out in the hallway who Abed befriends, and he indoctrinates her into the ability to willfully deny reality and just engage in this fascination. It just got too fucking dark. [Laughs.] Because she ended up killing herself again or attempting it. And it was like, “Oh my God, there was no way. I can’t even watch this.”