1991’s A Wish For Wings That Work is far from Christmas traditional

Amblin Television

Amblin Television

It’s a pretty safe bet in stating everyone out there likes something about Christmas.

It might be the lights or the decorations. The spiritual aspect of the holiday. The camaraderie it fosters with friends and family. It could be the music, the seasonal treats, the gifts, the caroling.

And let’s not forget those holiday specials.

But let’s revisit that first statement I put out there: While it may be a safe bet, how about those who don’t like it at all? Fear not. There’s something about Christmas for them to like as well, which could be the realization that the holiday and all its trappings always comes to an ending, finally over and done with.

Regardless which category you fall in, with all these things, isn’t it interesting how Christmas has the tendency to open the flood gates of our memories, both good and (sometimes) bad?

Me? Christmas is the joy of putting on those seasonal vinyl spins on the old turntable, Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You” and Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” among many others. (It’s all about the music for me when it comes to holidays and special occasions.) It means the warmth and joy of houses and more decorated in festive lights and garland. And yes … I have my special viewings which make the Yuletide bright for me each year.

Amblin Television

Amblin Television

This year? I caught a Christmas story I’d never seen before – Berkeley Breathed’s A Wish For Wings That Work featuring Opus the Penguin and Bill The Cat. I didn’t know this even existed as a cartoon until last year when I spied it at some store, still encased in plastic and never opened. As a Bloom County fan, I snapped it up. I was excited about my new-found treasure and was eager to see it.

Alas, that never happened after I purchased it last year. It did happen this year, however. And here I am finally writing about it.

A little blip about the film’s creator Berkeley Breathed first, however. The dude is a strange character, albeit an extremely hilarious one. Breathed is a cartoonist, illustrator, author, director and screenwriter. He’s the wellspring from which the cartoons Bloom County, Outland and Opus were born as well as a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing him on stage at San Diego Comic-Con overseeing a retrospective of his works. And it was damned funny.

His 1991 children’s book (of which he’s written five to date), A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story, was released as an animated tale the same year. He was disappointed with the film – it lacked the ratings he had hoped for and he’s stated the film’s humor “wasn’t meant for television, even if done right.”

But I beg to differ. While it isn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination, it isn’t something to be spurned, either. As a matter of fact, there’s some pretty out there stuff in the film.

The story focuses on Opus The Penguin, genetically predisposed with a lack of airborne worthiness. His dream is to fly as other birds do, so he puts pen to paper and writes a letter to Santa. It just so happens Santa crashes nearby in a lake on Christmas Eve and Opus ends up rescuing the jolly fat man. As recompense, he gets his avionic wish granted … sort of. (While I’ve taken the liberty of spoiling the plot, I decline to reveal the manner in which the wish is actually realized.)

It’s a strange tale with lots of sidesteps and deviating story elements.

But the gems in “A Wish For Wings That Work” are the characters and backgrounds of the film. tweet

He may not talk, but “co-star” Bill The Cat’s screen times do not disappoint. If you’re familiar with him at all, you know some of Bill’s many escapades – heavy drinking, illegal drug use (which includes Tender Vittles free-basing) and other activities and questionable career moves. (Read about Bill here and be amazed.) I thought other characters were a scream, too, including The Kiwi at Ronald Ann’s Self-Help Clinic and the diminutive Milquetoast the Cross-Dressing Cockroach, voiced respectively by Robin Williams – *sniff* – and Dustin Hoffman. The “sessions” at the clinic are especially hilarious, despite the fact they do nothing to aid Opus in his quest.

Amblin Television

Amblin Television

Is this your traditional, feel good Christmas tale? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Its content borders on falling off a cliff face many times with unexpected, uncharacteristic quips and scenes.

But there’s a message of hope, of dreams fulfilled in the story, something which has endeared this Yule-ish short-story to my heart, nudging this 24 minute short comfortably next to my other Christmastide favorites.


Opus n’ Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work

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A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story

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