If you’ve spent enough time poking around Imgur or on bulletin boards, you’ve seen this GIF before: a reindeer sits inside a barren pen looking disagreeable. Suddenly, a giant red Mecha-Santa drops from the sky onto its back and the scene explodes into a He-Man style transformation, with the reindeer turning into a fire-breathing nipple-popping monster. A nuclear explosion goes off in the background. Dinosaurs burst from the ground screaming to the sky. Whut?
Allow us to shed some light on the origins of this GIF. It’s all part of a series of holiday ‘idents’ created by the Layzell Bros in 2010 for the British television channel E4, which is responsible for such shows as Scrubs, Misfits, and The Inbetweeners. Idents are station identification ads — more traditional network channels usually have their sitcom stars vamping over a channel logo, but the closest example of what E4 was doing is in how Adult Swim regularly brands themselves during their programming.
The above GIF is just one of five idents, and they’re all just as great as the first. Each one features Mecha-Santa bringing his own brand of Christmas cheer (or horror) to the world. Take a look:
Now to the guys who made it: The Layzell Brothers. Matt and Paul Layzell are actual brothers from the UK, and have been creating their own brand of psychedelic animation since they were children. “Our dad draws, he’s good at drawing. I think it’s just something we’ve always done,” Paul told 180 ID. “Everyone draws when they’re kids, but I guess we just didn’t stop drawing, which is just what we love to do.”
“We always used to draw together as kids, and I’d come up with ideas for comics and characters, so yeah,” Matt added. “It kinda feels natural, we’ve always been doing it. And now we’re getting paid to do it. Isn’t it nice?”
The two have been hired for several music videos, creating a twisted throwback to skateboard videos for Mazes, and another for Crystal Antlers that plays with various concepts of physics and time. But the thing they’re probably best known for is the Yellow Submarine-inspired ‘Tiny Tim’s Living in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight’ for comedian Adam Buxton:
Since then, they’ve done clips for Animation Domination High-Def (ADHD) and Matt has become the supervising director on Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig. They both keep busy pumping out more creative art and animation. To see more, check out their website, Matt’s website, or Paul’s Twitter. No word on if Mecha-Santa will ever return, but there’s more than enough good cheer and great content on their websites to make up for it.
(The E4 Christmas ident was directed by the Layzell Bros with animation and sound work done by Bishoy Gendi, Michael Gendi, Jonathan Harris and Danny Boyle.)