Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Wilderness Lodge Video Fireplace

Every so often you come up with an idea so obvious, so stupid, that you're convinced somebody must have thought of it by now. And when it turns out nobody has, well, what's a fan to do? Just go out and do it herself, I suppose. Which is what I did.

Despite growing up in the northeast with a proper wood burning fireplace, and despite having access to a gas burning one in Florida, in my opinion nothing quite lands at that juicy intersection of nostalgia and kitsch as a good old video fireplace. The Yule Log tradition, after laying dormant for most of the hip 90s, has roared back to life in the digital age, and a quick search on YouTube will turn up hundreds of these things. Then as now, the attraction is in the extreme simplicity of the production: find a fireplace. Point a camera at it. Share the results.

The original video fireplace, the WPIX Yule Log, was a scant 17 seconds long, looped over and over, accompanied by the easy listening Christmas hits of the day - an amazing synthesis of midcentury plastic living, the modernization of mass culture, big hearted Christmas cheer, and extreme laziness (the hours-long broadcast meant the TV station staff could take the day off).

Growing up, my grandparents had a copy of the non-yule version on VHS, and that fascinated me even more - no stockings, no Christmas carols, just an hour of a fireplace doing its thing. There were other atmosphere VCR productions - aquariums, beaches, rolling hills - but none quite captured the strange magic of the idea of turning one boxy home furnishing into another.

And as a fan of the intersection of midcentury convenience culture, easy listening, and themed design, it's not too hard to see where my brain went - where's the Disney version of this? Not some generic fireplace with Disney crap piled around it, but an actual, at-Disney fireplace. And what is probably the defining Disney fireplace experience?

I packed up my camera and drove out to Wilderness Lodge.

It was the sort of blustery, overcast Florida winter day that really set the tone for being around a fireplace, and most of my time was spent sitting and waiting for the fireplaces to become available. There were so many that it seemed sensible to include as many as possible.

I really enjoyed making this, and even the editing of the subject came together amazingly fast. So on this cold January, put some Wilderness Lodge on your TV, and if you like this, show your friends and let me know!

Happy New Year's from Passport to Dreams!