*Contains spoilers for “The Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special”*
If you had to pick a top-level tear-jerking moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s a safe bet that Yondu (Michael Rooker) saving Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is up there. The rough-whistling leader of the Ravagers turning cold is probably one of director James Gunn’s highlights and one he promised won’t be undone. In a world inspired by another that has seen heroes return from the dead on plenty of occasions, the man that made “Hooked On A Feeling” cool again has promised that Yondu won’t be getting similar treatment and that his death is absolutely final.
It was a welcome and heartwarming surprise for all then when we got some time to see the blue-skinned badass in a childhood flashback for “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.” In Kraglin’s retelling of Quill’s believed-to-be failed attempt at bringing Christmas to space, it’s revealed that Yondu killed the festivities immediately, suggesting that giving gifts wasn’t the Ravager way. While it’s a bit of a disheartening revelation, it’s one that’s made all the more enjoyable by the method in which it’s told, that is another out-there element to the “Guardians” world that feels entirely at home with Gunn at the helm.
Gunn uses the Bakshi animated approach to go back to Quill’s childhood
If you’re wondering why the flashback to Quill’s first Christmas in space looks a little odd (besides being animated), you’re right to do so. Gunn is no stranger to applying something to his storytelling to make it that little bit different, and here he uses the animation style of a beloved cult classic to bring it to life.
The animation style on display is rotoscoping, and for fantasy films, the technique holds a notable point in history in the case of Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings,” long before Peter Jackson had a go at bringing the story to the big screen. This iteration saw hand-drawn animation over the live-action film, providing a realistic movement style for otherworldly characters. It’s what’s used here in having Yondu brought back to this incredible world, which kind of breaks Gunn’s own rule that he set following “The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Technically, Yondu might be dead, but at least Michael Rooker reprised the role to a degree, which let’s face it, is a great gift in itself.