Familiar faces save the day in improbable 2020 Myer Christmas windows display

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It is the night before Christmas and Santa is stuck. The North Pole is in COVID-19 lockdown and Christmas is most surely cancelled.

In 2020, of all the years. When the children of Melbourne – even the naughty ones – have worked so hard, someone needs to step up.

Stage ONE creative director John Kerr (right) with Sam, Anthea, Hamish and Camilla McCombe outside the Bourke Street windows.Credit:Justin McManus

Enter Alice in Wonderland, elves, reindeer, Ratty, Toad and a swag of other mates from Myer Christmas windows past.

With magical flying trams and teamwork, it's Christmas Uncancelled – the improbable 2020 Bourke Street window display in limbo since March, abandoned in September and resurrected weeks later by public demand and a "nup, this is happening" conversation from lord mayor Sally Capp to creative director John Kerr.

"There’s been so many things cancelled this year and yet people wouldn’t accept that their Christmas windows would be cancelled – and created quite a kerfuffle," said Kerr, the vision behind the windows since 1994.

"That’s amazing to think that Melburnians love these windows so much, and that they need them as part of coming out of lockdown. It's 27 years of doing this and I always think 'what a privilege'."

Children enthralled by the Myer Christmas windows on December 20, 1991Credit:Ian Kenins

In normal times, Kerr and his team at Stage ONE may spend a year plotting storylines for the Bourke Street store's seven windows. The intricacies of fabricating and automating new characters can be a seven-month process in itself. This year they had just weeks.

The unprecedented turnaround time left no alternative but to dust off characters from previous years' displays and re-purpose them for a heroic and nostalgic return.

"We just laid all the characters out in the studio and basically did a casting – I’ll have you, you and you – and blocked out a story line," Kerr said.

"A lot of them still have animation in them, so we’ve been able to reanimate the characters, which is great. A bit of a spit and polish, some fresh make-up, and Bob’s your uncle."

Families outside Myer’s Christmas windows in 2015.Credit:Darrian Traynor

More than 30 production staff worked to bring 107 characters from 14 past seasons back to life.

Among the characters from yesteryear are the Flinders Street Station Set from Little Dog and The Christmas Wish (2015), Russell's Christmas Magic (2012) and the The Nutcracker (2010).

"The problem with our old characters is that we used to cast them in latex, and latex actually perishes over time," Kerr said.

"The oldest character we’ve got is [Ratty, window four] from Wind in the Willows – that was early 2000s – and the latex is really starting to go brittle."

The Myer Christmas windows have been drawing families, shoppers and tourists to the Melbourne CBD since 1956.

The 2020 instalment was unveiled in small ceremony outside the store on Saturday morning and quickly drew excited onlookers, including little Hamish and Camilla McCombe.

Myer chief customer officer Geoff Ikin said: "Now more than ever Victorians need something to celebrate, and we know the Myer Christmas windows brings excitement and joy to so many."

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