The 80s were defined by some very questionable fashion choices and some awesome music. More importantly, especially for those gamers, it was the era of the Nintendo. As such, it serves as the premise for “8-Bit Christmas,” a family-friendly Christmas comedy that sees a father telling his daughter the story of his 10-year-old self embarking on a quest to get the latest and greatest video game system for Christmas.
For Winslow Fegely who plays the 10-year-old version of Jack Doyle, he thought it was a lot of fun to take a trip back in time to play the younger version of Neil Patrick Harris, and get into some of that nostalgia by playing the Nintendo. “It was great. I liked it. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun getting to just see how it all was and how it all worked out,” Fegley said.
And Harris is the one to tell that story. Playing as a father, he reminisces of what times were like to even get a spot to play his neighbor’s Nintendo to his daughter. But what was particularly revealing was how much he saw himself in his character and how much he mirrored his storytelling style. “It was weird reading the script. Because it sounded exactly like the way I actually talked to my daughter,” he said. “I always thought that I should talk to my children like their people and not like baby people. That was a weird thing. For me. I just hadn’t when I grew up, I didn’t like when people talk to me, like I was just didn’t understand how sentences work. And, I never did that. And now that they’re 11, they know too much. It’s exhausting. But I recognize that in the scripts, older Jake Winslow’s talking to his daughter in very normal terms, like it like a regular person, and I love that and, and his sense of humor is very similar to my vocal cadence. So it was super easy to, to hop into that.”
As to the actual gaming, Harris went even further back and brought up the Intellivision. “Yeah, we were an Intellivision family. It was sort of the Atari versus Intellivision. And so we were team Intellivision, which is very hilariously strange. Because if you don’t know the Intellivision was like this long and you had filmstrip thing that you had to pull out and put in a new film strip, and they would play on the same button pads,” Harris said. “But once the tech started in earnest, I like everyone wanted the new one. I wanted the new Wii. I wanted the new Xbox One. I’d like the new thing that was bright and shiny and technological.”
However, as technology grows and the games become more expansive, it’s no longer resembles anything of the past. Which is offputting for Harris. “I would play each of those game systems like six times. Because they take a long time. playing one of these games is no joke. We can’t just play like my favorite games now,” he said. “I guess because I’m an old man. are the ones that you can finish. You know, like the room or something where you can play it and then be done with it. The open-world games are amazing to watch but I can’t I can’t go down that rabbit hole.”
Still, there is nothing like spending time outdoors. And “8-Bit Christmas” has plenty of those scenes where kids are battling to be king of the snow mountain and roller skating. “Those are all awesome. I love that for sure. And I love the roller skating stuff, that was super fun to shoot,” he said. “All of the snow mountain stuff. I love shooting that. You know, there was like a 30-foot snow mountain that was real and they just tumbled us down it and it was so fun. I mean, it was really cool. Because it all real snow. And I was wearing jeans and probably two other layers under that. And it soaked all the way through. My butt was freezing. I was so cold. But it was worth it. It was so it was fun.”
Considering how much of “8-Bit Christmas” takes place in the past, there are plenty of nostalgic things to look back on and even bring back to the modern era. That couldn’t be more true for Steve Zahn who had a few ideas of what we should bring back. “Oh, yeah, a lot of things. But we’d have to regress, wouldn’t we? We’d have to go backward in time, we’d have to, we’d have to shed some things,” he said. “You know, I remember having arguments about like, who was right about who was in a movie without having to look it up and arguing for like, and now we do that? Isn’t it interesting? You go like nah, nah, don’t look at your phone goes down. Don’t do it.”
And in the age of the smartphone, a lot has changed in the way we humans interact and spend with each other. “You know, that’s what I’d like to have back in some, someway I happen to think that the pendulum is swinging, this swung so far to decide that, that it has to start coming back. Do you know what I mean? You know, I’m saying it’s all far over,” Zahn added.
June Diane Raphael, who plays the mother of the younger Jack, agrees. “ I do think that we’re really nostalgic, and most people are yearning for, you know, more connection that’s not through a screen,” she said. “And that’s, that feels more authentic in a way and where every experience feels more special because we don’t have everything at our fingertips.”
“I think it’s hard. It’s just harder as a parent to create that when, if you have the internet at home, your kids can have access all the time to everything,” Raphael added. “So, I think parents and kids and making sure that they don’t just, you know, function from you want something you get it right now’ type of mentality is harder. And my that’s, that’s something I wish for.”
Ultimately, “8-Bit Christmas,” like any other family-friendly holiday movie, has something to say about the relationships that we share during the most wonderful time of the year. “The message that I took away that I hope other people take away is, you know, that time and time with your family, especially as a child, and is really hard to appreciate,” Raphael said. “And it’s really hard to appreciate what our parents are doing for us when as kids, understandably, we just want what we want and we can’t see, you know, through their eyes and we can’t see their perspective. And, you know, that’s what I love about the movie is that it helps us like create, you know, or think about that lens of it made me think.”
“8-Bit Christmas” launches exclusively on HBOMax on November 24, 2021.