Before American talk show host Jimmy Fallon poked fun at Woody, Nova Scotia’s creepily robotic Christmas tree, holiday shoppers in Newfoundland were already chuckling at the oddly frozen facial expressions of the Happy Tree in St. John’s.
The Happy Tree emerges each Christmas season to loom in a corner of the Avalon Mall. He watches shoppers with large white eyeballs and talks to them with a flapping mouth. His eyelids normally lift up and down, but they’ve stopped working; his face is now frozen in a dozy, heavy-lidded expression with a slightly protruding tongue.
Satire website theBeaverton.com joked last year that Woody the Talking Christmas Tree might eat children. Happy Tree’s expression, meanwhile, suggests he might prefer a bag of potato chips.
“There has been a bit of a hiccup with the opening and closing of Happy Tree’s eyes, but this does not impact the experience of visiting him,” said an email Wednesday from Donna Vincent, general manager at the Avalon Mall.
The Happy Tree is “all about community and holiday magic,” and it would likely be friends with Woody, she added.
Woody The Talking Christmas Tree stands more than two storeys tall and spends the holiday season in the Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth, N.S. Woody’s face is an unsettling pink, somewhat reminiscent of human flesh. He rings in each Christmas season with a “wake up Woody” event, during which his eyes burst open and an amplified voice comes out of his massive mouth.
Jimmy Fallon has played video clips of Woody on “The Tonight Show” for the past two years, describing the tree as “creepy.”
Erin Smith is president of Display Arts of Toronto, which built the Happy Tree in 2011 for the Avalon Mall. She said she agrees with Fallon: Woody has a creepy vibe.
“But you know, the Happy Tree is kind of weird too,” she said in an interview.
The Happy Tree was a custom order, Smith added, noting that she’s not aware of any other trees like it. It took her team of between eight and 10 people about two months to construct the Happy Tree, from his robotic mouth to his hand-painted globular eyes, she said.
Someone can sit in a nearby gift box with a microphone to give Happy a voice, she said. There’s a camera inside the box so they can hear and see kids gathered around the tree during his regularly scheduled talking hours.
“The original design has ventilation and everything because this poor guy was in there for hours,” Smith said. “Imagine how hot it can get.”
Smith said she hopes someone from her company will be called to Newfoundland to fix the Happy Tree’s broken, half-closed eyelids.
“I don’t want it to stop even though his eyes are a bit old and crusty,” she said. “Let’s give him some tender, loving care and keep him going.”
Vincent said the Happy Tree’s eyes will be fixed, though she did not say when.
“We do intend to continue Happy Tree as long as possible, as he’s important to our community,” she said.