Dan Harmon is no stranger to animation, but his live-action comedy series, Community, also dipped its feet into the format a handful of times. The series focused on a group of students at a community college, running for five seasons on the network before it was cancelled. Yahoo! Screen then revived the show for a sixth and final season, which aired in 2015. Though Harmon wasn’t around for Community‘s entire run, he convinced the series that animation could freshen up the plot from time-to-time.
Over the course of six seasons, Community made it a habit to release specially-themed episodes. The series centered on the lives of a college study group comprised of Jeff Winger, Annie Edison, Shirley Bennett, Pierce Hawthorne, Troy Barnes, Abed Nadir, and Britta Perry. Aside from their regular misadventures, their gatherings for holiday events often came into focus. The show also presented several themed episodes centered on the annual game of Paintball Assassin held on the community college campus.
A few Community episodes incorporated specially designed sequences to break from the traditional live-action comedy format. Among the installments that featured animated scenes included season 2’s “A Fistful of Paintball” and season 3’s “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism.” Community took the animation up a notch with other specials by tackling special formats for four other episodes. Here’s a breakdown of when they appear in the series.
Season 2’s holiday special was one of the most memorable episodes in Community‘s history because of the use of stop-motion animation. Paying tribute to Christmas TV specials, the comedy series went the claymation route. Writer Dino Stamatopoulos, who played Star-Burns in the series, came up with the idea that ended up taking over four months to accomplish. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” centered on Abed as he led his friends on a journey through a Christmas-themed planet while searching for the meaning behind the holiday season.
The next animated Community came in season 3 with “Digital Estate Planning.” The episode focused on the study group playing a video game at the request of Cornelius Hawthorne’s last will and testament. The winner of the game was set to acquire Pierce’s inheritance, a reward that convinced Cornelius’ assistant, Gilbert Lawson, to join in on the game. The majority of the episode was presented in retro pixel-style graphics to mirror the look of 8-bit video games made popular by Sega and Nintendo.
While puppetry might not be considered a form of animation, it would fall into the category of unique art forms used by Community. The season 4 episode titled “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” featured the study group as puppets as they recounted a past adventure involving a hot air balloon crash. After eating berries from a mysterious mountain, the group reveals their most personal secrets. Aside from the use of puppets rather than the traditional cast, the episode also featured musical numbers.
The final animated episode in Community came in season 5 with “G.I. Jeff.” To emulate the vibe of ’80s children’s television animated series like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the episode was done in the form of a classic cartoon. While Jeff was in the hospital dealing with a major life event, his reality was transformed into a G.I. Joe cartoon as a coping mechanism. Like “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” the episode was developed by Stamatopoulos with the help of Harmon’s animation studio, Starburn Industries.