Christmas on Mars

Christmas on Mars
Christmas on Mars

theatrical poster
Directed by Wayne Coyne
Bradley Beesley
George Salisbury
Written by Wayne Coyne
Starring Wayne Coyne
Steven Drozd
Michael Ivins
Music by The Flaming Lips
Cinematography Bradley Beesley
Editing by George Salisbury
Distributed by Warner Independent Pictures (US)
Release date(s) November 11, 2008 (US)
Country United States
Language English

Christmas on Mars is a science fiction feature film from the Oklahoma psychedelic alternative rock band The Flaming Lips, written and directed by the band's frontman, Wayne Coyne and featuring the entire band in the cast, as well as many of their associates, including Steve Burns, Adam Goldberg, and Fred Armisen.

The film began development in 2001, filming was completed in October 2005, and the film premiered on May 25, 2008 at the Sasquatch! Music Festival.[1] For its general release in the United States, Christmas on Mars was booked into several dozen cities for unconventional screenings, in venues which included a former Ukrainian Socialist Social Club in New York City.[2] The film was released in three different packages on November 11, 2008 through conventional retailers as well as through the band's website. A vinyl edition was released November 25, 2008.



The film tells the story of the experiences of Major Syrtis during the first Christmas on a newly-colonized Mars. Coyne has described the film as "Maybe Eraserhead or Dead Man crossed with some kind of fantasy and space aspects, like The Wizard of Oz and maybe A Space Odyssey, and set at Christmas-time. The story that unfolds is intended to hint at childlike magic within a tragic and realistic situation."[3]

Coyne elaborated to Rolling Stone magazine:

"It's sometime in the future, Mars has been sort of conquered and there's a space station on it but the space program has gone into decline and these people are kind of stuck up there. They're in the process of converting the spaceships that took them there into a place to live in and that process doesn't go too smoothly. The whole thing ends up very dilapidated, very un-futuristic, un-'2001'. There's an element of confidence among the scientists, but the overall view is that things seem kind of doomed."

The main character, Major Syrtis (played by Steven Drozd, the band's multi-instrumentalist and arranger/composer), is trying to organise a Christmas pageant to celebrate the birth of the first colonist baby. Coyne explains that this birth is also special for other reasons,

"The hype they've added to this Mars mission is that this beautiful woman is giving birth to this sort of artificial impregnation from this bubble that she wears on her stomach, which is the way infants are gonna be born in the future. It's all scientifically timed so she gives birth to this baby the second it hits midnight on Christmas. So it's symbolically the beginning of a new civilization. But instead of being born from religious ideas it's born from a science idea."

Coyne further elaborated to

"Against a background of descending madness, Major Syrtis is trying to use the pageant to provide hope amongst the colonists, and the film tells the story of his struggle. You see his humiliation and his self-doubt because there are all these haphazard things that keep getting in the way of his determination to celebrate this first Christmas on Mars. A lot of the people are committing suicide, and one of them is this sort of Santa Claus that's supposed to preside over this big celebration. He dies right at the beginning and this presents Steven's character with several problems."

Fortunately, Major Syrtis finds an unlikely ally in Coyne's strange and mysterious character, a "Martian that lands, but the Martian isn't really perceived as a Martian. People just sort of think he's another crazy guy who's flipped and turned himself green. They can't find a quick replacement for Santa so they just use this Martian guy. So the Martian guy becomes the Martian and Santa Claus at the same time."


Publicity photograph for Christmas on Mars
Cast notes
  • Contrary to early reports, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and Elijah Wood do not appear in the film's final cut. However, a scene with Isaac Brock and Adam Goldberg exists on the DVD as an easter egg.


At the beginning of 2002, over 20 minutes of edited film were ready, with music and preliminary sound effects also completed for these scenes. Most of the movie was shot on 16 mm film, with most of the sets based in Wayne's Oklahoma City house. Most scenes were filmed in and around Oklahoma City, using locations such as old industrial facilities. Further filming was done in Austin, Texas.


Originally, Christmas on Mars was not to be released at conventional movie theaters. Instead, a DVD release would be preceded by a number of screenings at rock venues. Speaking to, Coyne has explained, "We want to show the movie with a mega-sound system and snow machines and just make it like a bigger event than what has become the typical movie-going experience. I'm hoping that people can watch this movie while they drink beer, smoke cigarettes, and have a good time."

Coyne had mentioned plans to take the film on a tour of some sort.

"I want the Flaming Lips audience to shape this. It'll be like our live show, which evolves as it goes. We'll show it to the audience and let them talk out there on message boards, and then maybe we'll take that and go back and change it and put it out there again and see what they think. It'll be a different experience than sitting at home and watching a DVD, for sure. I don't know if a lot of bands can do that, but the Flaming Lips sure can."

By October 2007, the film was in the final editing stage and the band was also transferring it to HD and adding "in-depth special effects." On September 12, 2008, the film made its New York City debut at 7am within the KGB Complex, a former Ukrainian Socialist Social Club, on the Lower East Side.[4]

Thus far, screenings at the KGB and elsewhere have not followed Coyne's announced "live show model" - the closest to those have been the screenings at rock festivals during the summer of 2008. Those additional screenings, organized by company Cinema Purgatorio, were intended to complement Coyne's other plans: Cinema Purgatorio shows would not be Coyne's delirious, deluxe screenings, they would be somewhat more conventional screenings in somewhat more conventional theatrical contexts. Nonetheless, many Flaming Lips fans expect the film will play in different contexts, including many run by Coyne himself, into the extended future.

The film was released on DVD November 11, 2008 in three different packages designed by the band's visual generalist George Salisbury. One is a conventional DVD available at conventional retailers. There is also be a deluxe edition containing the film on DVD as well as a soundtrack CD. The Mega Deluxe Edition features: The Film and Soundtrack (in Deluxe Edition packaging), an exclusive t-shirt, a collectible movie ticket replicating those used during the rock festival tour, trading cards featuring all four members of the band from the movie on one side and performing on stage on the other, an "Eat Your Own Spaceship" bumper sticker, and a box of "Flaming Lips" popcorn featuring Wayne as The Martian. The first 1,000 Mega Deluxe Edition versions will have the popcorn boxes signed by all four members of The Flaming Lips. Of those 1,000 copies ten will contain a "golden ticket" good for two tickets to the Lips annual New Year's Eve concert in Oklahoma City.[5] The vinyl edition is slated for release on November 25, 2008. The DVD contains at least one easter egg.


A trailer for Christmas on Mars was first made available on the band's Fight Test EP, and can now be found along with movie information on The Flaming Lips' own website.

A second trailer was released on the special edition of their tenth album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Further trailers were made available through the band's website and the Warner Records YouTube channel.

Closing credits

Under the English closing credits are what appear to be Russian translations. But the Russian translations seem unrelated to the English credit listings. For example, "Make Up & Hair", has Russian under it that translates to "The sparkle on the mountain peak". "Feature" has Russian under it that translates to "Loud sounds make me feel fine." "Marching Band & Bubble Room Extras" has under it, "Science can be magical".


Once Beyond Hopelessness
Soundtrack album by The Flaming Lips
Released November 11, 2008
Recorded January 2001 - September 2008
Genre Electronic music, score
Length 32:43
Label Warner Bros.
Producer The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips chronology
At War with the Mystics
Once Beyond Hopelessness
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[6]
Okayplayer (75/100)[7]
The Quietus (favourable)[8]
Pitchfork Media (7.1/10)[9]

Two tracks from the movie soundtrack, "Protonilus Death March" and "Syrtis Major" were released as a 5000-only picture-disc EP late in 2004, available only through the band's online store in conjunction with the purchase of their limited-edition pictorial biography Waking Up With a Placebo Headwound. "Syrtis Major" and another soundtrack cut, "Xanthe Terra", were also released as B-sides to the 2-part European single release of "Do You Realize??" These songs are both entirely instrumental, in a similar style to acclaimed Lips instrumentals such as the Grammy-winning Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia). For the final soundtrack release, "Protonilus Death March" has been renamed to "The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia," "Syrtis Major" is now "Space Bible With Volume Lumps" and "Xanthe Terra" is now "Suicide and Extraordinary Mistakes."

Track listing

No. Title Length
1. "Once Beyond Hopelessness"   3:07
2. "The Distance Between Mars and the Earth, Pt. 1"   0:52
3. "The Horrors of Isolation: The Celestial Dissolve, Triumphant Hallucination, Light Being Absorbed"   4:39
4. "In Excelsior Vaginalistic"   3:02
5. "Your Spaceship Comes from Within"   1:28
6. "Suicide and Extraordinary Mistakes"   3:28
7. "The Distance Between Mars and the Earth, Pt. 2"   0:57
8. "The Secret of Immortality: This Strange Feeling, This Impossible World"   3:43
9. "The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia"   3:58
10. "The Distress Signals of Celestial Objects"   2:11
11. "Space Bible with Volume Lumps"   3:15
12. "Once Beyond Hopelessness"   2:03[10]


  1. ^ "Flaming Lips Add Shows, Christmas on Mars Screening". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  2. ^ "Christmas on Mars: A Fantastical Film Freakout Featuring the Flaming Lips (Cinema Purgatorio)". Cinema Purgatorio. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  3. ^ "Christmas on Mars page on". The Flaming Lips. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  4. ^ "First NYC showtimes for Christmas on Mars: A Fantastical Film Freakout Featuring the Flaming Lips". Cinema Purgatorio. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  5. ^ "Flaming Lips: Christmas on Mars". Warner Bros. Records. Retrieved 2008-11-09. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Christmas on Mars - The Flaming Lips". Allmusic. 
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^ "Christmas On Mars: A Fanatical Film Freakout Featuring The Flaming Lips". The Quietus. 
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^ "Flaming Lips Reveal Christmas on Mars DVD Details". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 

External links

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