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DVD Review: "The Original Christmas Classics"

By It's My Life on December 3, 2010 1:32 PM | No TrackBacks

What's your go-to DVD for getting in the holiday spirit? Is it the Christmas episode of your favorite sitcom, or a heartwarming movie where some greedy, grumpy guy has to learn the true meaning of the season? Maybe you love to laugh at some cheesy old variety show where celebs of the past croon carols and put on skits.

For millions of people, nothing says "Holiday TV" like the works of producers Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. Back in the 1960's and 70's, Rankin and Bass were a two-man Christmas special factory, creating such classics as "The Little Drummer Boy," "The Year Without a Santa Claus," and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

rudolphfrostysanta.jpgNow, a new boxed set of Blu-ray discs called "The Original Christmas Classics" offers three of the best Rankin/Bass shows ever: "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." With stop-motion puppets (Rudolph and Santa) and traditional cel animation (Frosty), along with inventive storytelling and catchy songs, these three specials are timeless classics, as awesome now as they were in your parents' and grandparents' day. More recent holiday specials may have better special effects and celebrity voices, but there's nothing quite like the old-school magic you'll see here.

Here are IML's picks for the best and not-quite-best things about each show:

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

misfittoys.jpgBest: That would be the Island of Misfit Toys. We know that Rudolph is the star of the show, but King Moonracer the gryphon is one of the coolest things about this story. He's a little strange and potentially scary, but he has a good heart and we love that he takes care of all the unwanted toys in his special kingdom. He's like the ultimate foster parent for toys, looking out for them until they can find a child to love them. The oddball toys are awesome too, and we've always thought that most of them would be big sellers, instead of rejects. Who wouldn't want an ostrich-riding cowboy or a squirt gun that shoots jelly? And while we're on the subject, what's the story with the Charlie-in-the-box? If his name is his only problem, can't he just change it? Whatever. We still love them all.

Not Quite: Jerky Santa. We're not sure what the writers were thinking with this particular version of Santa Claus, but he's not very jolly. More like, bully. He insults the elves after they go to all the trouble of rehearsing a Christmas song just for him, and he tells Rudolph's dad Donner that he should be ashamed of his red-nosed son. Yeah, Santa comes around in the end, but for most of this story he just doesn't have the Christmas spirit that he's supposed to have all year round.

"Frosty the Snowman"

frosty&karen.jpgBest: Frosty and Karen. Frosty is goofy and lovable, and Karen, the little girl who helps build him, is sweet and kind. These two characters form a great friendship, and they look out for each other like best friends should. When the temperature goes up and Frosty starts to get "all wishy-washy," Karen makes sure he gets on a train headed north. And when the refrigerated boxcar chills Karen and makes her sick, Frosty risks everything to get her someplace warm and cozy. Talk about a BFF!

Not Quite: Wanting more. This is one holiday special that's just too short. If you don't count the song itself, there's only like fifteen minutes of story here! Frosty is a classic character, and his story could have been so much more. This disc also contains the bonus sequel Frosty Returns, but while it's cute and entertaining, it just doesn't have the charm of the original.

"Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town"

jessica.jpgBest: Miss Jessica. There are a lot of wonderful characters and scenes in this special, but Sombertown's red-headed schoolteacher is our fave. We love that she pretends to be all serious and strict, only to have her heart melt when the young Santa gives her the China doll she always wanted as a child, and we love that she grows old to become the iconic Mrs. Claus of the North Pole. We also dig the weird, wild, swirling and psychedelic animation that accompanies her solo song "My World Is Beginning Today." Wow...1970 anybody?

Not Quite: Complicated story. The filmmakers seem to be trying too hard to craft a plot that combines all the various details of various Santa Claus stories (not all of them accurately), and the tale comes out a little muddled in the end. We didn't really need to know that reindeer fly because of the Winter Warlock's magic feed corn, and the bit that explains how Santa's name is both Kringle and Claus seems a tad forced. Different cultures across the globe have different origins for our December stories, and it seems unfair to shove a bunch of them together without any background or explanation.

These three shows may seem as old as Christmas itself, but we enjoyed seeing them all crisp and shiny on Blu-ray, and being reminded of why they can honestly be called "classics."

IML's Rating: A


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