Top positive review
172 people found this helpful
Holiday Must Haves and More!
on January 8, 2008
Classic Media brings us 7 Christmas specials in one gorgeous package in its "Original Christmas Classics" DVD collection. The headliners of this set are the three greatest Rankin/Bass Christmas TV specials of all-time: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town! In addition to these, we are treated to "The Little Drummer Boy", "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol", "Cricket on the Hearth", and "Frosty Returns". Plus, a CD of holiday music selections is even included as a bonus!
Disc One features everyone's favorite Rankin/Bass special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Based on the beloved song, it's the stop-motion "animagic" classic from 1964 about a little reindeer born with a nose that glows red! Teased about his nose as a child, Rudolph runs away from Santa's village and makes new friends along the way but also encounters the frightening Bumble snow-beast! Then, when a fog comes up to threaten Santa's Christmas Eve flight, it's only Rudolph's nose that can save the day! Featuring unforgettable songs from Burl Ives (who plays Sam the Snowman) and others, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" has become a holiday tradition loved by millions!
Also on Disc One is "Cricket on the Hearth." Introduced by Danny Thomas and starring the voices of himself, his daughter Marlo, Roddy McDowall, Hans Conried, Paul Frees, and more, this 1967 traditionally animated special is a musical version of Charles Dickens' classic. It's the story of a toymaker and his daughter who befriend a helpful cricket that saves the day after the family falls on hard times. "Cricket on the Hearth" is a lesser known Rankin/Bass production and not as endearing as their bigger hits, but it is still a nice holiday viewing you probably haven't seen before.
Disc Two holds a classic that is nearly as beloved as Rudolph, "Frosty the Snowman". This 1969 classic is traditionally animated and probably Rankin/Bass's best work in 2D. The charming character designs, voices, music, and simple story are absolutely wonderful. Based on another classic song, this is the story of a snowman that comes to life when the children who built him add a discarded magic hat. Unfortunately, snowmen can't last forever unless they are in a place that is always snowy, and the nasty Professor Hinkle, the frustrated magician who threw out his hat, wants the hat back now that he knows it holds real magical power! Hosted by an animated Jimmy Durante, "Frosty the Snowman" is such a treat that it even inspired three 2D sequels so far, though only "Frosty's Winter Wonderland", from the same creators and with Jackie Vernon back as Frosty's voice, is really good. Disc Two also includes the only DVD bonus feature in this set, a Frosty pencil test.
Also on Disc Two is one of the more recent and very disappointing sequels, "Frosty Returns." Truthfully, I don't think this can be called an official sequel, as I don't think Rankin/Bass had anything to do with this 1992 rip-off. Surprisingly, this one is from the creators of the wonderful Peanuts specials, sans Charles Schulz, but it has none of that magic. "Frosty Returns", which depicts a Frosty voiced by John Goodman and with nothing in common with the original aside from being made of snow, is hosted by an animated (and for some reason miniature) Jonathan Winters in an attempt to mimic the host-character style of the Rankin/Bass faves. He presents the story of a town that is becoming snow-free thanks to a businessman's spray can invention, "Summer Wheeze." Frosty and his friends go on a mission to prove to the townsfolk that snow can actually be a good thing, but all in all it's a story that is pretty uninvolving and forgettable. What a shame they never couple the original Frosty with "Frosty's Winter Wonderland". Unfortunately, you have to buy the other boxed set to get that one.
Disc Three features what is, in my opinion, the definitive version of how Santa became Santa. Well, along with "Santa Claus, the Movie" anyway. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is the name of the special, and it's the third of the three big-name classics in this DVD set. The 1970 animagic film, hosted by a stop-motion Fred Astaire, gives us the story of Santa being left at the doorstep of a toymaking elf family when he was a baby, being raised by them and amongst the forest animals, going on missions to deliver toys to the children of Sombertown, meeting Winter the warlock and Jessica, the future Mrs. Claus, and going up against the awful Burgermeister Meisterburger. This charming take on Santa's origins includes the voices of Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as Winter, and the great Paul Frees in several roles. Like most Rankin/Bass holiday classics, this is based on a classic song.
The remaining two holiday specials are also included on Disc Three. They are the lesser known but still much loved "The Little Drummer Boy," a somewhat dark Rankin/Bass animagic tale from 1968 about an orphaned drummer boy who hates people and only loves his animal friends until a visit to the original nativity scene shows him the light, and 1962's "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol," which presents the classic, nearsighted cartoon character as an actor in a Broadway production of his own version of "A Christmas Carol." Both specials are charming and appreciated inclusions in this DVD set.
Lastly, there's the CD, which is a mixed bag of 7 Christmas songs. They include a very brief "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from Burl Ives, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" from Bobby Rydell, "A Holly Jolly Christmas" from Burl Ives, "Silver and Gold" from Burl Ives, "Let it Snow" from Chicago, "Winter Wonderland" from Jewel, and "Merry Christmas Baby" from Otis Redding. The CD is an okay addition, but a 4th disc of more holiday specials or more DVD bonus features would have been preferred, or even a genuine soundtrack to one or more of the included specials.
Overall, this set is a must own for the Christmas classics lover, and my only major complaint is how hard it is to remove the discs from the lovely packaging. I also highly recommend the following DVDs and DVD sets: Christmas Television Favorites (featuring other Rankin/Bass faves and the Grinch!), Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Disney's Classic Holiday Stories, Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection, The Happy Elf, Garfield Holiday Celebrations, Elf, A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Warner Bros. Classic Holiday Collection, MGM Holiday Classics Collection, Santa Claus (1960), It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A Christmas Story, The Nativity, A Christmas Carol (1951), Scrooged, Santa Claus the Movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Scrooge (1935), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (live-action), One Magic Christmas, Babes in Toyland (Disney), National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Ernest Saves Christmas, A Chipmunk Christmas, the Santa Clause films, A Flintstones Christmas Carol, Benji's Very Own Christmas Story, Sabrina the Animated Series: A Witchmas Carol, and more! And don't forget the many specials only available on VHS! Also, if you're into the bizarre, seek out the Star Wars Holiday Special!