As there are number of collections called "The Original Christmas Classics", and another called "The Original Television Christmas Classics" there can be some confusion about that is included in each set. Particularly as they are all collections of features by Rankin/Bass (except as noted) primarily from the 1960's, and traditionally shown during the holiday season.
"The Original Christmas Classics" DVD set includes the seven features listed below, while the Bluray set with the same name, the subject of this review, only includes the first four titles.
1. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1964 47 minutes) 2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1970 51 minutes) 3. Frosty The Snowman (1969 25 minutes) 4. Frosty Returns (1992 23 minutes 5. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962 53 minutes) 6. Little Drummer Boy (1968 25 minutes) 7. Cricket On The Hearth (1967 49 Minutes)
The Bluray set has two video discs. Disc One contains Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, while Disc Two features Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman, and Frosty Returns. Apparently all of the features have been remastered and restored to full length. Presentation is full screen, with no subtitles. Some Bluray sets apparently have an audio CD with songs taken from the specials, and some do not.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970): Rating 4.5 stars While the legend of Santa Claus may be well-known, this delightful stop action feature delves into his early years, and also explains some of the common myths regarding Santa. The story is told partially through narration by a letter carrier (voiced by Fred Astaire) who delivers mail to Santa at the North Pole. An orphan baby boy is taken in and raised by the Kringle's, a family of toymaking elves. He is named Kris, and when he grows up, the red-haired young man (voiced by Mickey Rooney) leaves home with a big bag of toys. Through the gift of giving, Kris melts the ice cold heart of the Winter Warlock (voiced by Keenan Wynn), and makes a special friend in a schoolteacher named Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester). Kris faces numerous obstacles, but overcomes them with the help of his friends and family. He marries Jessica, and builds a home at the North Pole. As Santa Claus, he distributes toys to the children of the world.
The improvements made in the stop action technique, make for a smoother looking and more lifelike presentation, and the feature looks terrific on Bluray. With a creative uplifting story and some fun songs, this wonderful take on the origin of Santa Claus, is great family entertainment.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1964): Rating 3.5 stars A true holiday classic, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer features Burl Ives, a warm, teddy bear of a man, lending his unforgettable voice to Sam the Snowman, the narrator of this tale. Rudolph (voiced by Billie Richards) the son of Donner, runs away from home in shame, when his glowing red nose is discovered. In the woods, he meets Hermey (voiced by Paul Soles), an elf who dreams of becoming a dentist. The pair team up with prospector Yukon Cornelius (voiced by Larry D. Mann), and after escaping the clutches of the Abominable Snow Monster, they all make their way to the Island of Misfit Toys.
After growing into a young buck, Rudolph returns home, and tracks down his missing parents and friend Clarice, who are being held prisoner by the Snow Monster. With the help of Yukon Cornelius and Hermy, the Snow Monster is defeated, and the prisoners are set free. A raging storm threatens to ruin Christmas, but with Rudolph leading the sleigh team, Santa is able to deliver presents after all.
Memorable characters, an underlying message of acceptance, and quality songs, particularly those sung by Burl Ives, pretty much insures that this will continue to be a beloved holiday classic. The Bluray image is reasonably sharp and blemish free.
Frosty The Snowman (1969): Rating 3 stars This animated feature narrated by Jimmy Durante, tells the story of Frosty, who comes to life when the magical hat of Professor Hinkle (voiced by Billy De Wolf) lands on his head. Together with his new friend Karen and Hinkle's rabbit Hocus Pocus, Frosty sneaks aboard a train headed north. The trio ends up in the woods, with Hinkle trailing trying to retrieve his hat. Fortunately Santa arrives to save the day, returning Karen home, and taking Frosty with him to the North Pole. Based on the traditional song, Frosty The Snowman is a light and fun tale, probably best suited for young ones. The Bluray looks fine, but probably won't blow you away.
Frosty Returns (1992): Rating 2.5 stars This animated special was produced by CBS rather than Rankin/Bass, and features narration by Jonathan Winters. Frosty arrives in the town of Beansboro, and becomes friends with children Holly and Charles. A new invention called Summer Wheeze, a canned spray that instantly melts snow, threatens to ruin the town's traditional winter carnival. John Goodman provides the voice of Frosty. Image quality is just average.
If you do have a warm spot in your heart for holiday programming, you will want to at least take a look at all the options. With so many similar products, some with the same name, it is easy to get confused, and Rankin/Bass probably needs to do a better job of making it clear to consumers just what they are buying.