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Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray Review

Title: Original Christmas Classics


HTS Overall Score:72

Back in the day, my childhood Christmas wasn’t complete without at least one of these old Classics playing on the 13 inch TV while I drank hot cocoa and snacked on Christmas cookies. These beloved films have lasted for over 40 years and still are watched by many at this wintery time of year. I guess that’s really what makes them classics. No matter the age, or the decade we still fall back to these old tales of Christmas joy and cheer year after year. If you’re an adult sometimes the old tales of yesteryear seem to lose a little bit of their luster, but if you’re a young one, then the giggles and laughter still seem to hold their touch no matter the year of production. I’ve watched these all on Blu-ray at one time or another, as this set was released with “Frosty the Snowman”, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” as well as “Frosty Returns” in standard definition. “Rudolph” and “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas” had standalone releases along with “Frosty the Snowman”, but this is the first time that they have all been packaged together in one giant set of films as well as putting “Frosty Returns” in High Definition.

The first disc brings us some of the more mature classics, featuring “The Little Drummer Boy”, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and “A Cricket on a Hearth”. All of them are bonafide classics, with my favorite’s being “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and “The Little Drummer Boy”. Starting off the list we have “Santa Clause is Coming to town”, a nice little story narrated by Fred Astaire, who tells the tale of how Kris Kringle gained his red suit and hopped up on his sleigh for the very first time. Smart as a whip and filled with a lot more than just a children’s story, it chronicles the tale of a little child who is dropped off in the old German town of Somberville, lorded over by the grumpy Mayor Burgermeister Meisterberger. Kicked out by the old man he is accidentally dropped off to the Kingle’s, a group of elvish toymakers. Locked on the other side of the mountain from Somberville, the Kringle’s make their toys, but without the joy of seeing them distributed to little boys and girls everywhere. However, when Kris grows big enough, he traverses the forest and snow (along with a Winter Warlock who haunts that forest) in an effort to bring the denizens of Somberville some modicum of happiness.

“Santa Clause is coming to town” is a bit more complex than just a simple children’s tale. Like many old classics it deals with social issues and the ideas or what is worthwhile in society. Burgermeister Meisterburger may seem goofy and over the top, but he represents a period that was suffering from over abusive leadership as well as making fun of all the little things that human beings find as “bah humbug” instead of focusing on the little bits that bring us joy.

Next on the list is “A Cricket on the Hearth”, a tale of sadness and joy. It tells the tale of a little cricket who was lucky enough to make his home in the house of a humble toymaker. Crickets were seen as symbols of luck back in the day, and this little cricket was about to earn his name. Going back to good old Dickens time, we have the old toymaker living with his beautiful daughter, just as her fiancée is heading off to war. During the turmoil the fiancée is presumed missing at sea and the old toymaker is forced to work or a slave master who pays the old man in nothing but a place to live while he profits off the talented toymaker’s toil. Not only THAT but he wants the toymaker’s daughter as his bride as well.

Our cricket hero really has to pay for his rent here, for his adopted family is better than he ever could have hoped for. The old toymaker was kind and generous, while his daughter was cut from the same cloth. They are both living in squalor and misery while their “benefactor” is out living the high life, while paying them nothing in return. Their eyes see a different world though, as optimism wins out over the harsh realities of life and this overflowing of joy without recompense is more than the tiny cricket can bear. Now he has to use his limited tools to reunite the daughter with her beloved and set everything right once again.

The weakest of the 4 movies happens to be “The Little Drummer Boy”. Based off of the song of the same name, it is a short 25 minute film that seems to really overstay its welcome. This little tale of holiday cheer is the tale of a little boy named Aaron who is captured to play in a circus caravan for a wealthy entertainer. His only problem is one….well, he’s a slave in reality, but the other is that he hates people. This night of wonder will soon change as he and his master are introduced to a new audience. This one including a group of wise men and a woman about to give birth in a manger. While everyone is overwhelmed with the glory of the new born king, the little drummer boy has really nothing to give besides the simple skill of his drum.

“The Little Drummer Boy” has always felt a bit stretched whenever I’ve seen it, and time has had it fare no better. The musical numbers are played out really fast and even as a 25 minute short the movie feels like it overstays it’s welcome by just a little bit. I’m not saying it’s a bad story, or that it doesn’t belong in the set, but the premise of making a story based upon the simplistic Christmas song was a big stretch even back then in the 50s.

The last of disc one happens to be the newest addition to all the sets, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”. Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” has well been a staple in the eyes of film, book and auditory form over the last 100+ years. Before you were a twinkle in your parent’s eyes this story was told and retold hundreds upon hundreds of times over the decades. Now “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” has always held a special place in my heart as I wore out the old animated VHS long before I was old enough to read the novel or to pick up on all the nuances in Patrick Stewart’s rendition. So as you can see there is a little bit of nostalgia thrown in there as well.

This littler version keeps fairly close to the original classic that Dicken’s told, with the three ghosts presenting themselves before Mr. Magoo, but there is a little bit of whitewashing being done, as this movie is mainly a children’s rendition and the scarier portions were softened for their sake. Born of a kinder and gentler generation, where a children’s animated film could be told without the need for political correctness, or the worry that someone would tear it apart for not being “inclusive” enough for everyone. It tells a simple story of a man being introduced to the follies of his own greed and selfishness on a night where the lowest of people are celebrating like they are given the world. It’s sweet, kind and tear jerking at the same time, bringing it to close as my second favorite movies of the 1st disc.

The second disc brings us to probably my second favorite, but still most enjoyable film of the entire set. Yes, that’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. Ahhhh, THIS is one of the finest remembrances of my young childhood. Watching the VHS over and over again till I could basically quote the whole 50 minute movie verbatim. “Rudolph” is well thought out and well-crafted children’s film that manages to stuff a LOT into the short sub hour runtime. There are three MAIN stories at play here. The first is that of Rudolph, a misfit reindeer who has decided to run away due to having his shiny nose made fun of. Off into the cold of the North Pole, he and elf friend Hermy venture. Hermy himself is a bit of a misfit, an elf who hates making toys. Made fun of for his career desire in dentistry, Hermy aligns himself with Rudolph as the two run off together.

Their first stop nearly gets them killed, as they run into the Abominable Snowman, but are rescued by the intrepid miner, Yukon Cornelius. A man of the north who’s after GOLD GOLD GOLD!! (well, and silver, but it depends on the mood). Looking afte the elf and the reindeer, Yukon Cornelius escapes the Snowman with the two and runs across an island filled with misfit toys. There Rudolph realizes that he has to set out on his own, as his nose has become an attractant to the snowman. Only problems is that once he gets home, Rudolph is met with an empty home. It seems that his family have ventured out into the snow to find him, and that means they are now at the mercy of the very Abominable Snowman that Rudolph has been narrowly escaping.

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is only a hair breadth below “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” as the best film of the set. Smart and funny, it breeds memorable characters that really stand out. Who doesn’t love Yukon Cornelius is by far the standout character in the little film, as his over the top antics are endearing to children everywhere. There IS a bit of an annoyance in the film, as it pertains to Rudolph. The movie ascribes to the old Ugly Duckling scenario where someone is made fun of up until the point they prove themselves useful, as does Rudolph. It’s a little cliché that has bothered me for many a year and still does to this day. It was used a lot back in the older generation of children’s film making and seems to have been mainly eradicated in modern days (although we have a plethora of other problems of our own to work out as a result).

The final two movies I’ll actually roll into one discussion. It’s “Frosty the Snowman” and “Frosty Returns”. Both of these movies are little 20 odd minute films that are a lark for the younger generations. Based off the classic song of the same name, Frosty the snowman is suffering from the problem of melting on hot days. Setting off on a trip to the North Pole, he and a young child brave the issue of the north as well as an evil magician who desires Frosty’s hat. Not everything works in the tale, but it is cute and a bouncy little film. Right on its heels is the sequel, “Frosty Returns”. This one is not a Rankins/Bass production as was the original, and shows with the cheap designs and poorer animation. The same goes with the story as the already thinly stretched tale of the original seems even more stretched and spread thinly like jam over toast that is too big.


Not Rated by the MPAA

The films enclosed on the disc suffer from varying degrees of deterioration and print damage to be certain. Most of the films look rather decent, with great colors and no major artifacting. Many times though, there are signs of print damage, speckles and lines across the original negatives. The best of the lot is “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” as well as “Santa Clause is coming to town”. The worst of the lot is obviously “The Little Drummer Boy” which shows off some really desaturated colors as well as print fading that looks really bad at times. None of them are above reproach, and some look almost as bad as upscales, but they certainly look better than the old DVD set I had some years ago, and probably won’t look any better unless someone puts in some SERIOUS coin for a full restoration on the old source prints.

The old Dolby TrueHD encodes for the original releases of these films have been ditched for a comparable DTS-HD MA audio track. All of them sport a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track except for “Frosty Returns” and “The Little Drummer boy. Both of display decent sound for the age they were recorded in. there is hisses and pops in crackles in most of the audio, with solid vocals, although the worst of the bunch is the narration by Jonathon Winters in “Frosty Returns”. The crackling is VERY noticeable there and stands out the worst. The rest of the films have some issues, but mainly they are just low budget animated and stop motion films that were given a miniscule budget even back in the day.


Disc One
Cricket on the Hearth
• Cricket on the Hearth

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

• Be an Artist and Create
• Kringle Jingle • Santa Special Delivery

Disc Two
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
• Rudolph Pop Up Book
• Holly Jolly Sing Along
• Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Sing Along (1080p; 00:53)
• Learn to Draw features Dave Burgess of DreamWorks Animation in the following segments:
• Intro
• Rudolph
• Hermey
• The Abominable Snow Monster
• Rudolph Unwrapped

Frosty the Snowman
• Frosty Returns
• Be an Artist and Create
• Magical Melody
• Frosty Snowflake Surprises


The stories enclosed are all Christmas Classics of varying quality, but with the exception of “Frosty Retrurns”, they are all enjoyable as all get out, and certainly deserving of their classic states in cinematic history. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” will forever be the best in my mind’s eye, but you can’t watch one or two without watching the other 5 at the very least. The old stop motion animation as well as the hand drawn stories are a bit rough to watch at times due to the old source material, but thankfully Classic Media has given them plenty of room on the disc to look as best they can. The extras are plentiful, which add even more value to the dirt cheap set and makes it well worth the $15 ish that the set demands. DEFINITELY one to pick up for the holidays.

Additional Information:

Starring: Burl Ives, Mickey Rooney, Jan Hooks, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Directed by: Romeo Muller : Jules Bass: Abe Levitow : Evert Brown : Bill Melendez
Aspect Ratio: 1.34:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Studio: Classic Media
Rated: NR
Runtime: 227 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 17th, 2015

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Recommendation: Watch It

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post #2 of 2 Old 01-01-16, 11:19 AM
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Re: Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray Review

Thanks for the review. I haven't seen these old classics in many years. I will have to check this out now that they are available on blu ray.

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