There are two DVDs available of "The Muppet Christmas Carol". If you plan
on purchasing it make sure you get the Anniversary Edition from 2005 rather
than the original release copy. However, there are some problems with
this release as well. This is one of those discs that offer two aspect ratios,
the theatrical 1.85 (16:9 anamorphically enhanced) and 'Full Screen'. Now
full screen can mean one of two things. All films are shot in 1.33 in the
camera negative regardless of whether they are intended for cropped theatrical
presentations or anamorphically squeezed for Panavision wide screen showings.
What that means is that when you look through the camera lens you see a square
image that is being photographed. When a video distributor releases a 'full screen'
version in many cases that means they are taping the square image that was shot.
But sometimes the cinematographer did not compensate for "TV Safety" (3 x 4)
and only framed for the 1.85 cropped image for theaters. So if you show the full
frame image you'll see mike booms or other things not intended to be shown. It
would appear that this Muppet movie could not be shown full frame without revealing
the puppeteers so it must be presently in 1.85. So to get a 'full frame' version they
zoomed up the image and cropped off the sides. In short, the 1.85 (16:9) version
labeled as 'widescreen' looks good but the full frame version is grainy and flat due
to the optical enlargement. There also appears to be occasional wear on the image.
So the question you have is why bother to watch the full screen version at all?
The reason is it contains an important restored song, "Where has Love Gone" that
was removed from the theatrical version. I have no idea why they didn't put it
into the 16:9 copy. I guess the best way to screen this movie is to watch the
16:9 version then go into the menu and skip ahead to the full frame version of
that song which is not ideal but it's better than screening the 3 x 4 image which
As for the movie itself, it's a pretty good adaptation of the Dicken's story providing
you like the Muppets. I'm not a big fan of Henson's product but most children are
and he has a lot of adults that enjoy them too. All of the TV show characters are
worked into the story and it plays better than you might expect. Michael Caine
is one of the few live actors in the production and he makes an acceptable Scrooge.
It looks like he had a good time working on the picture. The songs are mediocre but
acceptable. Not as good as the score for "Magoo's Christmas Carol" from 1962 but better
than the tracks for the Albert Finney "Scrooge". The sound is fine.
The cinematography, set design and lighting are quite good and atmospheric. The
suppliments include some bloopers where the puppeteers stay in character when they
flub lines or bits of business as if they were real actors performing. There's also
a commentary track by Director, Brian Henson. This was the first feature after the
death of Jim Henson who died quite young.
Overall this is an acceptable quality disc but I hope they restore the cut song
to the widescreen version for a future blu ray release and no longer show the
grainy full screen copy again. The earlier disc release (not labeled as Anniversary
edition) is only the full screen version so avoid that DVD.
In summary: Picture quality for 16:9 version: A-, Cinematography A, Music B-,
Puppeteering, voice characterization and performance A if you like