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Paramount Studios presents
Spongebob Squarepants Christmas (1999)

"They want juggling and jokes at the same time? Tough crowd!"
- SpongeBob Squarepants (Tom Kenny)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 10, 2003

Stars: Tom Kenny
Other Stars: Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:51m:31s
Release Date: September 30, 2003
UPC: 097368791343
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BBB+ C-

DVD Review

Paramount has already issued a number of individual SpongeBob discs, some loosely themed (as with this Christmas release), and they have muddied the confusing waters by now starting up with full season sets of the series as well. Do you go with these spotty 'best of' discs, or hold off for full seasons? What's a cartoon fan to do?

SpongeBob, as his theme song says, is the child-like sponge who "lives in a pineapple under the sea," in the town of Bikini Bottom, and has a pet snail named Gary. SpongeBob's best friends are a thickheaded, but well-meaning starfish named Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) and a squirrel (outfitted for deep sea diving) from Texas named Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence). His neighbor is a cranky, sarcastic, clarinet-playing squid known as Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), who is constantly aggravated by the talkative, innocently-annoying SpongeBob. The little pants-wearing sea sponge is also the spatula-waving lead fry cook at The Krusty Krab, home of the delicious Krabby Patty.

With this budget-priced nine episode release from Paramount and Nickelodeon, SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas is dominated primarily by episodes from Seasons Two and Three. The concept of a themed disc is really stretched pretty thin, as the only true Christmas episode of the nine on this release is the double-length Christmas Who?, with snow featured in three of the others as an attempt to link it all together. Five of the nine episodes are described as "bonus" episodes, which is marketing-speak for "these have nothing to do with Christmas and we needed to fill up the DVD somehow." There's still a steady dose of funny stuff here, even if things like Squeaky Boots beat the same joke to death for eight minutes. The humor, by and large, is typical SpongeBob, meaning that there are plenty of quick and hearty nonsensical laughs to be found.

What's on SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas? you ask?
Let's take a look:

Christmas Who?
Original Air Date: 12/06/02
Season Two

"I can't believe anybody would celebrate a holiday where a jolly prowler breaks into your house and leaves gifts." - Squidward

The only actual Christmas-themed episode on this disc is double-length episode (i.e., about 20 minutes), bookended by some cringe-worthy live-action "comedy" by Tom Kenny as Patchy The Pirate. The Patchy stuff notwithstanding, Christmas Who? is a dang funny installment where SpongeBob learns about Christmas from Sandy, and proceeds to convince the populace of Bikini Bottom to write letters to Santa. When Santa fails to show up, an unlikely character decides to try and salvage the situation, with comic results. This episode features a great Christmas song full of silly lyrics, goofy dancing, and Mr. Krabs singing falsetto harmonies.


Procrastination
Original Air Date: 11/30/01
Season Two

"C'mon, pencil! Make words!" - SpongeBob

SpongeBob has to write an 800-word essay on "What Not to Do at a Traffic Light" for Mrs. Puff's Driving School, but he spends his whole time procrastinating (hence the title), doing everything from mopping the floor to polishing his garbage. I'm a sucker for this kind of dumb humor, and it works really well here, especially during a bizarre Dali-esque dream sequence.


Snowball Effect
Original Air Date: 02/22/02
Season Three

"Join my army and we will defeat the pink menace!" - SpongeBob

When an errant hunk of glacier brings snow to Bikini Bottom it sets the stage for snowball wars between SpongeBob and Patrick. Squidward's hopes that they "knock each other's brains out" prompts a surreal visual gag, and of course it isn't long before the reluctant squid does becomes a paranoid snowball warrior himself.


Survival of the IdiotsOriginal Air Date: 03/05/01
Season Two

"SpongeBob, when are you going to learn 'no' means 'yes'?" - Patrick

For some reason the Sandy-themed episodes are my least favorite, and this one finds SpongeBob and Patrick trapped inside the squirrel's underwater dome during her hibernation. Sandy morphs into a slobbering giant as her winter's sleep is constantly interrupted by you know who, and the general level of the jokes in Survival of the Idiots are really hit-or-miss. Yet it is almost worth it to see SpongeBob decked out in giant eyebrows and a goatee made out of Sandy's fur. Almost.


Mermaidman and Barnacleboy IV
Original Air Date: 01/21/02
Season Three

"For 65 years this belt has prevented the fall of nations. And pants." - SpongeBob

Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway once again reprise their semi-recurring roles as the aging title superheroes, and when Mermaidman accidently leaves his utility belt at The Krusty Krab it falls into the hands of SpongeBob. Havoc ensues when the dreaded powers of the belt (and SpongeBob's simplemindedness) shrinks all of Bikini Bottom. This is solid episode, with plenty of dumb sight gags.


Chocolate with Nuts
Original Air Date: 06/01/02
Season Three

"That's it, Patrick. We've got to become entrepreneurs." - SpongeBob

In an attempt to increase their cash flow, SpongeBob and Patrick become travelling door-to-door chocolate bar salesmen. The pair, unfortunately, are easily distracted by just about anything, including a con man who sells them carrying bags to carry their carrying bags of candy. A bizarre moment occurs when they encounter an old lady and disturbingly older mother, and it somehow manages to transcend simple comedy into outright creepiness.


As Seen on TV
Original Air Date: 03/08/02
Season Three

"These people demand entertainment!" - SpongeBob

One of the gems on this set is As Seen on TV, whereby SpongeBob's nanosecond appearance in a Krusty Krab commercial has him believing that all of Bikini Bottom is starstruck with him. He quits his fry cook gig, and can't figure out he can't please the crowds around him (who in reality only want a Krabby Patty). This prompts some great visual gags, as well the Vegas-crooner-esque Striped Sweater song. HA!


Pizza Delivery
Original Air Date: 08/14/99
Season One

"Now I can show you how the pioneers hitch-hiked." - SpongeBob

Squidward and SpongeBob get paired off to tackle the very first pizza delivery from the Krusty Krab, and of course things go horribly wrong. Between getting lost, an angry customer, and SpongeBob's annoyingly memorable pizza song, this one is laugh-heavy. Squidward even manages to show a little rarely seen compassion for SpongeBob, though it doesn't last long.


Squeaky Boots
Original Air Date: 09/04/99
Season One

"Gary, these boots have changed my life. I'm never taking them off." - SpongeBob

This one-joke episode has little in the way of laughs, and lives to retread the same gag over and over. SpongeBob receives a pair of "fry cook boots" that squeak when he walks, and the core of repetitive joke here is how Mr. Krabs is slowly driven insane by the squeaky noises. According to my 12-year-old daughter Sammy, "No one likes this episode; it goes on too long."

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Each of the episodes on this disc, as with all others in the series, are presented in their original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. As you would expect for an animated program, the colors look especially bold and bright, with well-rendered blacks. The nitpicker in me became aware of some minor image ringing, more so than I've noticed on some of the other SpongeBob collections.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Paramount has been very consistent with the audio transfer on the with SpongeBob titles, and like the others, this one is a front-heavy 2.0 surround track. The presentation is ample, and more than well suited for the animated material. Dialogue is clean, with character voices clear and mixed upfront. There is some directional imaging across the front speakers, with character voices coming in from the left or right when appropriate.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring SpongeBob Squarepants DVD and VHS collections, Rugrats Go Wild, The Wild Thornberries Movie, Jimmy Neutron DVD and VHS collections, and Tak: The Power of the JuJu video game.
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Stephen Hillenburg, Tom Kenny
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This release doesn't measure up as well as some of the other SpongeBob releases with supplementals, and it seems as if Paramount is really stretching at times for content. There's less on this title than on just about any of the others. Creator Stephen Hillenburg and SpongeBob voice talent Tom Kenny provide a commentary for the Christmas Who? episode, and like their other commentaries on earlier titles in the series, is a remarkably dull affair. I still think having the characters do a commentary would be a great idea.

The best part, and something that has become a regular feature, is a segment that presents the entire Christmas Who? episode in black-and-white pencil sketch storyboard format, with no sound effects or music, only voice work. It's interesting to see the early stages of the creative process, as well as seeing some of the rough sketches used to flesh out ideas.

Also included are previews for assorted Nickelodeon titles. The disc is cut into nine chapters (one per episode), and does not include any subtitles.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

You'll have to make the decision whether you hold off on these "best of" sets, and wait for the full season sets. As you're mulling that over, realize that this isn't the strongest SpongeBob title, but there are still a number of episodes worth watching.

Plus, I demand that you all learn the song from Christmas Who?, sing it incessantly and treat it with the holiday reverence it deserves. It will be stuck in your head, so you might as well give in.

For the price, this one's worth it for diehard SpongeBob fans.

 


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