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Big Idea Productions presents
VeggieTales: An Easter Carol (2004)

"How many times do I have to tell you, there's no such thing as ghosts! You're having a vision. It's like a dream... with a point."
- Grandma Nezzer (Tim Hodge)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: February 09, 2004

Stars: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki
Other Stars: Lisa Vischer, Tim Hodge, Rebecca St. James
Director: Tim Hodge

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (wholesome family values)
Run Time: 00h:49m:22s
Release Date: February 10, 2004
UPC: 794051728227
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B-AB+ A-

DVD Review

When the team at Big Idea Productions decided to produce a VeggieTales version of the Christmas story, they knew that they were going to have to follow-up with an Easter installment. After all, the stories do compliment each other nicely. So, a year or so after the release of Star of Christmas, a Gilbert and Sullivan send-up that manages to include a lesson about the birth of Jesus without getting too preachy, comes An Easter Carol, a similarly subtle Christian story that somehow lacks the humor and genuine wit of most other releases in the "talking vegetables imparting values" series.

Star of Christmas managed to find an interesting new way to teach a very old lesson, and I quite enjoyed the send-up of classic musical theater. An Easter Carol keeps the setting in turn-of-the-century England and all the same characters (including Bob the Tomato as Cavis and Larry the Cucumber as Millward), but abandons the song-and-dance routine for yet another tired take-off on Dickens' A Christmas Carol (hence the name). Adapting the perennial Christmas favorite to Easter may never have been done before, but I've seen the Scrooge story integrated into everything from a Bill Murray comedy, to a weird British musical, to a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial, so pardon me if I'm more than a little sick of it.

Beyond the rather dull set-up, it's a fine interpretation. Bob and Larry are working for Mr. Nezzer (the one who owned the chocolate bunny factory in the early release Rack, Shack, and Benny) to pay him back for the theater they blew up in Star of Christmas. He owns a factory that makes plastic Easter eggs (laid by robot chickens), and he thinks Easter is all about making money. He can't understand why people would want to spend it in church when they could be eating candy. When he decides to tear down the place of worship to build an Easter theme park, it's up to the spirit of Hope (voiced by Christian pop singer Rebecca St. James, filling in for the ghosts of Easter past, present, and future) to show him what Easter is really about (hence her name).

Most of the VeggieTales videos concentrate more on Biblical lessons that actual theology, generic ideas like "obey your parents" or "do unto others." Obviously an Easter story has to get a little more specific than that, and overt reference is made to Jesus' death and resurrection as the key to eternal life (really, and these are vegetables), so parents who are uncomfortable with strong religious content may want to check this one out first. In the bonus materials, series creator Phil Vischer reveals it's a company rule that Jesus never be portrayed as a vegetable, so the visualization of the Easter story is presented through stained glass windows (and a song from St. James), making for one of the program's better moments.

Overall, though it's a nice enough story, it's sub-par for VeggieTales. Favorite (and funny) characters like Bob and Larry are pushed into the background to make room for the unappealing Mr. Nezzer (who has a very long, very boring song that stops the film cold) and Hope, who is new, and kind of annoying. The director comments in the bonus materials that Rebecca St. James was a good choice because, being from Australia, she didn't have to worry about affecting an English accent. Except an Australian accent sounds absolutely nothing like an English accent, and it's distracting. There is a lot of moralizing and not much humor, and when your show stars animate foodstuffs, you need humor.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: As is true of all the other releases in the series, VeggieTales: An Easter Carol's computer animation translates very well to DVD. The image is very solid, with bright colors and clean lines that don't show obvious aliasing or digital artifacts. Very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in both 2.0 and 5.1 English mixes. Both sound fine, and feature a strong front soundstage with a nice, clear presentation of the dialogue and the peppy musical score. The surround track is the one to go with, though, as the Big Idea sound designers seem to be getting better at creating more complex mixes. There is some good atmospheric surround use this time around, particular in the Easter egg factory, with all the machines thumping in the background.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, Ballad of Little Joe, A Snoodle's Tale, Sumo of the Opera, Star of Christmas, Dave and the Giant Pickle, Madame Blueberry, Rack, Shack, and Benny, Josh and the Big Wall, The Toy that Saved Christmas, King George and the Ducky
2 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Tim Hodge and writer/co-creator Phil Vischer
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Progression Reel and Concept Art
  2. 3 Interactive Games
  3. Veggie Karaoke
  4. 2 Interactive Storybooks
  5. 4 "Family Fun" Activities
Extras Review: With each release, Big Idea Productions seem to pack more and more bonus content onto its DVDs. As always, the supplements provide a nice mix of making-of material and "fun for the whole family" interactivity. While I, personally, don't get much out of the "Fun activity for [me] to do with [my] family!" I suppose the target audience might still be at an age when coloring book time with mom and dad would be considered entertainment. As opposed to "Wednesday night at the nursing home."

Anyway, the extras are helpfully divided into Features (stuff that animation fans young and old will enjoy) and Fun (stuff fans young and parents of said will enjoy and endure). Let's start off with the former, shall we? Series co-creator Phil Vischer and director Tim Hodge contribute a fairly amusing audio commentary, during which they discuss the genesis of the project, how they decided to create it as a sequel to The Star of Christmas, and the difficulties posed by that whole "Wait... so did Jesus die for vegetables, or what?" question that pops up all the time on Easter Sunday in Crazy Town. They run out of things to say halfway through and proceed to narrate what's happening onscreen, though in a much more entertaining and self-deprecating fashion than one might imagine.

Two featurettes provide a bit of amusement. A seven-minute behind the scenes covers fairly typical ground (and repeats what's included in the commentary), but adds goodies like interviews with the cast and peeks at the animation process. The five-minute stained glass piece reveals a bit about the history of the windows, and also shows you how they are made today (it's pretty cool, actually). Also included in this sub-section is a gallery of concept art, a progression reel with a multi-angle look at different stages of production, and a hefty preview gallery with 11 spots for other VeggieTales releases, including the upcoming Sumo of the Opera, described as a cross between The Mikado, Rocky, Japanese wrestling, and the WWF. Sounds good to me.

Shall we have Fun? This is one intimidating menu. There are no less than 12 options for you to choose from. The three interactive games (a trivia challenge, an Easter egg hunt, and a maze) are targeted towards the younger set (though some of the trivia questions are kind of hard). Karaoke fans can sing along to the song Boids. There are interactive storybooks for An Easter Carol and Star of Christmas, humorous character bios, and "How to Draw" segments for Hope and the mechanical chickens. Finally, there are two activities for kids and families. The craft project is "How to make a stained glass window," but the ones the kids make look nowhere near as good as the professional ones on display in Features. Pathetic, really. I mean, blobs of melted wax? That's not a window, son. That's not a window at all.

There are easter eggs (how apropos) scattered throughout. They're easy to find and fairly worthwhile. The back of the box advertises LarryBoy and 3-2-1 Penguins! shorts, but I certainly can't find them.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

An Easter Carol is far from my favorite installment in the venerable VeggieTales series, but it still makes for good family entertainment. Provided that, for this release anyway, your family practices Christianity. The DVD, meanwhile, is probably the best yet from Big Idea Productions.

 


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