Studio: Warner Home Video
Cast: Shirley Booth, Mickey Rooney, Bob McFadden, Bradley Bolke, Ron Marshall, Dick Shawn, George S. Irving, Rhoda Mann
Director: Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass
Release Date: November 30, 2010, 3:21 pm
Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:50m:53s
ìPainting wagons red and bright, sharpening ice skates half the night, wrapping presents in ribbons and gauze has worn me weary.î - Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney)
Movie Grade: C
DVD Grade: B+
ëTis the season, folks! Believe it or not, itís time for the annual airings of the animated classics Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty, The Snowman, and even a few modern Christmas tales starring the characters from the Madagascar films and even Kung Fu Panda. Itís also time to uncover some hidden holiday gems; the TV specials that have gone relatively unnoticed for many years. One such hidden ìclassicî is The Year Without a Santa Claus, a 1974 stop-motion animation film from the minds of directors Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin. While I vaguely remember watching this as I was growing up, it didnít take me long to realize that I might have actually watched this every year, yet blocked it out of my mind due to where it stands quality-wise amongst the aforementioned animated Christmas shows. Regardless of how fondly my generation remembers The Year Without a Santa Claus, Warner Home Video is jumping at the chance to introduce it to the newest group of impressionable children out there, with this new Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack release.
The plot is standard Christmastime fare, with Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney) laid up in bed with a horrible cold. In his sick haze, Santa begins believing that children just donít care much about Christmas anymore, and makes the horrible decision to call the whole thing off for one year. With Santa down and out, Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) takes it upon herself to restore the spirit of Christmas, and calls upon a pair of foolhardy elves named Jingle (Bob McFadden) and Jangle (Bradley Bolke) to help her keep the holiday alive. When their trip to ìSouthtown, USAî goes awry, Mrs. Claus and company seek the help of the townís mayor (Ron Marshall), who will only lend a hand if they can somehow make it snow. To pull this off, Mrs. Claus turns to none other than the Snow Miser (Dick Shawn) and Heat Miser (George S. Irving), who, due to their incessant fighting over weather-related issues, cause her to go to the next level, and seek out Mother Nature (Rhoda Mann) herself.
My dislike of The Year Without a Santa Claus does not stem from the film simply being too old, or not holding up over time. I still enjoy most of the Holiday classics I grew up watching, and still love, I mean LOVE, Emmit Otterís Jugband Christmas. No, I dislike The Year Without a Santa Claus because itís just simply not very engaging, Holiday show or not. Sure, itís got relatively the same look and feel as Rudolph and Frosty, but, save for a few nice sequences, none of the magic. Other than Mrs. Claus, there really isnít a likeable character in the bunch, Santa Claus included. Sure, the Snow Miser and Heat Miser are memorable, at least from a nostalgic perspective, but theyíre just in too bad of a mood ALL OF THE TIME to render them tolerable, let alone remotely likeable.
Ok, now that Iíve got that out of my system, Iíd be remiss for not explaining how I can see why this show would at least moderately appeal to todayís youngsters. The main reason being that it is, well, a Christmas show, and kids will pretty much watch anything involving this particular holiday. When I sat down to watch this with my 6-year- old daughter (it was her first viewing), she was mesmerized throughout, remaining mostly silent, which is a rare occasion unto itself. If a new batch of kids is going to gravitate towards The Year Without a Santa Claus, they couldnít pick a better format than this new Blu-ray disc. The stop-motion animation-based images boast a vibrant color palette that really sparkles at times, boasting strong black levels as well. The 1080p presentation pays huge attention to detail broadcasting each and every minute physical aspect of the puppets construction and clothing, making it difficult to believe that this first aired way back in 1974. The audio isnít as impressive as the video, but the Dolby digital 5.1 mix still boasts some nice directional effects and strong, clear dialogue throughout. Unfortunately, none of the extras are presented in high definition, but they do include two other Holiday classics, Rudolphís Shiny New Year and Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, both of which are actually far more enjoyable than the feature presentation.
Chuck Aliaga November 30, 2010, 3:21 pm