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SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN is one of those childhood favorites that I’ve managed to watch every year, despite the fact that I should have outgrown this Rankin/Bass holiday special a couple of decades ago. I guess there is something about the stop motion animation that really appeals to me, or the fact that I never really grew up keeps me coming back to this television program year after year. Either way, I still enjoy watching SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN every holiday season and now have the ability to avoid commercials by popping the Golden Books Family Entertainment/Sony-Wonder DVD release into my player.

Utilizing the song Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town as inspiration this delightful musical holiday special tells the life story of that jolly toy bringer, who makes an appearance every Christmas Eve. It seems that Santa was orphaned as a baby and raised by the Kringles- a family of toy making elves. When Kris Kringle grows to manhood, he makes good on a lifelong promise to deliver his adoptive family’s backlog of toys to the children of Sombertown, which is on the other side of the nearby mountain range. Unfortunately, Kris discovers that no good deed goes unpunished, as he manages to he run afoul of the Winter Warlock that lives on mysterious mountain, as well as the Burgermeister Meisterburger, who has outlawed all toys in Sombertown. Soon Kris is a wanted fugitive, who continually repeats his crime of giving toys to deserving children. SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN features the vocal talents of Fred Astaire as The Narrator, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock and Paul Frees as Burgermeister Meisterburger.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN is presented in the 4:3 television aspect ratio of its original production. Considering that this television special is over thirty years old, the DVD looks pretty darn nice. In general, the image is slightly soft, but still looks a lot better than a typical television broadcast. The transfer does provide all the clarity and detail that one could hope for from a stop motion production of this caliber and age. It appears that the film element is the weakest link in the transfer process, with the mild softness being inherent in the original photography. Also, the print displays a number of small blemishes to remind one of the production’s age. Colors are nicely rendered with good saturation, and strong, stable reds. Blacks appear accurate and shadow detail remains good because of the program’s lighting design. Clean authoring keep digital compression artifacts out of sight.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is rather pleasant sounding, especially when one considers this program’s television origins. Fidelity is midrange; lacking extreme highs and lows, but does a nice job of reproducing the musical numbers. Dialogue is clean sounding and completely understandable. No other languages or subtitles are provided on the DVD.

As a bonus, the Rankin/Bass holiday special THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY is included on the DVD as a second feature. This religious themed program takes the well-known Christmas song and dramatizes in typical Rankin/Bass stop motion fashion. The program tells the story of an embittered orphaned drummer boy, who is kidnapped by a corrupt showman who drags him off to the town of Bethlehem to perform for those coming to the village to pay their taxes to Rome. Along the way, the Three Wise Men and the infant king that they have journeyed to see forever change the little drummer boy’s harsh outlook on life. THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY features the vocal talents of Josť Ferrer, Paul Frees, June Foray, Ted Eccles and Greer Garson.

Again, THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY is presented in the proper 4:3 television aspect ratio. Unfortunately, the film elements for 1968’s THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY are in poor shape, which produces a less than stellar video presentation. The image is somewhat dark, murky and grainy, with only adequate definition. Colors tend to be a bit faded as well. While the program is certainly watchable, let’s hope that someday someone unearths better looking film elements for this holiday special. The Dolby Digital monaural track actually sounds better than the program looks. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and the musical numbers are reproduced with decent fidelity. There is a bit of warble in a couple of spots, but for the most part, THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY sounds nice.

Full motion video, animation and music enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one can select either program as well as scenes within the programs. No other supplements are provided on the DVD.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN is a delightful Christmas special that is great for kids and the parents that grew up watching it themselves. The Golden Books Family Entertainment/Sony-Wonder DVD release looks and sounds quite nice, making this a holiday DVD that belongs in every Christmas collection.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN is available on DVD individually for $19.98 or as part of a boxed set along with RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and FROSTY THE SNOWMAN/FROSTY RETURNS for $56.98.




Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town/The Little Drummer Boy/Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Frosty the Snowman/Frosty Returns (3-DVD Gift Collection)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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