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Of all the animated Christmas specials that I enjoyed during my childhood, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! was my favorite because it featured the voice of horror movie icon Boris Karloff. I grew up on all the old Universal horror movies and loved this special because it had found a way to add a bit of horror to the happiest time of the year. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! combines the talents of writer Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel) with those of animator Chuck Jones, who was responsible for so many classic Warner Bros. cartoons. The Dr. Seuss story is set in the community of Whoville, which is preparing to celebrate Christmas. High above Whoville lives a nasty Christmas hating creature known as The Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff). To alleviate his holiday misery, The Grinch decides he must steal all of the trappings of the season from the Whos and ruin Christmas down in Whoville. Dressing up as Santa, The Grinch pays a Christmas Eve visit to Whoville and fills up his sleigh with everything even remotely related to the Yuletide season. In addition to voicing The Grinch, Boris Karloff also serves as the story’s narrator. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! also features the voices of June Foray as Cindy Lou Who and Thurl Ravenscroft, who sings The Grinch’s theme song- You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.


Not a Christmas program, but bundled with HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! is Dr. Seuss’s HORTON HEARS A WHO. Narrated by Hans Conried, HORTON HEARS A WHO is a slightly off centered tale about an elephant named Horton, who is able to hear a population of tiny people living on a dust speck. Of course, no one else possesses Hotron’s elephantine ears, so none of the other jungle residents hear anything coming from the dust speck. Believing that the elephant is crazy, Horton’s fellow creatures decide that something must be done about him before he becomes a danger to the community. Although the story goes to extremes, HORTON HEARS A WHO teaches a solid lesson in tolerance, after all, "a person is a person, no matter how small."


In THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS, Shirley Booth lends her voice to the role of Mrs. Santa and tells of the year that Santa Claus was feeling too tired to make his Christmas Eve trek. Hoping to change his mind, Mrs. Santa sends two trusty elves out into the world to find some Christmas spirit, which she hopes will put Santa in the holiday mood. Of course, the two elves run into problems, which requires the efforts of both Mr. and Mrs. Claus to set things right. By the way, THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS is the special that includes appearances by the characters known as Snow Miser and Heat Miser, as well as their signature songs. Other vocal talents include Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, George S. Irving, Bob McFadden, Rhoda Mann, Bradley Bolke, Ron Marshall, Colin Duffy and Christine Winter.


NESTOR THE LONG-EARED CHRISTMAS DONKEY tells the story of the very first Christmas from the point of view of the title character. Although a donkey, Nestor is a character who has a lot in common with another character immortalized in a Rankin/Bass holiday special- namely Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Like Rudolph, Nestor is an outcast because of his non-conformity. Nestor's ears continually trip him up, so nobody wants him, until a man named Joseph decides that he is the perfect donkey to carry his wife Mary, who is with child, to Bethlehem. When they do arrive at their destination, they discover no room at the inn, so Nestor leads them to a place that has always brought him comfort. NESTOR THE LONG-EARED CHRISTMAS DONKEY features the vocal talents of Roger Miller, Brenda Vaccaro, Paul Frees, Don Messick, Linda Gary, Iris Rainer, Shelly Hines and Eric Stern.


In RUDOLPH'S SHINY NEW YEAR, Red Skelton plays the role of Father Time, in addition to narrating this tale of a runaway Baby New Year, which threatens to stop time from moving past December 31st. Of course, the only individual for the job of finding the missing Baby New Year is Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. With his shiny red nose to guide the way, Rudolph searches through the archipelago of last years to find the infant before he falls into the clutches of Eon- an evil giant bird whose time is almost up. In addition to Skelton, RUDOLPH'S SHINY NEW YEAR includes the vocal talents of Frank Gorshin, Morey Amsterdam, Harold Peary, Paul Frees, Billie Mae Richards, Don Messick and Iris Rainer.


FROSTY'S WINTER WONDERLAND finds Jack Frost envious of Frosty The Snowman’s popularity with the kids during the wintertime season. Of course, life isn’t sunshine and roses for Frosty, since he is the only living snowman. Frosty’s friends make him a girlfriend named Crystal, but unfortunately, she isn’t alive. However, Frosty gives his new girlfriend a simple gift of his affection, which brings Crystal to life. Not surprisingly, Jack Frost is less than thrilled with Frosty’s good fortune in the romance department, and sets out to ruin Frosty and Crystal’s new relationship. FROSTY'S WINTER WONDERLAND features the vocal talents of Andy Griffith, Shelley Winters, Dennis Day, Paul Frees and Jackie Vernon.


RUDOLPH AND FROSTY'S CHRISTMAS IN JULY brings together the two title stars for a little summertime fun. The premise of this stop motion animated tale finds the evil wizard Winterbolt wanting to gain dominance over the North Pole and get rid of Santa. However, the magic contained in Rudolph’s nose prevents Winterbolt from carrying out his evil intentions. Right on cue, Winterbolt leans that if the magic in Rudolph’s nose will be extinguished forever if is ever used for evil, so the wizard takes advantage an offer for Rudolph and Frosty to participate in a July Fourth Circus, offering a little limited time magic that will help Frosty and family keep their cool in the summertime heat… as long as he gets what he wants. RUDOLPH AND FROSTY'S CHRISTMAS IN JULY features the vocal talents of Red Buttons, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Alan Sues, Jackie Vernon, Shelley Winters, Paul Frees, Billie Mae Richards, Harold Peary, Shelby Flint, and Don Messick.


‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is very loosely adapted from the poem by Clement Moore- the date, the notion of a mouse and a pending visit from Santa are pretty much what ties this animated program to the poem. The premise of ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS finds that Santa has turned his back on an entire town, after an anonymous letter indicates that none of its citizens believe he exists. It turns out that a brainy young mouse is responsible for the letter, and it falls to a local clockmaker to win the town back into Santa’s good graces with a singing clock. ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS features the vocal talents of George Gobel, Joel Grey, Tammy Grimes, Bob McFadden and John McGiver.

Warner Home Video has made all the programs that comprise CHRISTMAS TELEVISION FAVORITES ($40) available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Overall, all of the presentations are pretty terrific. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! and THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS are taken from their most recent incarnations, which do not disappoint in any way. Picture quality is a little bit variable across all the different programs, but none display any truly glaring faults. Sharpness and image detail is just fine for these types 2D cel animation and stop motion animation productions. With few exceptions, colors are usually bright and nicely saturated. Black, whites and contrast are all just fine. There is some noticeable grain in most of the programs, but it is always held in check. Digital compression artifacts are never problematic. All of the programs feature good quality Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. The tracks have all been cleaned up to remove the most glaring signs of age. Dialogue is easy to understand and the songs sound pleasant, despite the limited fidelity of these decades old recordings. Only the GRINCH and HORTON feature French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles. English subtitles are also sprinkled about on some of the other programs.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene/episode selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extra features. The extras are as follows: Chuck Jones/Dr. Seuss Collaboration, Songs In The Key Of Grinch, Dr. Seuss And The Grich- From Whoville To Hollywood, Pencil Tests, We Are Santa’s Elves and Stop Motion 101.

If you don’t have any of these wonderful Holiday programs, then the CHRISTMAS TELEVISION FAVORITES collection is an absolute must have. Recommended.



Christmas Television Favorites (Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! / The Year Without a Santa Claus / Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July / Rudolph's Shiny New Year / and More)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2007 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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