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THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS ($20) is a genuine holiday treat and a great value, because this DVD actually contains three separate Rankin/Bass stop motion animation specials. In addition to THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS the DVD also offers NESTOR THE LONG-EARED CHRISTMAS DONKEY and RUDOLPH'S SHINY NEW YEAR.

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. 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.

Warner Home Video has done a very nice job of bringing all three of these holiday specials to DVD. All are presented in their original 4:3 full screen television ratios, and the transfers boast impressive image quality. Everything appears crisp, very colorful and nicely defined. There are a few minor print flaws here and there, which is understandable, considering that the oldest of the specials is just slightly more than a quarter of a century old. There is a mild film grain that appears in a few spots, but it is hardly bothersome. The vibrant colors are reproduced without any signs or chroma noise or bleeding. There are no signs of digital compression artifacts to mar any of the presentations.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks have limited television quality fidelity, which places its emphasis on dialogue reproduction. Dialogue is always fully intelligible, however the songs a tad compressed sounding, and at higher volume levels, there is a bit of hiss. Subtitles have been provided on the DVD in English and French.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one a choice of programs, as well as scene access within the programs and the ability to select subtitles.

While THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS may not be on the same level as some of the better-known Rankin/Bass holiday specials, it remains good fun for children, as well as their parents who grew up watching them. With the addition of NESTOR THE LONG-EARED CHRISTMAS DONKEY and RUDOLPH'S SHINY NEW YEAR, the solid presentation make this a most own holiday DVD.


The Year Without a Santa Claus



DVD reviews are Copyright 2000 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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