Warner Bros. // 1974 // 51 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Neal Masri (Retired) // October 21st, 2010
"I'm Mr Heat Blister, I'm Mister Hundred and One"- The Heat Miser
A childhood Christmas favorite of many a Gen-Xer makes its way to Blu-ray.
Santa Claus has decided to sit this year out! He's too tired to deliver presents to the good little boys and girls and has decided to take a holiday from the Holidays. Meanwhile, Mrs. Claus and two good hearted elves are trying to help a child find the Christmas spirit in time to stop a year without a Santa Claus.
From Rankin-Bass, the folks who brought us numerous holiday specials including the beloved Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer comes The Year Without a Santa Claus. Revisiting an old childhood favorite like this can be dicey territory. How we remember a beloved show from our childhood is often very different when viewed through the eyes of a cynical adult.
There is no modern equivalent to the shudder of excitement I felt when that twirling, rainbow colored, bongo accompanied "CBS Special Presentation" logo popped up. Shows like this one seemed extra special because you had one shot at watching them the whole year. If you missed it, tough luck and see you next Christmas. Some of the inherent excitement and sense of occasion is missing when these older, beloved titles are available for viewing whenever and wherever you want.
The somewhat scattershot plot gets rolling with Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney, Night at the Museum) complaining of various ailments and proclaiming he is too tired to deliver presents this year. Further, Santa is convinced the world no longer cares for him. Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth, Hazel) then decides to send two elves, Jingle (Bob McFadden) and Jangle (Bradley Bolke) to discover signs of the Christmas spirit out in the world. The two elves wind up in Southtown where they come across a boy, Ignatius Thistlewhite (Colin Duffy), who doesn't believe in Santa Claus. The boy says he will believe if the two elves can make it snow in Southtown for Christmas.
To make this magical holiday weather happen, our heroes have to deal with Heat Miser (Dick Shawn, The Producers) and the Cold Miser (George S. Irving), two brothers who control all the cold and hot weather in the world. Sound a bit convoluted? It is...much more so than I remembered. If you're like me, the Miser brothers made for the most entertaining and memorable parts of the show. Many people of a certain age can still sing portions of their production numbers. For whatever reason, those guys turned out to be the breakout stars of this particular show. Funny thing is, they're not in it that much. However, for those who can't get enough of the Miser Brothers, look out for a 2008 special featuring the pair called A Miser Brothers' Christmas.
The Blu-ray version of The Year Without A Santa Claus is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The disc is packaged with a DVD version as well and, quite frankly, the picture quality between the two is barely discernible. Both versions show some source flaws and film scratches. The Blu-ray version ekes out a slight lead in presentation of colors and some improved clarity. The 5.1 audio is front focused with the subwoofer and surrounds accenting the music at times. Considering the source material, a '70s era TV show, video and audio should be graded on a curve and considered acceptable for a release of this kind.
There are two additional animated features included in this set. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year tells the story of how Rudolph uses his shiny nose to save the new year. Rudolph gets an assist in this from, among others, a caveman and Ben Franklin. Don't ask. Rounding out the animated features is Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey which is essentially a re-telling of the Rudolph story substituting long ears for a shiny nose. Of note in the Nestor story is the fact that it is told in conjunction with the story of the birth of Christ. As best I can remember, this is the sole reference to Christ in the otherwise secular Rankin-Bass holiday canon.
The extras are present on both the Blu-ray and DVD version of this release. Two featurettes are included. "We Are Santa's Elves" tell the story the Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass holiday specials through vintage clips and interviews. The interviews seem fairly recent and emphasize what a labor of love these shows were. "School of Stop Motion" is standard "making of" fare giving us a brief history of stop motion animation along with some nuts and bolts explanation the stop motion process.
While this production doesn't rise to the quality level of Rudolph -- Rankin-Bass' best effort -- The Year Without A Santa Claus is still a charming trip down memory lane. Many others must agree, as the show continues to air every year and has received numerous home video releases. If you're my age, chances are you've seen this and know whether you like it before you buy. If you have kids, chances are they'll be entertained even if you're not.
The deficit of a fairly nonsensical plot is overcome by charming stop motion animation, catchy songs and a timeless message about the Christmas spirit.
Not guilty. That once a year magic is gone, but kids and nostalgic Gen-Xers
will probably dig it.
Review content copyright © 2010 Neal Masri; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 51 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episodes
* DVD Copy