Judge Clark Douglas doesn't want any part of your holiday feast. Off with you!
Our review of Walt Disney Animation Collection: Mickey's Christmas Carol, published September 30th, 2009, is also available.
"Spirit, whose lonely grave is this?"
I'm quite fond of Mickey's Christmas Carol. There have been entirely too many adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic novel over the years, but the Disney version has held up quite well. It's short, simple, relatively faithful, perfectly cast with an assortment of familiar Disney characters and packs a whole lot of charm into its 25-minute running time. Plus, there's no denying that Scrooge McDuck is an exceptional Scrooge—I mean, it's the role he was born to play. So we can all agree that the special itself is a winner, right? Right.
See, here's the thing: I'm not so sure you need to buy this Blu-ray release. There are two major problems with this release. First, despite the fact that the special only runs 25 minutes, Disney is treating the film like one of its features. That means you're expected to pay the same price (somewhere in the $20-$40 range, depending on where you shop) as you would if you were buying the Platinum Edition of The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. That's a lot to ask, particularly when there isn't really much in the way of substantial bonus features (just a handful of animated shorts).
Secondly—and this is the more serious problem—the special simply doesn't look good. Disney has scrubbed the image within an inch of its life, leaving the animation looking exceptionally clean but not very detailed. Grain, grit and nuance have been eliminated, and the whole thing looks weirdly blocky as a result. On top of that, there are quite a few moments of extreme softness. Save for a few stray moments, it doesn't look noticeably better than the DVD version released a few years earlier. I'd even rank it below the work Disney did on The Sword and the Stone. I hate to say it, but I'm beginning to lose confidence in the House of Mouse, which for a while seemed like it was handling all of its hi-def releases with great care. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is fine, but unremarkable. The choral songs sound fairly rich, but dialogue is still on the tinny side now and then.
Supplements include five bonus shorts, four of which have been released at various points in the past. "The Hockey Champ," "Pluto's Christmas Tree," "The Art of Skiing" and "Corn Chips" are all fun, seasonally appropriate vintage shorts, and honestly some of them look a bit better than the primary feature. The only new feature is called "Yodelberg," and it's easily the worst thing on the disc. Adopting a cheap-looking animated style better suited to a low-budget Cartoon Network show than to an official Disney short, it stands out in a negative way. There are a couple of amusing gags, but it's too short (it only runs 3 and ½ minutes), cheap and clunky to make a real impression. You also get the Disney Intermission feature, which plays musical sing-a-long numbers when you pause the film.
I really wish I had something more cheerful to report, but only diehard Disney animation junkies need to pick this one up. Everyone else is better off sticking with the DVD release. Mickey's Christmas Carol deserves better. Bah, humbug!
The special is free to go, but this release is guilty.
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