Chief Justice Michael Stailey graduated top of his class at Kringle Academy.
Our review of Prep & Landing (Blu-ray) Totally Tinsel Collection, published December 10th, 2012, is also available.
No one does stealth like an elf.
If you like Pixar's short films and love Christmas, you're going to adore Disney's Prep & Landing. Premiering on ABC during the 2009 holiday season, this House of Mouse holiday short enchanted critics, animation lovers, and audience alike. Brought to us by the team behind Disney's first theatrical short in decades Goofy's How to Set Up Your Home Theater, and now available on DVD, this one proves the demise of televised Christmas specials has been greatly exaggerated.
The elf squad known as "Prep & Landing" are Santa's equivalent of Navy Seals; first on the scene, their mission is to secure the entrance, sweep the home for creatures stirring and neutralize any who are, trim the tree such that all gifts will fit beneath it, vet any treats left for the big man and his reindeer, and return to the roof to ensure a safe landing. But when you've been doing the same job for more than 200 years like Wayne (Dave Foley, Newsradio) has, you've earned a promotion from the field into a cushy desk job. Just don't count your Christmas Peeps before they hatch. Sometimes Santa has other plans, and your spite at his perceived rebuke could result in dire circumstances.
I won't reveal any more, as watching this one unfold is half the fun. The mark of a good short film is the void it leaves in an audience wanting to see more, and that's exactly what Prep & Landing achieves. The story is so original, the pacing so tight, the dialogue so sharp, and the performances so spot on, you can't help wanting to spend more time in this universe. Lucky for us, Disney has provided a second helping of assorted treats to satisfy that hunger.
In addition to the main feature, there are two additional shorts…
Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa in which Mrs. Claus (Betty White, Hot in Cleveland) tasks Wayne and his partner Lanny (Derek Richardson, Hostel) with retrieving a priceless item buried deep within Santa's private workshop, and they only have a few minutes to complete the mission. (7 min)
Prep & Landing: Tiny's Big Adventure in which Magee (Sarah Chalke, Scrubs) faithful assistant—who's so short we never see more than the tip of his hat—is charged with making a fresh pot of coffee. Insanity and hilarity ensue. (3 min)
Still not enough? How about a wealth of stylized hand drawn animated shorts…
Kringle Academy Training Films (5 min)—Orientation, Equipment Training, Dos and Don'ts
North Pole News (2 min)—Done in classic 1940s newsreel style
North Pole Commercials (2 min)—ElfDate.com, The Fruitcake Factory, Spa Navidad
Disney also throws in a Digital Copy, so you can load up your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and keep the kids entertained during your hectic holiday travels.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format, Prep & Landing may not have the bright pristine beauty of ABC's original HD broadcast presentation, but you'll be hard pressed to find fault with these visuals. Sharp detail, bright festive colors, and magnificent use of lighting (since most scenes take place at night), you can't help but see Pixar's influence on this Disney home office animation team, many of whom worked on films like Tangled, Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Chicken Little. In fact, special mention goes out to Billy "Mac" George and his production team for designs so contemporary and fresh, one can only hope technology doesn't advance so far that these elf operatives look like The Jetsons ten or twenty years down the road. In terms of audio, Disney's 5.1 Dolby Surround makes the most of its sound field to put us right in the middle of the action…and I do mean action. The climax to Prep & Landing will make you wonder whether or not this team can actually dig themselves out of a very deep hole.
This DVD presentation of Prep & Landing serves as a primer for Disney's newest 22 min holiday short, Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice in which Lanny and Wayne must partner with Wayne's estranged brother Noel (Rob Riggle, Larry Crowne)—a disgruntled member of the Coal Elf Brigade—to recover classified North Pole technology that's fallen into the hands of the world's naughtiest computer hacker.
So whereas I've been tough on Warner Home Video for their shoddy, ill conceived holiday special releases, Disney has done right by Prep & Landing, with enough replayability value to warrant a purchase. Just be prepared to upgrade to a comprehensive Blu-ray release, when they decide to stop making new holiday adventures.
Have a holly jolly good time!
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