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Kevin Krock, editor

DVD Review

Ah, the holiday season is upon us once again, and it is time to start getting into that wintery, holiday mood. One of the typical ways that families, including mine, get in the mood is to put on those favorite holiday movies, pop up some popcorn, build a roaring fire, and have a family movie night or two.

To help make the most of your precious time, I have reviewed a number of titles in the past couple of years, like The Peanuts, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, and The Santa Clause. This year, there are a few more titles to consider, so read on to find out which ones are worth your time, and which ones you can leave wrapped on the shelf.

Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving
(1999) | Approx. 70 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio * Video **
Goodies * Interface **
Value *

The Disc

This compilation DVD features three Winnie the Pooh stories that appear to be taken directly from the New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh television series. The first episode is “Groundpiglet Day,” which has Pooh and the gang searching for winter. The second episode is "A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving,” and this one features several songs, such as “The Turkey Song,” “Berrily We Roll Along,” and “Our Thanksgiving Day.” The final episode is called “Find Her, Keep Her,” and features Kessie the bluebird.


Promotional image © Disney.

Even though this disc is holiday themed, I just did not find the stories or animation very compelling, and it did not capture the attention of my two boys. In fact, my 5-year-old asked me why Rabbit looked green in one scene and yellow in another, and that is pretty typical of the so-so quality of these animated shorts. If you have never seen them, do not expect much—but depending on the age and tastes of your children, the animation may or may not be as much of a issue as it is for me.

The Goodies

There are only two activities on this disc. The first is a tree decorating activity that lets your children pick a type of tree and the decorations to put on it. My two boys played with the activities for about five minutes, and then wanted to move on to another disc.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

As I mentioned earlier, the animation is not terribly impressive, and the video transfer is no better than what you would see on the Disney Channel or Toon Disney networks.

Be warned that the audio track listed on the back of the jacket is Dolby Digital 5.1, but the DVD only provides a basic Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo transfer—fortunately, this should be acceptable for the video's intended purpose.

The user interface and menus are easy to navigate and pretty standard for Disney's DVDs, and the menus feature animation, music, and animated transitions.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Final Evaluation

This disc hosts mediocre animation and rather typical and rehashed Pooh stories from the television series, and the only folks that will be seriously interested in it are those Pooh fans who must have anything and everything related to Pooh. For the rest of us, though, this will probably not put you in a holiday mood, so pass on this one.

Rolie Polie Olie: Olie's Winter Wonderland
(1999) | Approx. 54 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio ** Video **
Goodies * Interface ***
Value **

The Disc

This is another Disney holiday compilation disc, which features six animated shorts from the Rolie Polie Olie television series—but at least it does not pretend to be an all-new full-length movie. Among the shorts, Olie and his family and friends meet with Klanky Klaus, have fun with a snowman that comes to life, and visit a planet made of ice cream.These shorts have all been presented on the television series, so do not expect any new animation on this disc. If your children are familiar with Olie, they will probably enjoy the shorts on this disc, but keep in mind that they are not anything that you cannot find on Playhouse Disney.

The Goodies

There is only one goodie on the disc, and it was only of marginal interest in my house. Olie's Stocking Stuffer puts your children in charge of straightening out the mixed-up presents and putting them in the correct stockings. Once they are corrected, each box presents a brief trivia tidbit about how different countries celebrate Christmas.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

Quite simply, since the source material is a television series, the video and audio transfers are equivalent to what you would see on cable or satellite, but not much more than that. The user interface on the disc, though, is quite nice and adds a nice touch to the whole package. Typical of other Olie discs, the menus feature a lot of animation, music, narrative audio, and animated transitions.

The Final Evaluation

Fans of Olie will probably enjoy the shorts on this disc the most, as my two boys do, but since there is nothing new on the disc or any significant bonus material, the disc is only worth a rental for your young viewers.

Santa Clause 2
(2002) | Approx. 104 min. | Rated G | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio *** Video ***
Goodies *** Interface ***
Value ***

The Movie

In the first movie, The Santa Clause, Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, becomes Santa Claus through a strange but humorous twist of fate. This sequel takes place eight years after that fateful evening, and Calvin has established himself amongst his loyal elves as the best Santa ever. However, as the holiday season begins to heat up, the problems start to arise. First, his son ends up on his “Naughty” list, which puts him in quite a bind. Then, the elves drop a bit of a bomb: the “Mrs. Clause”—he only has a few precious weeks to find a wife before Christmas Eve or he will stop being Santa forever. Top all that off with an overeager elf who tries to help the situation by creating a duplicate Santa so the real one can find a wife, but the duplicate goes a bit off the deep end and threatens to ruin Christmas for children everywhere. Fortunately, like any good family holiday movie, the movie wraps up with the anticipated heartwarming conclusion.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Goodies

For a single disc “standard” release, this disc has a considerable amount of bonus material, and while none of it is terribly in-depth, it all works well and is very child-friendly. The way the bonus material is presented is such that the movie was shot in the North Pole, and Santa and his elves were kind enough to share their factory with the movie production crew. The full-length commentary with Director Michael Lembeck is done in a similar tone and is relatively interesting, but at times, it feels a bit long and just a bit silly.


Promotional image © Disney.

The “Inside the North Pole” featurette with Curtis the elf is cute, and my two young boys enjoyed it quite a bit. Curtis gives you a personal behind-the-scenes tour of how Santa and his elves make magic in the movies, and you get to see the elves going to school, finishing up their makeup and more.

In a similar vein, the “True Confessions Of The Legendary Figures” featurette shows interviews with the Tooth Fairy, Mother Nature, Father Time and others as they talk about Santa and themselves. It, too, is kind of cute, and is short enough to prevent it from growing a bit over done.


Promotional image © Disney.

Finally the two items that my boys enjoyed the most were the seven deleted scenes and the brief gag reel. Each of the deleted scenes include a very short introduction by Director Michael Lembeck, and they do a nice job of putting cut scenes into the context of the movie. The gag reel is simply a collection of flubs and missed lines, but it is fun to see, nonetheless.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

Since this is a relatively new movie, the THX-certified video and audio transfers are very good. The anamorphic widescreen video is spotless, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is pleasantly spread around the room. As for the user interface, it is pretty standard for Disney DVDs. The animated menus and movie audio are perfectly themed, and they get you in the mood for the movie from the start.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Final Evaluation

This disc should definitely go on your list of movies for your family to see this holiday season, but depending on how much you like The Santa Clause, this may be only worth a rental rather than a purchase.

A Christmas Story: 20th Anniversary Special Edition
(1983) | Approx. 98 min. | Rated PG | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio *** Video ****
Goodies *** Interface ***
Value ***

The Movie

After being around for 20 years, I think most of you have probably seen A Christmas Story at one time or another. It is one of those quirky movies that touches on every American holiday stereotype. Set in 1940s Indiana and based on Jean Shepherd's novel, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” the story follows a 9-year-old boy named Ralphie as he works to get his one Christmas wish, a Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle. However, among the cries of “You'll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie works every angle to beg and plead for his rifle, and in the process, he battles a string of challenges to his quest, including doubtful parents, a mean department store Santa, and school yard bullies.

The story is filled with holiday feelings and experiences that we have all periodically experienced in our lives, and when combined in this relatively slow-paced but heartwarming movie, you cannot help but get into the holiday sprit.

The Goodies

For a two-disc set, I cannot say that I was overly impressed with the bonus material on this set. However, there is enough to make it worth looking at if you do not already own the old DVD. Upgrading from the old disc, though, will really depend on how much you really want the bonus material.

On the first disc, there is only a humorous and informative commentary by director/co-writer Bob Clark, and actors Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley. It flows pretty well, and there are lots of funny behind-the-scenes stories and tidbits that both fans and new viewers will enjoy.

The second disc contains several other goodies that are all worth looking at, but they just feel a little light when compared to other two disc special editions. There is a section where you can listen to several original radio readings by author and movie narrator Jean Shepherd. These include the original stories about the tongue on the flag pole and the Red Ryder rifle. They are interesting to listen to, but children will probably not be too interested in them.

There is also an 18-minute documentary on the making of the movie, which features several new interviews with the grown actors and the production crew. Even thought it is kind of short, it is fun to see and hear how this classic was put together.

Finally, there are a couple of short featurettes on the Leg Lamp and the Red Ryder rifle. The former looks at the ongoing impact that this unique lamp has had since its first appearance 20 years ago, and the latter looks at the history and current status of the Daisy Red Ryder air rifles via a visit to the Daisy rifle factory.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

One of the main reasons that this set is spread over two discs is that the first disc contains both anamorphic widescreen and full-screen video transfers. For the most part, the video transfer is decent for this relatively old movie, but I did notice that the picture seemed a bit washed out and grainy. For the most part, these minor issues did not detract from enjoying the movie. As for the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio transfer, there is not much to say other than it is completely adequate for its simple purpose. Finally, the user interface is well themed and executed, with animated snow flakes and audio and video clips from the movie. It is not the best presentation package I've seen for a special edition, but it works just fine.

The Final Evaluation

While not a movie for toddlers, this is one of those Christmas classics that most people already have on their list of holiday “must-sees.” If you have never seen this movie and are looking for a quirky, slice-of-life Christmas movie, then definitely give this one a rent, and if you are a big fan of the movie, then you will probably find buying this disc worth it, especially if you don't already have the old “movie-only” DVD. Those thinking of upgrading will have to decide if the commentary and about 30 minutes of extras are worth buying another copy. If I already had a copy, I would probably rent the special edition for the bonus material and just keep the old one.



Winnie The Pooh
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • Decorate your own Christmas tree
  • Coloring fun with Piglet

Technical Specifications

  • DVD Encoding: Region 1
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • French and Spanish language tracks
  • French and Spanish subtitles
  • Closed-captioned

Rolie Polie Olie
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • Olie's Stocking Stuffer

Technical Specifications

  • DVD Encoding: Region 1
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Closed-captionedDVD

Santa Clause 2
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • “Operation Toy Box: Save Santa" set-top game
  • Full length commentary with Director Michael Lembeck
  • “Inside the North Pole” featurette (10 min)
  • “True Confessions Of The Legendary Figures” featurette (3 min)
  • Directors tour of Elfsburg (4 min)
  • Seven Deleted Scenes with introductions (12 min)
  • Gag Reel (4 min)
  • DVD-ROM activities and games

Technical Specifications

  • DVD Encoding: Region 1
  • Anamorphic Widescreen – 1.85:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • French and Spanish language tracks
  • THX-Certified
  • Closed-captioned

A Christmas Story
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • Commentary by director Bob Clark and actors Peter Billingsley and Melinda Dillon
  • Theatrical trailer(s)
  • Original radio readings by author Jean Shepherd
  • New documentary Another Christmas Story (18 min)
  • “Get a Leg Up” (4 min) and “A History of The Daisy Red Ryder” (5 min) featurettes
  • Interactive trivia
  • Decoder match challenge

Technical Specifications

  • DVD Encoding: Region 1
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • Anamorphic Widescreen – 2.20:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Spanish & French subtitles
  • Closed-captioned

 

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Kevin “Doc” Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.

You can contact Kevin here.

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