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Featured Blu-ray Review: Disney Christmas Double-Shot: Mickey's Christmas Carol and A Very Merry Pooh Year

November 3rd, 2013

Mickey's Christmas Carol - Buy from Amazon
A Very Merry Pooh Year - Buy from Amazon

This week there is a double-shot of Disney Christmas specials making their debut on Blu-ray. Mickey's Christmas Carol has been released more than once, including on Volume 7 of the Walt Disney Animation Collection, which I previously reviewed. The second is A Very Merry Pooh Year, a Winnie the Pooh special from 2002. Are either of them worth checking out? And how do they look on Blu-ray?

Mickey's Christmas Carol

It's Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but with the Disney characters in the roles. Do I really need to go over the plot? Scrooge McDuck plays Ebenezer Scrooge, who else could it be, a cheap and cruel moneylender. It's Christmas Eve and he's still driving his lone employee, Bob Cratchit (Mickey Mouse), to work hard. His Nephew Fred (Donald Duck) shows up to spread some holiday cheer, but that ends with Fred being violently kicked out of the office. When a couple of solicitors show up asking for a donation for the poor, they get similar rough treatment.

Later that night, when Ebenezer arrives home, he sees an apparition appear on his door knob. It's the face of his old partner, Jacob Marley (Goofy). While Ebenezer is momentarily frightened by this, he soon figures it was just his imagination. As he's preparing for bed, the Ghost of Jacob Marley confronts him, tells him he's lived a cruel and selfish life and that three ghosts will visit him that night.

Like I said, Mickey's Christmas Carol is an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which is one of the most famous stories ever written. It is also an excellent adaptation, given its running time, that brings the story to life and makes good use of the various Disney characters from Mickey to Jiminy Cricket to the others. ... Okay, maybe having Goofy as the Ghost of Jacob Marley wasn't the best idea. It's not my favorite adaptation of this story, but it is certainly worth owning for fans of either Charles Dickens or Disney animation.

The Extras

There are two extras on the Blu-ray, sort of. The first is the now standard intermission. When the movie is paused for more than ten seconds, the intermission pops up and you can listen to some of the Disney characters singing Christmas Carols. There are also several shorts starting with...

  1. Yodelberg
    Minnie entices Mickey to climb to her mountain lodge, but the threat of an avalanche is extreme, so he has to be very quiet.
    I don't think its good.
  2. The Hockey Champ
    Donald is skating on a lake when he sees his three nephews trying to play hockey. He decides to teach them how to play the game. Actually, he just decides to humiliate them.
    It's a good short, but the goal Donald scores shouldn't count, as he shot the puck in with a high stick.
  3. Pluto's Christmas Tree
    This is also on Volume 7. It has Mickey bringing home a Christmas tree, which just happens to be the home of Chip 'n' Dale and the pair don't get along with Pluto.
    I think most people will like this short the best of the bonus shorts.
  4. The Art of Skiing
    Goofy goes skiing, while a narrator tells him how to do it.
    Part of a series of shorts with Goofy trying some physical activity, while accompanied by a narrator. It's a beloved series, and with good reason.
  5. Corn Chips
    Donald Duck tricks Chip 'n' Dale into shoveling his walkway, which starts a rivalry between the two as they fight over a bowl of popcorn.
    Another fun short and many will like it as much as The Hockey Champ, if not more.
As for the technical presentation, there are some issues. The colors are good and there are no issues with aliasing or color banding, but the film has been "restored" with an overuse of DNR. Some people are reacting like this is high treason. First of all, film grain is not something that should be preserved. It is a flaw in the medium. However, if your attempts to get rid of the grain also scrub away fine detail, then you are making the situation worse, not better. The audio is only 2.0, but that's the way it was originally made, and the dialogue is clear, so there's no reason to complain.

A Very Merry Pooh Year

It's Christmas in the Hundred-Acres Woods and Pooh and his friends are going to his place for a Tree Triming party, where they will decorate the Christmas tree and exchange gifts. After a problem hiding Piglet's gift, Pooh finally lets in his friends, or to be more precise, his friends let themselves in while Pooh's head is stuck in a honey pot. They decorate Pooh's place before starting to tell the story of the Christmas that almost didn't happen. This is Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too!, a TV special from 1991.

Many, many Christmases ago, the gang wrote a letter to Santa, as they do every year. In order to get it to Santa, they hold it up and let the North Wind grab it. Unfortunately, this year Pooh forget to ask for anything. (That's not entirely true. He asked Santa to bring everyone else a pot of honey, in case they have guests.) To solve this problem, he and Piglet use a balloon to fly in the air and catch the letter. Unsurprisingly, that doesn't work. Also unsurprisingly, the letter didn't actually get to Santa and Pooh finds it trapped in some branches. When they add Pooh's gift (two pots of honey) everyone starts to add more and more fancier gifts.

Everything seems to be going perfectly, until the wind changes and blows the letter to Pooh's house. So now Winnie the Pooh and Piglet have to be Santa this Christmas.

We then return to the present day Christmas with everyone getting their gifts, everyone but Piglet that is. Pooh hid Piglet's gift so well that even he can't remember where it is. He searches so long, that he can't remember what it is he is looking for. He searches for so long that it's New Year's Eve. He bumps into Christopher Robin, who tells him there's going to be a New Year's Eve party. Winnie the Pooh decides the party is going to be at Rabbit's house, so he heads there to tell Rabbit about the party. The party gets off to a rough start, so much so that Rabbit decides to leave. Winnie the Pooh decides they need to make a New Year's resolution to convince Rabbit not to leave.

As you can imagine, this doesn't quite work out. They don't stop their bad behavior so much as they switch their bad behavior with each other.

This film started out as a 26-minute long TV special that was padded out to 65-minutes and released as a direct-to-DVD movie. Unfortunately, you can tell. It isn't a feature-length move, but two half-hour specials stitched together. Neither special is particularly memorable by itself, nor does it have the replay value of Mickey's Christmas Carol. It likely won't entertain adults, or even teenagers, but younger kids might get a kick out of it.

The Extras

The only new extra on the Blu-ray is an intermission with some activities for kids. The rest of the extras are from the previous DVD release. Disney Song Selection is the eight songs from the movie, with lyrics on the screen, while Sing Along with the Movie lets you watch the movie with lyrics. Finally, there's Enchanted Environment, which is like one of those fireplace DVDs. It runs for 24 minutes and almost nothing happens. The Blu-ray also comes with some physical extras, including some stickers, two wish lists for Christmas, and two envelopes to send them to Santa.

The technical presentation is about on par with the other Blu-ray on this review. There isn't the overuse of DNR; however, it is also much cheaper looking in terms of video quality. The first part of a the movie was a TV special from more than 20 years ago, and TV specials aren't known for their quality. It certainly can't compare to a theatrical release. That said, it isn't a bad transfer, given the age and the very likely lower budget. The level of details is fine, the colors are strong enough, etc. The audio is likewise fine. It is just a 2.0 track, but the audio is clear, even if there isn't a strong range.

The Verdict

Mickey's Christmas Carol is the better movie and the Blu-ray has better extras. On the other hand, there are some issues with overuse of DNR in the transfer. I still think it is worth picking up, but some might disagree. A Very Merry Pooh Year is weaker in both quality of the show and the extras on the Blu-ray, so unless you have young kids, you can give this one a pass.


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Filed under: Video Review, Charles Dickens