(special thanks to Morris King for providing me with a screener!)
I was born in 1972 and remember well how, as a growing boy, every November and December I’d watch things like the Peanuts Thanksgiving and Christmas specials (always sponsored by Dolley Madison), various live-action shows that I remember seeing but remember nothing about, and, of course, watching the Rankin Bass Christmas specials.
Now somehow I’d never seen “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, but I do remember seeing “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (punchline in need of a joke: “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”). “Frosty Returns” came out in 1992, and since I was 20 then, I didn’t bother to watch it. But the others I watched and enjoyed greatly back when I was a growing lad.
This set includes all four of the following specials:
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – The “origin” story for Santa, staring Mickey Rooney, June Foray and Fred Astaire. See how the evil Burgomeister takes away everyone’s toys only to have Kris Kringle come along and give them back! The stop-motion animation holds up very well and it looks and sounds great!
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Rudolph has a rather shiny schnoz, which sadly keeps him from being popular and beloved by all. Herbie is a disgruntled elf who wants to be a dentist (?!). Along with an insane prospector, they travel to the Island of Misfit Toys and hilarity ensues. This is easily the best of the specials. The animation is great, the picture and sound are wonderful and the story is… well, quite mad! Especially the resolution with the Abominable Snowman.
“Frosty the Snowman” – A traditional cell animation story. It doesn’t hold up quite as well as the other two, and the animation is very highly stylized (almost to the point of being distracting), but the story is pretty fun, Frosty is a hoot and the music really sticks in your head.
“Frosty Returns” – Well, John Goodman plays Frosty! Other than that… it came out in 1992. I don’t have any sentimental attachment to it, and that’s for the best given that it’s… not great. It has a central message that, hey, science sucks! You don’t need to prove things! Just go with your heart and your faith and turn off your brain! Yeah, so there you go.
The one and only complaint I have about these discs is that there are no special features, unless you count “Frosty Returns” (I don’t). You do get a disc of music from the specials, and that’s nice, but I would’ve loved to have had commentary by, say, June Foray and Mickey Rooney. Or how about a commentary by the “Robot Chicken” guys? What about some behind-the-scenes videos or a documentary talking about the creation of the stories? Anything would’ve been nice, and certainly better than nothing. True, most kids watching these now (and I do think kids now will enjoy them), won’t care much about the special features, but nostalgic Gen-X types would eat them up!
Despite that, this is a lovely box set and a wonderful price. I really enjoyed seeing these stories again!