Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Year Without a Santa Claus Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 11.8 GB
Film Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: October 5th, 2010
Region: ABC
The Video
The Year Without a Santa Claus’ comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. Going in I did expect to see plenty of grain (one would hope) and likely dirt and specks. My expectations were met with a solid grain filled presentation that could have been cleaned up a bit more.

The clarity improvement is the first thing you will notice with the high-def presentation. Everything just looks so natural in high-definition; it is crazy to think it has taken so long for the film to look the way it does.

The presentation also features fantastic colors which are eye-popping even today, creating the perfect Christmas environment and presentation. The level of detail can also be quite impressive, although there are some softer moments which pop up from time to time.

The strings of certain puppets in the film become much more evident than ever, but it makes you realize what a technical accomplishment the film was for the time. We can appreciate the textures of the environments and characters so much more, the little details that just didn’t stand out before.

The downfall of the presentation is that there are plenty of dirt and specks, definitely not what I would consider ‘remastered’ quality. The dirt and specks aren’t overly annoying, but they are a constant thing. It is clear there was at least slight cleanup, which thankfully was not done with negligent processes (DNR).

Overall I do think the film could look even better once it gets a proper cleanup. However this presentation is actually better than I expected, with clarity and detail that cannot be denied. The little details have never been so clear to me and I am sure you will feel the same way. 8.5/10.

The Audio
An English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is included for ‘The Year Without a Santa Claus,’ while English 1.0 Dolby Digital tracks are included for ‘Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey’ and ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.’ Optional subtitles include English SDH.

I do think the studio should have included lossless audio for all three films, despite the latter two films presented in standard-definition. The Dolby Digital tracks on the bonus shorts are weak and do sound very dated with cracking and hissing.

The English 5.1 Dolby Digital included for ‘The Year without a Santa Claus’ is actually quite good considering the film was released December 1974. The dialogue levels are actually very strong, but we can also thank a fantastic audio cleanup for that.

The mix is very front heavy as expected, but overall I was very pleased with the result. I do wish a lossless track was included, but this time I actually can’t really complain as it sounds good for a film its age. I do have a review rule however, in which lossy audio can receive no higher than a 5/10 score. In this case I do hate to follow the rule, but anything really can benefit from a lossless mix regardless of how good it sounds with lossy audio. 5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1 (Blu-ray Disc):

Bonus: Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (50:05) (SD)
Included in standard-definition, not even upconverted.

Bonus: Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (24:24) (SD)
Included in standard-definition, not even upconverted.

We Are Santa’s Elves (16:35) (SD)
A feature all about the fantastic crew who made the magic happen.

School of Stop Motion (9:38) (SD)
A feature all about stop motion animation, the feature is both interesting and entertaining.

Disc 2 (DVD):

DVD copy of the film
It includes the three films as well as the extras found on the Blu-ray disc.

I am very happy to see that both bonus specials are included on the Blu-ray disc, but I can’t help but think they could have been included in high-definition. They definitely look like they could feature such a higher clarity that it is definitely disappointing.

The featurettes included are really enjoyable on this release. The DVD copy addition is also a very welcome feature and certainly adds value to this release as a whole. I do wish more was included, but this is a fair amount for a catalog release not celebrating an anniversary. 5/10.

The Films (TV Specials)
The Year Without a Santa Claus’ is the main feature included on the disc, but also included is ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year’ and ‘Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.’ The bonus films are not included in high-definition, but one runs 50 minutes in length while the other is just short of 25 minutes in length.

‘The Year without a Santa Claus’ is a 50 minute TV Christmas special which airs annually on television during the holidays. The film like the others is a Rankin/Bass Production and is made using stop motion animation.

In the special Santa Claus has lost his holiday spirit and decides to cancel Christmas, news which would be upsetting to children all over the world. Mrs. Claus tells the story of saving Christmas thanks to the help of two elves and other new found friends.

While I do consider the film to be a holiday classic, I do think it is one of the least memorable when it comes to storyline. The characters are good, however it is the ones we see the least that ultimately steal the show and help make this a classic.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus are quite generic, but it is hard to make them memorable with such a perceived look of ‘Santa Claus’ in culture. The two characters which win the hearts of viewers are brothers Heat Miser and Snow Miser who have some serious issues with each other.

The inclusion of the song ‘Blue Christmas’ mixed perfectly with a poor child upset by the cancelation of Christmas was also touching, a highlight which many viewers have come to love. The scene is very simple but beautifully done.

The Christmas special is not perfect and certainly isn’t one of the most memorable, but there are some fantastic moments throughout. It is weird that many people tend to remember the characters Het Miser and Snow Miser, but not the film itself in which they are included.

The addition of two other Rankin/Bass films is also welcome, however neither is as good. ‘The Year Without a Santa Claus’ still holds up nicely and younger audiences will likely enjoy it just as much as their parents who watched it when they were young. The story has plenty of heart and will definitely help bring the holiday spirit to viewers of all ages. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
The Year Without a Santa Claus’ is a great holiday special with a good Blu-ray release. The video presentation is good and the audio while lossy is actually nice too. The addition films are a nice extra, but I do wish they were included in high-definition. Overall the Blu-ray release is ‘Recommended’ to fans.

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