Halloween is gone – so now it’s time to prepare for the next holiday by pulling out all your favorite Christmas specials.
But you might want to make that your old recording on VHS that your folks made for you twenty years ago.
Any child of the ‘80s probably grew up with either the theatrical featurette Mickey’s Christmas Carol or the television special Muppet Family Christmas as their favorite December viewing fare.
Revisiting those as an adult (?), the Henson special still strikes me as a classic, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and goes nuts with intertwining as many characters as possible, but still manages to retain a heart.
By comparison, the Disney cartoon doesn’t hold up, though its treacly “sincerity” is kept at bay by its short length. It’s also the first acceptable animated version of Carl Barks’ Scrooge McDuck (only to be topped by Darrell Van Citter’s underrated masterpiece Sports Goofy in Soccermania), so given this new team of animator upstarts did what the original studio couldn’t earns the picture some legitimate value.
Both holiday classics (my reservations have no say in this designation) also have an unfortunate similarity.
You’d think it’d be difficult to top the old DVD release of Muppet Family Christmas (you know, the one that deleted most of the songs due to rights issues) in the travesty department, but the Blu-Ray of Mickey’s Christmas Carol: 30th Anniversary Edition on sale this week comes close.
Don’t be too scared. It’s not censored.
But it might as well be – and in a manner of speaking is.
The dreaded Digital Noise Reduction process (commonly called DVNR, but that was always a misnomer) has become a favorite of the Disney Company’s lately in addition to its steady practice of warping its feature films’ color styling. For a good overview of what DNR does to animation, see Amid Amidi’s 1999 article “Digital Noise Reduction: Where’d That Cartoon Go?”, which, sadly, is still just as relevant over 14 years later.
The studio’s recent Blu-Rays of the [not] classics The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood seem to have suffered the worst, undergoing a kind of Clorox cleansing that sucks the life out of the backgrounds and character ink lines. Christmas Carol appears unaffected as far as color goes, but the fact that DNR was applied at all begs the question – it’s not old… why did it need to be “remastered” anyway?
It seems that Disney’s latest crime against its own art is to remove the experience of film grain, period. The case is made clear when you place these two screenshots together, which I’ve appropriated from Blu-Ray.com’s review that called attention to what Disney had done. One screen shot is taken from the Blu-Ray’s menu, untainted and with the grain intact. The other is from the actual feature. Be sure to enlarge it, for only then the vandalism done to Scrooge’s hand, coins, and eyes can be fully appreciated.
The Blu-Ray format hasn’t been too generous with the classic cartoon offerings. One [nearly] perfect Tom & Jerry release, two dozen Betty Boop cartoons with warped aspect ratio, and an assortment of 100 Looney Tunes.
You can’t blame most of the studios for giving up. Sales are bad enough. So weak, a third Looney Tunes set has been postponed because the second set bombed (all of the adult collectors with arrested development (including yours truly) were insulted at having to buy their fifth copy of Rabbit Seasoning in ten years to get A Horse Fly Fleas.)
So it should come as no surprise there has been no legitimate Disney shorts box released on Blu-Ray, even though it would be very easy for the company to cash in on that viable library because the majority of those cartoons were mastered in high-definition for the illustrious Walt Disney Treasures line.
But if releases like Mickey’s Christmas Carol are any indication… please, keep them in the vault.