“‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…not even a mouse…”
The poem is a popular one. It was originally titled A Visit From St. Nick and has been a holiday staple since the 1820’s. No one knows for sure who wrote it, and there are several schools of thought on its authorship. What is not in doubt is that the lines are about as familiar as Christmas itself. Over the years it has been lampooned and used as an inspiration for many films, plays and songs. In 1974 Rankin & Bass tackled the title, and it has since become a holiday staple. While not quite as popular as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas, it remains one of those fond memories, particularly with those of us who were children in the 70’s.
It all begins when Santa returns the letters of all of the people of Junctionville. It appears the town has managed to anger the jolly old elf. Someone wrote an editorial letter in the local paper that called Santa a fraud along with other unkind things. Now the town needs to find a way to let Santa know that they don’t all feel that way. Enter Mr. Trundle (Gray), a local clockmaker. He has devised a clock tower that will send out a musical plea to Santa at exactly midnight when he’ll be flying overhead. But when the clock is tested it goes “kerplunk”. It looks like no Christmas is coming, and it wasn’t even the Grinch’s fault. So, whose fault was it?
Enter Albert Mouse (Grimes). He’s the genius son of the mouse family that lives in the Trundle walls. It seems that it was Albert who wrote the offending epistle and Albert who damaged the clock when he got too curious. He is a young over-thinker who never accounted for things like faith and the Christmas Sprit until he is inspired by the attitude of the Trundle family, who refuse to give up on Santa or Christmas.
This is certainly one of the classics. There are singable songs and melodies that I never quite forgot over all of the last 40 years, or so. The voices of Joel Gray and George Gobel are perfect for the holiday piece adding more than a little magic and charm along the way. While everything about the short is simple, it is reminiscent of another time. Those were the years when we waited anxiously each year for our favorite cartoons to surface at the holidays. No DVR or home video existed, so we were bound by their appearance on a local station and the showings became events. Now you can schedule your own.
Twas The Night Before Christmas is presented in its original broadcast full frame aspect ratio. I’m not sure you can even define this as a high-definition image presentation. This is a very limited MPEG-2 codec with a DVD bit rate of only about 5 mbps. I understand that there are flaws in this old stuff that make real high definition problematic, but there appears no effort to even try here. The print suffers from plenty of debris and even compression artifact. Not sure why this wasn’t at least expanded, if not remastered.
The Dolby Digital Mono track is bare bones, and that’s being kind. There is some distortion and no dynamic range to speak of.
Christmas – A Global Holiday: (8:50) SD This is an animated storyboard-style piece that shows Christmas traditions from various countries around the world.
Over the last couple of years Warner has brought many holiday classics to Blu-ray. Up to this point they have been quite impressive. Both the Charlie Brown specials and the Grinch show incredible improvement on Blu-ray. Colors are rich and about as bright as you could imagine. Not so with this release, which is a no-frills port-over from the DVD. Hopefully, some of these lesser classics will receive the same treatment, “because even a miracle needs a hand.”