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Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection DVD Review

Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection

A Christmas Story (1972),
Casper's First Christmas (1979),
The Town Santa Forgot (1993)

Total Running Time: 72 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen / Dolby Mono 2.0 (English) / Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: July 31, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase

Buy Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection on DVD from Amazon.com

Hanna-Barbera made a lasting impact on pop culture with their decades of television animation. Many of their creations remain well-known and beloved today: Scooby-Doo, the Flintstones, the Smurfs, the Jetsons. Other once popular properties of theirs have sort of faded from the collective consciousness: Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla,
Top Cat, Hong Kong Phooey. You may know the names and might be able to pick them out of a cartoon line-up, but chances are you won't find any merchandise of theirs at your local mall. Beyond these two tiers of franchises, Hanna-Barbera has produced a fair share of one-off works, not related to any series.

Giving us a bit of all of those things, Warner Archive Collection's sort of recent DVD Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection uses the word "classics" generously. It holds three half-hour television specials whose age more than status qualifies them for that title. Obviously, if these three cartoons were truly classics, they would have turned up on DVD long ago and in general retail, not on a made-to-order DVD-R. Nonetheless, as someone who appreciates Hanna-Barbera's work and loves Christmas and animation, I wasn't about to turn down the chance to review this disc now that Warner has finally made it available for review.

It is unlikely that many people out there have been itching to own all three of these obscure holiday specials. They are products of three different eras, each reflecting a different sensibility. From 1972, A Christmas Story seems both remarkably generic and derivative of the musical holiday tales that had become Rankin-Bass' specialty. The Town Santa Forgot debuted in 1993 as part of a short-lived period of Hanna-Barbera productivity whose output could be the work of any cartoon studio. Finally and what should be the disc's best-known inclusion, comes Casper's First Christmas, a 1979 special most representative of the Hanna-Barbera brand. It not only features the titular friendly ghost, but other Hanna-Barbera stars like Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo, and Quick Draw McGraw.

Gumdrop the mouse points out Timmy's undelivered letter to Santa to Goober the Basset Hound in 1972's "A Christmas Story." Jeremy Creek's greed is out of control in "The Town Santa Forgot."

A Christmas Story (24:40) (Originally aired December 9, 1972)

Producers/Directors: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera / Writers: Ken Spears, Joe Ruby / Songs: "Sounds of Christmas Day", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Where Do You Look for Santa?", "Hope", "Which One is the Real Santa Claus?"

Voice Cast: Daws Butler (Gumdrop), Don Messick, Hal Smith, John Stephenson, Walter Tetley (Timmy), Janet Waldo, Paul Winchell (Goober); Singers: Paul DeKorte, Randy Kemner, Stephen McAndrew, Susie McCune, Judi Richards

Not to be confused with the annually marathoned, recently re-sequelized 1983 movie,
this tale finds a mustachioed father reading "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to his sleepy blonde son Timmy on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, a mouse named Gumdrop and Goober, the slow-witted family Basset Hound, discover that Timmy's letter to Santa Claus is still at home. They need to get it to Santa or else Christmas will be ruined! Some traditional obstacles -- alley cats, orphans -- stand in their way. Then, in the special's one and only creative turn, the two thoughtful animals try to locate the real Santa Claus in a sea of sidewalk bell-ringers and department store sitters. The special is padded out with some maudlin songs that make the ditties of Jules Bass and Maury Laws seem sophisticated.

The Town Santa Forgot (21:58) (Originally aired December 3, 1993)

Writers: Charmaine Stevenson (story "Jeremy Creek"); Glenn Leopold (teleplay) / Director: Robert Alvarez / Executive Producer: David Kirschner / Producer: Davis Doi / Song: "So Little Time 'Til Christmas Day"

Voice Cast: Dick Van Dyke (Narrator), Miko Hughes (Jeremy Creek), Troy Davidson, Julie Dees, Haven Hartman, Ashley Johnson (Granddaughter), Melinda Peterson (Mrs. Creek), Phil Proctor (Mr. Creek), Neil Ross, Hal Smith (Santa Claus), B.J. Ward, Paul Williams

While A Christmas Story's era is tough to pinpoint by sight alone, I was able to identify this special as a product of 1993 purely on its visuals. Its character designs resemble those of "Bobby's World", a contemporary series Hanna-Barbera did not make. This rhyming special is adapted from the Charmaine Severson story "Jeremy Creek", whose lack of an Internet presence suggests you shouldn't know it. The always-welcome Dick Van Dyke narrates this 'toon (though despite the DVD's rear cover image, he does not himself appear), which is framed as an old man's tale to his grandchildren.

Jeremy Creek is a whiny, spoiled, thumb-sucking brat who throws tantrums to get his way. Though his room is full of enough toys to keep him occupied for multiple childhoods, it's not enough for Jeremy. He writes up a long list of wants to Santa Claus. Based on the length of the list (which unspools to a half-mile) and the boy's name, Santa mistakes its sender for a town. His elves locate it on the map and find that it truly is a place and one that Santa has neglected for years since it "isn't on his route." (You're better than that, Santa!) Thus, Santa delivers everything Jeremy asked for... to the swamp town of 2,000 boys and 2,000 girls. Naturally, the familiar moral "It's better to give than to receive" is invoked. There is some charm to this short, a Primetime Emmy nominee for Outstanding Animated Program, though the forced rhymes chip away at it.

For Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound, and Augie Doggie, Hairy Scarey lives up to his surname's homophone. Casper lives up to his reputation as a friendly ghost with a polite introduction to Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo.

Casper's First Christmas (24:57) (Originally aired December 18, 1979)

Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera / Directors: Carl Urbano; Tex Avery, Chuck Couch (musical sequences) / Writer: Bob Ogle

Voice Cast: Daws Butler (Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Augie Doggie, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss), Paul DeKorte (Singer), Don Messick (Boo-Boo), Hal Smith (Santa Claus), Ida Sue McCune (Singer), Julie McWhirter (Casper the Friendly Ghost), John Stephenson (Hairy Scarey), Michael Redman (Singer)

Though cartoon crossovers are pretty rare these days (consider the fact that Fox has never once had the universes of "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" blend), they were business as usual for Hanna-Barbera. Long before the Jetsons met the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo crossed paths with Josie and the Pussycats, the Harlem Globetrotters, The Addams Family, and even Batman and Robin. It only seemed fair then that other H-B personalities would get in on the action of this, the latter of two specials that complemented the short run of the NBC Saturday morning series "Casper and the Angels."

Casper is excited to celebrate Christmas, but Hairy Scarey won't have any of that. A car drives a septet of the mostly forgotten Hanna-Barbera stars who don't even have much distinct personality:
Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo, the effeminate pink mountain lion Snagglepuss, Augie Doggy, Doggie Daddy, Quick Draw McGraw, and Huckleberry Hound. They're all in the holiday spirit and make themselves at home in Casper's condemned vacant mansion. The young ghost is excited by the company and their decorations, but the Ed Wynn-ish Hairy tries to spook the guests away. After reading Casper's letter to Santa, Hairy has a change of heart.

VIDEO and AUDIO

All three specials are presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. The picture on A Christmas Story is just okay, marred by age and debris. The other two look better. None is as polished as you'd expect a major studio's general retail DVD release to be, but Town and Casper are satisfactorily clean and appropriately colorful, if a little prone to compression issues. The monaural sound is pretty sufficient, though closed captions or English subtitles still would have been nice.

Warner Bros. did not make these specials, but they did make this DVD, hence, the view of their studio on the DVD's main (and only) menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Typical for Warner Archive, there are no bonus features here. Not even disc-opening trailers. Even forgoing scene selections, there is just a single menu and it even fails to provide an obvious "Play All" option or art from the specials (a photograph of the Warner Bros. lot is used). No inserts, no slipcovers, not even the official DVD logo. On the plus side, the keepcase artwork and plain disc label don't seem noticeably less than they would be on a general retail release.

There are a lot of Santa Clauses out there, but Goober wants the real one. The real Santa Claus drops in on Casper, Hairy, and their fellow Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters in "Casper's First Christmas."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Warner made a wise decision to bundle these three obscure Hanna-Barbera specials into one feature-length DVD. Each is fairly forgettable on its own, but the disc feels more festive than the sum of its modest parts. It's not something you're apt to get much out of if you haven't already seen these. If one of them did make a lasting and meaningful impression on you in childhood, however, then your DVD wishes have finally been answered and you'll also get to see two additional animated holiday specials you likely haven't already seen.

The DVD is a standard Warner Archive effort. No subtitles or closed captions. No extras. No way of spotting this in a store and little chance of getting a great deal. Still, the presentation is adequate and in the unlikely chance any of these is tucked away in some happy corner of your memory, the asking price and lack of frills shouldn't stand in the way of rediscovery. Of course, there are several dozens of Christmas DVDs you'd probably find more entertaining.

Buy Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection on DVD at Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
1970s Television... 2012 Christmas Discs: A Special Sesame Street Christmas An American Christmas Carol
Holiday 2012 Blu-rays: Prep & Landing DreamWorks Holiday Classics The Muppet Christmas Carol Arthur Christmas The Santa Clause
2012 Warner Archive DVDs: The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show The Flintstones: Prime-Time Specials Collection, Volume 1 The Halloween Tree
1970s Specials: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Jack Frost The House Without a Christmas Tree
Peanuts: Deluxe Holiday Collection A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa A Chipmunk Christmas Mickey's Christmas Carol
Hanna-Barbera: Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper Yogi's Great Escape Yogi Bear (2010)
More Hanna-Barbera: Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s The Jetsons: Season 2, Volume 1

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Reviewed December 15, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1972-93 Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. and 2012 Warner Home Video.
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