If you managed to survive the Black Friday shopping onslaught (or were wise enough to stay at home in your pajamas and shop on Amazon, laughing at the rest of us for hauling around town and standing in endless lines), then you know we can finally, officially ring in the 2012 Christmas season. It may surprise you—it surprised me, to be honest—that while we may associate the cheerful tidings and sentiment of the holidays with Disney characters and parks, there isn’t a wealth of Disney movies set during the most wonderful time of year. Luckily, a handful of Disney’s most recognizable Christmas movies are all on Blu-ray and, depending on your love of the season, may be worth putting on your list to Santa or buying as a stocking stuffer for your loved ones. So let’s get right to it!
The Muppet Christmas Carol
This is the newest Disney Christmas movie to make the leap to Blu-ray. (I will insert here a forceful plea to the overlords at Disney reading this blog to give the other Muppet movies a similar HD treatment. Do it!) Now, as we all know, the Muppets are national treasures, and the movies they’ve made with Disney have been at least moderately enjoyable. For me, The Muppet Christmas Carol is at the low end of the quality spectrum, though I’m sure many will disagree. I like the movie well enough—and it looks very good on Blu-ray—but as I’ve mentioned on my podcast, I think that the faithfulness to Charles Dickens’ classic story makes it so the Muppets themselves are marginalized in their own movie. As you’ll see by the end of this guide, I’m usually in favor of extreme fidelity to the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. But the Muppets should get to fool around more. Having said that, the Blu-ray is a great gift for every Muppet fan; plus, The Muppet Christmas Carol features one of the best Scrooge performances ever, from Michael Caine.
The Santa Clause
One of the most popular movies from my childhood, The Santa Clause is now out on Blu-ray in a trilogy pack. I’m pretty confident that the first film, despite its many flaws, is best if only because the fish-out-of-water scenario plays to Tim Allen’s strengths in ways that the second and third films don’t. This 1994 story of a workaholic dad who literally becomes the new Santa Claus definitely looks cheap, and it’s not surprising that the movie was directed by John Payson, of Allen’s famous sitcom Home Improvement. However, Allen’s laid-back charm and wisecracking nature, especially in the first half, is enough to make the movie palatable. The sequels have their moments, especially the second film, but for me, the clear winner is the tried-and-true original.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
When it opened in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas was something of a redheaded stepchild for the Walt Disney Company. For example, Touchstone Pictures released the film because Disney was too worried about having its name so directly associated with a more twisted and not entirely kid-friendly representation of the holidays. But nearly 20 years later, Jack Skellington and his friends in Halloweentown are at the top of the Disney heap. Go to the Disney theme parks and try not to find some Jack merchandise, I dare you. I’ll admit, when I revisited the film last year for the podcast, I wasn’t as enamored with it as some people are. Still, producer Tim Burton’s vision and aesthetic, as translated by director Henry Selick, has never felt so pure and clear. And the visuals, especially for stop-motion animation, haven’t been matched since. This one might be for the slightly more warped members of your family, but they’ll be grateful anyway.
A Christmas Carol
I didn’t really make it clear in my section about The Muppet Christmas Carol, but I love the Dickens story on which it’s based. And I’m typically strict about wanting cinematic adaptations to be faithful, because Dickens’ tale is so compact, swift, and tight that expanding upon it seems like an accident waiting to happen. Disney’s most recent version, A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis, unfortunately strays from the material too often. The film’s nadir is when Scrooge outruns the Ghost of Christmas Future despite having been shrunk to the size of a mite. Oh, the hilarity that ensues. I mention this film here as perhaps a more cautionary tale. Zemeckis’ love for motion-capture technology once again fails to translate to a good movie. Maybe you, however, like the design and manic quality of this 2009 adaptation. Like the others on this list, it’s on Blu-ray, so you can either make your loved ones very happy or, if you’re in a foul mood, use this as a 21st-century version of coal in their stocking.
All photos are property of The Walt Disney Company.