The Muppet Christmas Carol: Special Edition (1992)
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Brian Henson (Director)
Featurette-Making Of-Frogs, Pigs And Humbug: Unwrapping A New Holiday Classic
Featurette-Christmas Around The World (2:56)
Outtakes-Gag Reel (2:33)
|Year Of Production||1992|
|Running Time||82:19 (Case: 85)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (46:03)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Brian Henson|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Kermit The Frog
The Great Gonzo
Rizzo The Rat
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
If there has been one film that I have really been awaiting on Region 4 DVD it has to be The Muppet Christmas Carol. In my view the best thing ever done by The Muppets on film, its appearance on Region 4 DVD has been sadly too long in coming.
Of course A Christmas Carol, one of the best known and beloved works by Charles Dickens, has been turned into a film more times than could probably be enumerated. What makes this one so special? Well, despite it being The Muppets, the sensible approach to the film was to play it fairly close to the original story - which means that we get one of the few films to ever include some of Dicken's narrative prose that so infuses the original novel with its sense of purpose. It was also the first film made after the death of the creator of The Muppets, Jim Henson. No doubt the death of the creator probably cast grave doubts as to whether The Muppets would ever survive, so to start out with arguably the best film ever made involving The Muppets says an awful lot about the excellent job done here. Playing it close to the original story almost meant that the zanier aspects of The Muppets were kept in check, although I hasten to add not eliminated, which created a dramatic structure to the film that was perhaps not expected. This was reinforced by the performance of Michael Caine, who brought a great dollop of gravitas to the role that really struck a chord with the original novel.
It is surely not necessary for me to provide a synopsis for the film as the story would be well known to all I would have thought. But just in case, the setting is London and notorious scrooge Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is adopting his usual approach to Christmas - humbug! It might be Christmas Day tomorrow but the eviction letters still have to go out - and the staff have the affront to suggest they take the day off! Since he lacks a fundamental understanding of the true meaning of Christmas, he needs serious help. So he earns a visit from his dead partners, the Marleys, who warn him of the impending visit of a spirit, to present him with the opportunity to mend his ways so that Scrooge does not end up as they. Scrooge might be sceptical, but on the stroke of one in the morning, Scrooge receives the visit of The Ghost Of Christmas Past who takes Scrooge on a visit through some of his memorable Christmases of the past. When the Past is finished, Scrooge receives a visit from The Ghost Of Christmas Present who shows him the delights of other people's Christmas celebrations, where he is not forgotten. After the Present has finished Scrooge receives his final visit, from The Ghost Of Christmas Future to show him what will happen if his ways are not mended. The visits of the three wise spirits have the desired effect of course.
The story is a classic of literature and one of five stories Charles Dickens wrote on the Christmas theme. It is by far and away the best of those novels, and one of the greatest pieces of literature that I read on a regular basis. The Muppet Christmas Carol does a really good job of bringing the story to the big screen, remaining quite faithful to the spirit of the story as well as providing some wry humour as only The Muppets could. I would ordinarily be recommending this to the hilt but unfortunately recent improvements in the DVD emanations from Disney have not been carried over to this release...
How could they? How on earth could they? I have awaited this release for years and with recent general improvements in the presentation of Disney DVDs, hopes were high for something that actually lived up to the Special Edition tag stuck on this release. So what do we get? A Pan and Scan abomination of a transfer. Why oh why? And then the gall to stick the Special Edition tag on the package - there is never anything special about a Pan and Scan transfer. Monumental disappointment abounds and on this point alone I would be loathe to recommend the DVD. Yes folks, we get a 1.33:1 Pan and Scan transfer that is not 16x9 enhanced that does not do justice to a film that was designed for 1.85:1 presentation.
From the start, this transfer is lacking something approaching serious quality. Definition is at best decent but often seems to have a soft edge to it that does not do the film any good at all. Detail is sadly lacking at times, with the contrast being rather poor. My recollection was that the film was fairly faithful to the dankness of Dickensian London, but was still full of detail especially in the backgrounds. Not here. With the contrast being rather poor, you can guess that shadow detail was not real good. Sure the film was meant to have a dark feel to it at times, but this is going a bit darker than was really intended methinks. Grain is thankfully a non-issue, as was low level noise - any presence of both of these would have consigned the transfer to disaster areas. As it was, clarity is not the best.
The colours are really not well handled here, lacking the sort of vibrancy and tone that the film really needed to relieve the inherent darkness of the setting. I feel that this has been transferred slightly too darkly, which has robbed the necessary colour-life from the film. Blacks are too dominant although fairly consistent in depth. There is no oversaturation but you could argue that undersaturation was an issue. Colour bleed is not a problem.
There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There is only a little in the way of film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, mostly some minor aliasing that occasionally comes to the fore, such as on the desk at 34:53. Unfortunately there is no getting away from the fact that there are film artefacts in the transfer, most obviously during the opening credits where one or two hair marks get way too big to ignore.
This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming just ever so slightly noticeably at 46:03. Personally, I feel a few better places could have been found, but I suppose that it really does not interrupt the film in any great way.
There are seven subtitle options on the DVD, with five of those also being available for the audio commentary. The English and English for the Hearing Impaired efforts seemed to be pretty well spot-on overall, with very little missed. One might quibble about the spelling of Charlie as Charley, but...
There are three soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I checked out both of the English soundtracks.
The dialogue comes up well in the soundtrack and is generally easy to understand. There are the obligatory Muppet-sync problems with the transfer.
The original music score comes from Miles Goodman with the songs being contributed by Paul Williams. I have to say the latter are better than the former, with a delightful sense of humour to them. That is not to say that the score itself is no good, for it certainly has a flavour about it that suits the film. It is just that what can be better than The Muppets belting out a few humorous tunes? Well, how about Michael Caine belting out a number - the first time he has sung on film I believe.
There really is not a whole lot to say about the six channel soundtrack. Little in the way of surround encoding is evidenced through the rear channels, with everything having a frontal bias to it. That is no big deal really as this is what the film needs, but I can't help but feel there was a whole heap of ambience opportunity lost here that really would have made the soundtrack much better. The low frequency effects channel is rarely called into action but when it is it does the job well enough. The whole thing though really falls into the okay but could have been a lot better category.
|Surround Channel Use|
Special Edition it says. Bah, humbug!!!
Actually quite well done, with Kermit making appearances to occasionally suggest that you make a selection please. An interesting effort that does remain the most memorable part about the entire extras package. Oh dear...
Just like the sadly boring effort that afflicts Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life, here is another effort where I was expecting to be entertained and ended up being mildly bored and definitely not too well informed. Way too dry and with quite a few silent patches throughout, when he does speak there is a fifty-fifty chance that it will be worthwhile hearing. Maybe it is me, but I wanted more entertainment than information but ended up with it all being the other way round. A serious Muppet commentary? Egads!
Hosted by Rizzo and Gonzo, with them interviewing Brian Henson, the technical quality is quite good. The content is not so good, even though there are contributions from the likes of Michael Caine and Paul Williams. There are probably too many snippets from the film for its own good and there really is not a fat lot of wisdom doled out by Brian Henson. After watching this I am beginning to think that Brian Henson does not have the sort of sense of humour that is necessary to push The Muppets forward. Better than the commentary for sure, but then again it is twenty five percent the length of the commentary. Presented in a Full Frame format that is of course not 16x9 enhanced, this comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and has Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish subtitles like the rest of the extras package.
Again hosted by Rizzo and Gonzo, on the face of it this held promise. Less than three minutes later and not only has the promise been entirely dissipated but you are left scratching your head as to the entire point of this waste of space. Aside from insulting Australians (apparently Santa visits us on a surfboard), there is so much that is not covered here as to make the hole thing almost an insult to the entire world. And I spelt hole correctly, as this is where they should have buried this lamentable excuse for an extra. It is presented in the same format as the previous featurette.
I take it that these were supposed to be funny? They aren't. Furthermore, the technical quality is not real flash at all. Same presentation as the previous featurettes and far more avoidable too.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
It would appear that Region 1, Region 2 and Region 4 are all blessed with an equivalent quality release in every way, right down to the Pan and Scan transfer. Basically forget any version until we get a widescreen presentation, otherwise pick whichever is the cheapest to acquire.
Eagerly awaited by me, by the end of the review session I was so disappointed that I don't think this review even makes it clear just how disappointed I am. The Muppet Christmas Carol should have been an absolute highlight of the Christmas releases, but is not. To whack the Special Edition tag on this is just a plain insult to the buying public and rather grossly misleading in my view. At best given an adequate transfer in every respect, the Pan and Scan presentation does not in any way do the film justice and is a sufficient reason to avoid the DVD.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|