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Scholastic Video presents
The Night Before Christmas ...and more Christmas stories (2002)

"Twas the night before Christmas, and all through house / not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
- Narrator (Anthony Edwards), from The Night Before Christmas

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 08, 2002

Stars: Anthony Edwards, Jenny Agutter, Rex Robbins, Jane Yolen
Director: Melissa Reilly, Michael Sporn, Paul R. Gagne

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:46m:00s
Release Date: September 24, 2002
UPC: 767685952436
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B-B- B-

DVD Review

One of the things I'm happiest about as a parent is that I was able to instill a love of books in my daughter, literally from infancy. She was constantly read to, and when she was old enough to grasp a book, it seemed like she always had one in her hand. As she grew older, reading became not a chore, but a desirable thing to do. She would be an ideal viewer for Scholastic Video's new collection of Christmas-themed stories (if she was a little younger, that is). I know a lot of children who didn't get the same exposure to books, and were weaned only on gaudy television cartoons, and it's likely that the content here will seem almost lethargic for them. Offering simplistic animation, and anchored by equally gentle narrations, this disc is as much like the experience of reading a book (or having one read to you) as possible. Clever folks, those Scholastic Video people.

The Night Before Christmas (05m:01s)
Not much to say about this one that you probably don't already know. It's the Clement Moore classic, this time narrated warmly by Anthony Edwards. The Ruth Sanderson illustrations look wonderful, and though this short uses very little in the way of actual animation (it's mostly a camera panning across illustrations), it is as familiar as an old shoe, and just as comfortable.

Max's Christmas (04m:03s)
Adapted from Rosemary Well's book, this short tells of a family of bunnies on Christmas Eve. Young Max wants to wait up for Santa Claus, against his mother's wishes. Max camps out in front of the fireplace, waiting for Santa to arrive. Narrated by Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf In London, Logan's Run) and Rex Robbins.

Morris's Disappearing Bag (06m:32s)
Another Rosemary Well's book is adapted here, and again it's a family of bunnies celebrating Christmas. A mysterious present left under the tree is opened by young bunny Morris, and it turns out to be a "disappearing bag," that afford the opportunity for simple, friendly hijinks.

Owl Moon(07m:39s)
This is my favorite of the bunch, and is decidedly more mature than the other titles in this collection. Based on Jane Yolen's book (and narrated by her, as well) this is a haunting and deceptively moving story of a young girl who goes "owling" with her father late at night, deep in the snow-covered country. This isn't really a Christmas story, per se, but it is full of beautiful, shadowy illustrations from John Schoenherr, and Yolen's evocative prose.

There is no substitute for actually reading to your kids, or the smell and feel of a richly illustrated book, but this collection of adaptations from Scholastic Video may truly run a distant second.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: All of the stories are presented in 1.33:1 fullframe, and it's not likely that anyone will bemoan the fact that Max's Christmas is not presented in anamorphic widescreen. Production values are relatively modest across the board, and the only noticeable differences occur on some of the older animated shorts, which have slightly less robust colorfields.

I seriously doubt young viewers will find much to complain about, and any other critiques would just be nitpicking on my part.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Due to the variance in when each of the shorts were made, the audio quality varies accordingly. The pieces made in the early 1980s (Morris's Disappearing Bag, for example) sound dramatically harsher than do the more recent productions (like the 1997 version of The Night Before Christmas). Regardless, the audio presentation is simple and adequate, with the various narrators sounding clear and largely hiss-free.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Scholastic Video Collection
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus Stories
Extras Review: I'm not sure why the two stories included as bonus stories weren't just added to the main list, but I guess that's inconsequential. Included are the strangely titled Clown of God (09m:56s), from celebrated children's author Tomie De Paola, and Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales (12m:18s). The sparsely animated De Paola adaptation, from 1982, is a tale set in medieval times about a young boy named Giovanni who becomes a celebrated juggler. It's a centuries-old story, not as much Christmas-related as it is uplifting, and De Paola's familiar, gentle drawings serve the tale well, even during the surreal final moments. Soto's Christmas-themed Too Many Tamales is largely animated in the camera-moving-across-the-pages-of-a-book style, with only sporadic movement, such as snow or twinkling lights. It's a cute story of a young girl, and her large Hispanic family, on Christmas Eve, and how a missing ring may have ended up cooked in a huge plateful of homemade tamales.

Scholastic has included a Play All option for the four main stories, a good idea considering how brief they are. English subtitles are also provided, which here are billed as a "read along" option. A trailer for the Scholastic Video Collection is also included.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

This collection of seasonal stories is modestly priced (well under $15), and if you know a young child in the 3-7 range who loves books, then this disc should appease them. The animation is alarmingly simple, and kids who aren't book-friendly might find this approach distractingly dull. The collection of stories here is diverse enough, and the soothing narrations are pleasant alternatives to the typical screechings found on most current day animated offerings.


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