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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)

"You don't look like no reindeer to me, mutt."
- Schnitzel (Michael Stipe)

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: November 23, 2003

Stars: Drew Barrymore, Michael Stipe, Joe Pantoliano, Edward Asner, Dan Castellaneta, Jay Mohr, Peter MacNicol, Tim Meadows
Director: Oscar Moore

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 45m:25s
Release Date: October 14, 2003
UPC: 024543087298
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BA-B+ B

DVD Review

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?"

That, of course, would be Rudolph. But what about Olive? You know, the other reindeer. Never heard of her? She might not be as famous as Rudolph, and, heck, she's not even a real reindeer, but she saved Christmas once, too. Yes, she did. And without a squeaky electric red nose either.

Leave it to Drew Barrymore and The Simpsons producer Matt Groening to come up with a charming, slightly kooky, and at times irreverent Christmas cartoon the whole family will love. Olive, The Other Reindeer, loosely based on the children's book by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh, combines avant-garde animation, topical references, and hip, bouncy songs to create a unique and entertaining holiday confection.

Barrymore's winning personality, which combines innocence, sincerity, and an elusive yet adorable airhead component, makes her the perfect choice for the voice of Olive, an eager-to-please dog who ventures to the North Pole to help Santa rescue Christmas. You see, Blitzen's been injured during a trial reindeer run and won't recover in time for Santa's Christmas Eve flight. When Santa (Edward Asner) says on the radio that he'll have to rely on "all of the other reindeer" to make sure Christmas proceeds as planned, Olive's pet flea Fido (Peter MacNicol) swears Santa said he was counting on "Olive, the other reindeer" instead. He convinces Olive that it's her dyed-in-the-wool duty to heed Santa's request, travel to the North Pole, and volunteer her services as a reindeer substitute. Olive's reluctant at first, but soon realizes aiding Santa might also cheer up her depressed master Tim (Jay Mohr), who's devastated over the prospect of no Christmas.

Of course, every cartoon requires a dastardly villain, and in this case it's a hilariously demented postman (Dan Castellaneta) who's sick and tired of carting around the extra poundage holiday mail produces. A canceled Christmas means a lighter load, so he's determined to foil Olive at every turn...and almost succeeds. Tagging along for the wild northbound ride is a slick penguin peddler named Martini (Joe Pantoliano), who helps Olive escape a multitude of jams on her goodwill mission.

What makes Olive, the Other Reindeer so endearing is the way it strikes just the right balance between caustic humor and traditional, family-friendly holiday fare. It's sweet but not syrupy, funny but not distasteful, smart but not sassy, festive but not (too) preachy. All the voice talent helps create memorably offbeat characters, but also ones to which kids (and adults) enjoy relating. Although Steve Young's script greatly expands upon the book's basic premise, his choices remain true to its spirit, as does the funky animation, which is modeled after the original illustrations. Even the pop-oriented songs feel right, and it's a treat to hear Barrymore (try to) sing.

It may not rank up there with the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas or even that other reindeer story starring cousin Rudolph, but Olive, the Other Reindeer will surely inject the family with a healthy dose of fun, warmth, and yuletide attitude. Olive, you go, girl!

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Animation usually translates well to DVD, but Olive, the Other Reindeer looks downright dreamy. The drawings possess a vivid, 3-D quality that lends plenty of visual pop to the transfer, along with beautifully saturated, rock solid colors, and deep, inky blacks. Occasionally, some faint shimmering can be detected during camera movement, but otherwise this is a terrific effort from Fox.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby stereo mix maintains clarity and stable levels throughout, even during musical numbers. Dialogue is always understandable on this very clean track, and though stereo effects are minimal, the audio possesses nice presence and depth.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 5 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The major draw here is a 26-minute "making-of" documentary (more than half as long as the cartoon itself), which covers every nook and cranny of the show's production. While such an in-depth look is appropriate for feature-length films, it seems excessive and self-indulgent here. With a little judicious editing, the same material easily could have been covered in half the time.

Despite the bloated length, the documentary can be, at times, both entertaining and informative, and is worth slogging through once. Content includes extensive interviews with most of the leading actors (with special attention paid to Drew Barrymore, who also served as an executive producer), behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions, a look at the cartoon's music, and a project overview with executive producers Matt Groening and Claudia De La Roca. Most interesting is a storyboard-to-computer discussion of the production's technical aspects and how Olive's unique look comes from "mixing and juxtaposing flat and dimensional attributes"—which means both 2-D and 3-D elements are combined in the same frame.

The only other extra is Olive, The Songs, a handy index that allows you to jump directly to any of the cartoon's five original songs, or play them in succession without interruption. A nifty option for kids.

Easter egg aficionados can click on the radio dial in the scene selection portion of the menu to hear the radio clips used in the cartoon.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If you're tired of watching the same old parade of Christmas cartoons and claymations, let Olive, the Other Reindeer weasel her way into your heart. Who knows? You just might find yourself cycling this lively, tuneful holiday tale into your family's line-up of annual classics. Recommended.


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