Since my day job is in higher ed, I have the luxury of tailoring my vacation time to coincide with that of my school-age children. This is wonderful because it means we get to spend tons of quality time together around the holidays, but the combination of cold temperatures and the typical post-present-buying financial crunch means we do spend a chunk of that time indoors.
Holiday movie-watching (coupled with the creation of extravagant couch forts) has become its own Christmas tradition in my house. We have our regular favorites like Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and “Merry Christmas Mister Bean,” but each year I also like stock up on additional quality family entertainment to enjoy during our downtime. My kids’ deep affection for both The Muppet Show and Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears were stoked during such holiday viewings, and this year Disney continues to prop up our family TV time.
Recently released in its commemorative 30th anniversary edition, Mickey’s Christmas Carol was introduced to my geeklings just last week. The familiar tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge McDuck) was well received, but for me, who fondly remembers the original release all those decades ago, this viewing was particularly magical. The digital restoration of the cartoon is nothing short of astounding, with crystal clear visuals and perfectly balanced sound.
Packaged as a triple format release including DVD, Blu-Ray and digital copy, this Christmas classic is hard to resist on its own, and the ample bonus features add to its appeal. The “Disney Intermission” feature sees Mickey himself invite you and your family to sing Christmas carols when the film is paused. Bonus shorts include cold weather favorites The Hockey Champ, Pluto’s Christmas Tree and Corn Chips, but the true standout is easily the super-stylized new Mickey/Minnie cartoon Yodelberg. Even these earlier animated shorts have been beautifully restored, with only Goofy sports classic The Art of Skiing showing its age (in the form of some visual graininess).
My five-year-old is mermaid crazy, so she’s become quite taken with the new Diamond Edition of The Little Mermaid. Another DVD/Blu-Ray/digital bundled release – marking the first time the movie has ever been made available in the latter two formats – it’s also a feature-rich experience. A new “Part of Your World” video featuring Canadian pop darling Carly Rae Jepsen, the engaging @DisneyAnimation peak behind the scenes and an incredibly interesting mini-documentary about the role live-action scene studies played in both this film and the studio’s earlier films show the breadth of these additional offerings.
Like Mickey’s Christmas Carol, some great Disney intermission karaoke kicks in when the movie is paused, and, also like the aforementioned release, The Little Mermaid has been painstakingly digitally restored, making it look even better than you remember. My personal favorite thing, however, is a brief introduction to the never-before-seen deleted character Harold the Merman. Offering this new content alongside all of the original DVD extras from the film’s previous home media release, The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition certainly deserves to be – ahem – a part of your world.
My son, meanwhile, has been enamored with an all-together newer property. Gravity Falls: Six Strange Tales marks the wonderfully bizarre new animated series’ first home video release. A DVD-only affair that offers no real bonus content, Six Strange Tales isn’t exactly the full-season release we fans have been clamoring for, but it’s an affordable stocking-stuffer that still satisfies.
Containing the first six episodes of the original Disney Channel run, it’s got all the gnomes, Gobblewonkers and Manotaurs a fanboy could want. The pack-in bonus of your very own Mystery Journal #3, complete with maps and photos, also adds a little something extra to the purchase, as does a wealth of spoken and subtitle language options for the episodes themselves.
Disney has really come into the Christmas season with guns a-blazing – they even released the 50th Anniversary Edition of Mary Poppins earlier this week – and whether you and yours prefer Dickensian ducks, exotic sea life or the weird northwest, they’ve certainly got something for everyone.
(Review materials provided by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)