My son is six, so I approached this disc with trepidation, fearing we'd both outgrown Sesame Street. His Elmo days have long been over, ever since he discovered the Power Rangers and never looked back. Having viewed and loved A Muppet Christmas Carol for several years now each holiday season, we gave A Sesame Street Christmas Carol a try, and were we glad we did!
This 45-minute DVD is a delight from start to finish. The most important feature of this disc, which bears mentioning right up front, is that MR. HOOPER IS ON THIS ONE!!! For those of you who grew up watching the kindly, bespectacled store owner, played by the charismatic Will Lee, who died in the early 1980s, that is reason enough to invest in this disc. Sesame Street was commended for its handling of Mr. Hooper's death and the show's unavoidable transition in its aftermath, and to see classic footage featuring Mr. Hooper is a true delight that Generation Xers, many of whom viewed him as a surrogate grandfather, will look upon fondly. Mr. Hooper was a calm antidote to the often frenetic pace of Sesame Street, and his absence is still missed to this day by many of us who grew up on this series in its early years.
The premise of A Sesame Street Christmas Carol is this: Oscar the Grouch is the perfect substitute for Ebenezer Scrooge, as a young delivery boy (Marley, of course) warns him that he and his beloved trash can will be visited by three ghosts. Mr. Hooper appears in the first segment, which is a classic play upon O. Henry's "The Gifts of the Magi." Bert and Ernie both sell beloved possessions to Mr. Hooper in the hopes of securing the perfect gifts for one another. Elmo and Big Bird fans will be pleased that they are featured prominently on this disc as well, in later segments. Tim Curry provides a compelling narration, and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth joins the fun as the voice of the second ghost, Christmas Carole.
The question, as every incarnation of A Christmas Carol poses, is whether or not the curmudgeonly Scrooge character can change his ways. This disc addresses it with much hilarity, thanks to the wonderful character of Oscar the Grouch, who is, well, shall we say, resistant to change. Every "sweet" moment that teaches about love and friendship is beautifully balanced by Oscar's bemused, and often hostile, reactions to those who are trying to get him to appreciate the spirit of the season.
While a classic no-no for me is the repackaging of old material and trying to fool the public in order to turn a new profit, which production companies like Disney are famous for doing, it is completely forgivable on this disc, thanks to the Mr. Hooper footage, which gives a new generation of children the opportunity to be introduced to this classic character. The only downside of this production is the weak last segment, which is an uninspired, animated view of the future of Christmas, and it is downright awful. Younger children may not be as captivated as older ones with the disc overall, however families who have little ones as well as tweens might consider this disc a great investment, because it will definitely appeal to those outside of the traditional toddler age range of Sesame Street.
The overall message of A Christmas Carol is timeless. Although this disc takes great liberties with the story and despite the terrible last segment, it is a beautiful way to get kids started in appreciating one of the all-time classics of literature.
This disc, which is presented in a full-screen format, features a beautiful, crisp picture. No complaints here. There are some particularly good animated special effects with the ghosts who visit Oscar, and they look particularly good on-screen thanks to the great picture quality.
The sound, featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, is great. The audio is clear as a bell, especially during the musical numbers.
A longtime criticism I have maintained about Sesame Street releases in general is their lack of quality special features. This one is no exception, as there are none to be had here. It is shameful that in this day and age, where special features, especially on children's release, are a standard, that Sesame Street releases have few, if any. When considering a DVD purchase, parents often take a factor like this into consideration, because they are hoping the DVD can be enjoyed many times over, and special features help to contribute to this. So let this be a suggestion to any company who refuses to participate in what has now become an expectation among parents looking to maximize their DVD dollars. Special features mean higher sales. Period.
This is a terrific disc for the entire family, even the most cynical members. If you are looking for a new disc to add to your family's holiday DVD collection and you have not seen many prior Sesame Street holiday specials (from which most of this material has been recycled), check out A Sesame Street Christmas Carol. And Mr. Hooper, we still miss you.