S'Mores Entertainment will release the anonymous little Toy Story-ripoff, The Toys That Rescued Christmas, a tepid CGI animated effort from 2001 that doesn't break any new ground, but which also won't offend the sensibilities of little tots should this DVD find its way into their stockings come Christmas morning. At an abbreviated running time of 24 minutes, it's harmless stuff, hardly worth mentioning other than for the connection to its infinitely superior Disney inspiration, and its obvious holiday appeal.
On Christmas Eve, the toys in an average American household are having a race: the Christmas Eve 500. Participants are an electric train engine, a red RC sports car and Smuckey the sock monkey (I know; it's sounds like a set-up for a dirty joke). As they race around the house, all the toys discover that the presents under the tree have disappeared. Smuckey, the brains of the outfit, realizes that fake snow pellets from the tree lead up to the attic. The brave adventurers climb the attic stairs, and discover not a monster, but old, forgotten toys. These toys, including Stuffy the teddy bear and crotchety Clanky the wind-up train, are lonely, having been locked up in the attic for over sixty years, with no one to play with them. So they swiped the Christmas presents. After agreeing to come downstairs, the toys have to figure out how to get the presents back down the roof, since the attic door accidentally was shut and locked.
I watched The Toys That Rescued Christmas like I watch a TV test pattern after waking up on the couch at 3:00am. What was said, what was done, what was attempted, all failed to elicit even the most rudimentary response from me. I was benumbed by its startling unoriginality and banal, joyless execution. The CGI animation was crude at best, and worse, the voice talents failed to provide even the most basic audience hook. The pathetically limited nature of the story line didn't help matters, either; I mean - they raced around the tree, they went up to the attic, and they slid down the roof. That's it?
However, as I've written countless times before in reviews of these kinds of DVDs, these shows really aren't made for adults. I'm fine with cartoons aimed strictly at kids. And for what it's worth, my two littlest children (both under five) seemed to enjoy The Toys That Rescued Christmas. They laughed in spots, they were quiet in others, and they sat through the whole thing. I doubt they'd want to see it again, but who knows? Kids are weird; they'll watch the worst junk over and over again, while something really good leaves them cold. If The Toys That Rescued Christmas had shown up in their stocking, I suspect they would have been excited about it, they would have watched it, enjoyed it - and then tossed it on their ever-growing pile of DVDs, to be as quickly forgotten as the toys in the attic in this stale little nothing. So...go figure.
The full screen video image for The Toys That Rescued Christmas is quite clear, with dark coloring (not from the transfer, but from the original design of the 'toon).
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio mix is adequate (although those god-awful songs unfortunately come through loud and clear). There is no close-captioning.
Extras for The Toys That Rescued Christmas include a full length directors' commentary (there are two directors for the short), along with a featurette on how the film was made. Original storyboards are featured, as well. All of these extras will mean nothing to the only people - kids - who will actually sit through The Toys That Rescued Christmas and watch it.
Cheaply priced, The Toys That Rescued Christmas would probably make an okay stocking stuffer - if you seriously can't find something better. A rental is in order first, though (a couple of months from now) if you're thinking of buying.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.