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Cartoon Network: Holiday Collection
Cartoon Network has produced some of the finest cartoons the animation world has seen. It's launched some of the best television series of the past several decades (animated or otherwise) and helped to jumpstart the careers of animators like Genndy Tartakovsky (Hotel Transylvania). Throughout the years, the network has created such a nice catalog of animated programs which all tend to share a few things in common: creativity, unique animation, and... the staple of a Holiday Christmas special?
One of the hallmarks of many Cartoon Network programs is the special made around the holiday season. To celebrate (and capitalize) on some of the network's holiday-ready specials of the past few seasons, Cartoon Network brings to DVD another collection of animated specials. I've had several of these enter my collection over the years and they always tend to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the shorts are excellent and some are a little disappointing. Granted, anyone can probably say the "your mileage may vary" verbatim statement regarding that depending upon one's like (or dislike) of certain Cartoon Network shows.
So what's on the latest Holiday DVD of Cartoon Network specials? This collection contains the two-part Adventure Time special entitled Holly Jolly Secrets Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, the Regular Show Christmas Special, and The Amazing World of Gumball Christmas.
In the Adventure Time two-part episode Finn and Jake the Dog discover some old tapes that were supposedly destroyed. As it turns out, the tapes have the recorded diary of the Ice King. Perusing viewing the tapes, they discover the untold back-story of the Ice King and gain new insight into this character from the Adventure Time universe. Along the way, they poke fun, jokes are hurled, and the zaniness the series seems renowned for is readily apparent. Somehow, this winds up connecting to the Christmas holiday... but not until the Christmas special is already almost over. Without the tie-in ending it feels like an ordinary two-part episode.
In the Regular Show Christmas Special, Rigby and Mordecai get an unexpected visit from a buff looking Santa who barely even makes it to these goofballs after evading a warped elf who has an evil agenda for the Christmas season. Santa informs both Rigby and Mordecai of an evil box of magic capabilities which will grant anyone, anywhere... any wish. Not only would it eradicate Christmas gift-giving as everyone would always have everything they wanted, but it had the ability to turn everyone evil with the dark magic used to create the box.
They discover that prototypes had been destroyed but they had the last one ever made... and that it seemed indestructible (even to Santa). Somehow, Rigby and Mordecai are now left to save Christmas and destroy the evil box. In taking the box to a lava-filled pit far, far away (remind anyone of Lord of the Rings, much?) these goofy characters and their pals Benson, Skips, and Thomas embark on a journey to save Christmas from it's possible destruction and to save... the entire world!
Lastly, the final Christmas special included is The Amazing World of Gumball Christmas. In the special, the Wattersons end up running over someone who they believe to be a homeless man (whom the adults are repulsed by), but who turns out to be Santa Clause (without his power because of being run-over). The joke thread throughout the short continually makes jokes offensively commenting on homelessness in a way without heart -- missing the point of Christmas and giving a bad feeling to the entire Christmas special. As the story unfolds, Christmas seems possibly doomed and it's up to the Wattersons to somehow save the day.
Having never really watched Adventure Time or The Amazing World of Gumball before, I wasn't pleased with the Christmas specials for either of these two series. I'd heard many amazing things about Adventure Time (a lot of viewers consider it to be one of Cartoon Network's best series) that the expectations I had might have been too high. It wasn't as funny or engaging as I hoped. The story felt weak for a Christmas special as it barely had a focus on the season until the tail-end of the episode, which felt tacked on as an afterthought. It's certainly not awful, but I didn't enjoy it too much. Series fans might enjoy it more but it isn't a special with much in the way of the Christmas-season. As to The Amazing World of Gumball, that was one special that I found highly lacking in having a genuine Christmas spirit. The humor wasn't in the greatest taste and the special lacked any of the warmth I would hope to find (even in silly cartoon specials).
Luckily, the release manages to have one mighty-fine inclusion with the spectacular holiday special done for Regular Show. Regular Show is easily one of the best Cartoon Network TV series of the last several years. It simultaneously harkens back to Cartoon Cartoon shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory in inventiveness and smart, goofy humor while adding a family friendly vibe to it that somewhat reminds one of a Adult Swim cartoon but as a cartoon that everyone in the family can enjoy. It's such a delightful, odd, off-the-wall series that manages to be every bit as funny and entertaining as one could hope for. This is a great special to watch around the holidays and for series fans it should be worth considering getting the DVD to own it.
The Adventure Time specials are from Season 3 are also available separately on DVD and Blu-ray in the individual season set. The Regular Show Christmas Special is from Season 4 and hasn't been released on DVD before. The Amazing World of Gumball episode similarly makes a DVD debt for this release.
The Cartoon Network Holiday Collection DVD release has strong picture quality with good animation that is well-reproduced with clean line detail, a reasonable clarity, and good color reproduction. This is a slick looking release that presents these cartoons contained within in a decent quality that will please fans. Each special is presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1, which preserves the original television broadcast aspect ratio for these cartoon series.
The DVD contains standard Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. While there's nothing particularly spectacular about this audio presentation, dialogue clarity is quite good and the basic sound works fine for these cartoons. Viewers should find it to be an acceptable presentation of the included episodes.Extras:
Bonus shorts include the non-Christmas themed Clarence "Money Broom Wizard" and Steven Universe "Together Breakfast". Both are somewhat cute and amusing cartoon episodes and the inclusion is appreciated. Both of these were better than most of the holiday specials on the main portion of the DVD. In Money Broom Wizard, Clarence and his friends collect tickets to win an assortment of "free" merchandise from playing games at the local arcade on three-quarters. In the cheery Together Breakfast short, Steven Universe becomes determined to serve a big breakfast to every one of his super-powered gem friends but finds it to be a lot more complicated than he first imagined.
For fans of Cartoon Network series this is a release that is at least worth considering owning for viewing during the Christmas season. If one is a fan of one or more of these series, the release has some value. Granted, the Adventure Time special had little holiday-cheer (as the focus on Christmas was too brief) and The Amazing World of Gumball special isn't good. The Regular Show Christmas Special is a blast, though. For fans of Regular Show the DVD has some good fun for the holidays within this (admittedly brief) collection. Consider renting it first and decide if it's worth picking up for future Christmas re-watches with family and friends.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.