Hey gang, Valkor here. I still have a few more scares to whip up for ya, to help round your Halloween viewing. But I thought I'd take a break to maybe jump ahead a bit for a little Christmas cheer - watching a bunch of horror films can get downright depressing. And thanks to the folks at Warner Home, they're releasing one of Rankin Bass's classic stop-motion animated TV specials "The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow".
The story of "The First Christmas" centers on Luke - a lonely shepherd who just happened to be out herding one stormy night. Suddenly a nearby tree, where Luke was herding, is struck by lightning and the boy shepherd is injured by the blast, which also caused him to go blind. He's taken in by a group of nuns, mainly one Sister Theresa who looks after him, nurtuuring him to back to health. However head priest, Father Thomas, thinks its best that Luke be placed in an orphanage. However he agrees he should stick around for the time being.
In this village where the people in this story reside, they have never seen snow; Luke shares a dream with new found friend Luka that all he ever wanted was a white Christmas. Being blind, he may never see snow again, so he asks Luka to describe it to him if it should happen. On the night of the town's Christmas pageant, snow begins to fall and the Christmas snow that touches Luke's eyes returns his sight. And on top of that, Father Thomas allows the boy to stay at the church with his sheep (oh and his dog waggles). Happy ending? Happy ending!
The First Christmas is narrated by Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote fame), who also voices Sister Theresa in the short. Extra features include "Celebrate and Create: Holiday Cards That Kids Can Make" as well as a few trailers of upcoming holiday vids from Warner Home. Rankin/Bass created some unique and fun tales with some of the most memorable characters such as Frosty the Snow man and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. However, let's see how this obscure classic fares in the TOV Breakdown.
I grew up with Rankin/Bass cartoons and a Christmas doesn't go by without catching Frosty or Rudolph. I was unfamiliar with The First Christmas Story, but I've seen it before, it just never really stood out as one to watch ever year. Not oddly enough, if you ask around many people in my age bracket may not have heard of this cartoon at all, or maybe remember a few bits here and there. While Not the most memorable cartoon, nor does it feature any popular characters in the Rankin Bass repetoire, it's still a hit in my books. I've always found Rankin/Bass's stop-motion animated stuff… a bit creepy, yet it kinda grows on you after awhile. The story is very simple filled with tons of emotion and enjoyment any and everyone can get into. The music is also nice touch, and you'll melt when you hear Angela Lansbury sing "White Christmas". OK it's not Bing Crosby good, but it will put you in holiday spirits. The disc is a remaster for audio/video, which looks really good; the colors are eye-popping bold, but still quite fetching. And the darks, including blacks, are amazing. Audio is Dolby mono, which is crisp and clear, especially during the musical numbers where you want the vocals to shine. Overall, this is a great disc to own for the holidays.
It's a tad short and there should be trailers and other bits from previous Rankin/Bass vids. Or maybe musical numbers from other specials; Heat Miser/Snow Miser anyone?
Those wolves; they don't do anything… but just look at them and tell me they don't freak you out.
Spread the joy of the season this year by giving (and maybe receiving) "The First Christmas", which is available now on DVD. It's an animated classic the entire family can enjoy; very uplifting and entertaining. I highly recommend it. And out of TOV 5 stars, I give The First Christmas 3.5 out of TOV 5 stars.