First of all, don't let the title fool you. "A Sesame Street Christmas Carol" really doesn't have a whole lot to do with Charles Dickens.
Copyright 2006 Sony Wonder
Oh, sure. This 2006 Sony Wonder release does borrow a few key concepts from that classic holiday tale. In that -- on Christmas Eve -- Oscar the Grouch does receive a visit from one J. Marley.
Only in this case, it's Joe Marley of the Scaredy Pants Delivery Service. Who's stopped by Oscar's trashcan to drop off the first of three Ghost-o-grams that this grouch will be receiving that night.
The first holiday spirit to make an appearance is Rhubarb, the Ghost of Christmas Past. He's there to show Oscar a few highlights from a 1978 holiday special, "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street."
Copyright 2006 Sony Wonder
And -- as a longtime "Sesame Street" fan -- I have to admit that it was a real treat to see the late Will Lee as Mr. Hooper once more. I'd forgotten how great he was in this role. And the twinkle that Will gets in his eye when he's working with Ernie & Bert on that "Sesame Street" version of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" ... It's obvious that Mr. Lee got a real kick out of working with the Muppets.
Once Rhubarb finishes showing Oscar highlights from "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street," Joe Marley arrives with another Ghost-o-gram. This time around, the holiday spirit is contained in an old Jack-in-the-Box. And -- after Oscar turns the crank -- who should pop up but the Ghost of Christmas Present (Who is voiced by Tony Award-winner Kristen Chenoweth) ?
This jolly holiday spirit (who's literally a living Christmas tree) then shows Oscar the Grouch some clips from that 1996 "Sesame Street" holiday special, "Elmo Saves Christmas" as well as a few highlights from that 2002 Sony Wonder release, "Elmo's World: Happy Holidays." The footage shown in this portion of the program includes Elmo's trip to the North Pole to visit with Santa as well as a performance of Joe Raposo's great "Keep Christmas With You (All Through The Year)" by the entire cast of "Sesame Street."
There's also some recycled live action footage in this sequence that discusses Hanukkah & Kwanzaa. So that youngsters who are watching this DVD can then get a sense of some of the other holidays that are celebrated this time of year.
Once this footage is screened, it's time from the Ghost of Christmas Past to vamoose. More importantly, for Joe Marley to deliver one final Ghost-o-gram. This time around, it's the i-Sam. As in: The Super Automated Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be. Who uses hi-def flat screen technology to show how holidays in the future will be celebrated.
This then leads into a cute little short (Created just for "A Sesame Street Christmas," by the way) which shows this family riding through a Epcot-style attraction that illustrates what the Christmas of the Future will be like. When houses will decorate themselves for the holidays and you & your relatives will eat an entire turkey dinner in pill form while floating in zero g.
Mind you, it's at this point in the program that i-Sam suddenly goes bezerk. With this Super Automated Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be going into holiday overdrive. Building an entire snowman in just seconds while hammering out a carol on the bells. Oscar then shouts that " ... This is like a nightmare !"
Which -- as it turns out -- it is. Oscar awakens on Christmas morning to find that all of those visits by the holiday spirits were just bad dreams. And as for that Muppet who's walking up Sesame Street & looks an awful lot like Joe Marley ... He's just little Joey Dickens from the Bronx.
Okay. I know. I seem to be treating this particular "Christmas Carol" with kid gloves. But there's a reason for that. You see, "A Sesame Street Christmas Carol" is clearly aimed at the six-and-under set. So there's just no sense in me carping about how this particular DVD didn't do all that great a job of following the storyline that Charles Dickens mapped out back in 1843.
Plus there are so many enjoyable aspects to this 2006 Sony Wonder release. Like how they hired Tim Curry to do the voice of the narrator. Plus those wonderful CG Muppets who play the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Be. And Carroll Spinney's terrific performance as Oscar the Grouch. So why stress the negative when there are so many positive parts of this production to enjoy?
Alright. So maybe it's not entirely fair of Sesame Workshop to try & pass this particular DVD off as a brand-new product. Especially given that better than half of this disc is made up of recycled footage from earlier "Sesame Street" holiday specials.
But that said, given how genuinely entertaining this old footage is ... Let's not call this recycling. Let's call it regifting. Because "A Sesame Street Christmas Carol" is a present that both babies & baby boomers would enjoy finding under their Xmas tree this year.
Tomorrow ... The 40th & final (for the 2006 holiday season, anyway) installment of "Scrooge U." Where Daffy Duck takes on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in "Bah, Humduck ! : A Looney Tunes Christmas."
So are those muppets all CGI? The robot looks like it, but the first one just looks like a regular muppet just composited in. Can't tell about the middle one.