Dreamworks Ultimate Holiday Collection Blu-ray Review: Holiday Specials for a New Generation

Having them all in one set is too much to pass up.
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As my friends and family can attest, Christmas is my favorite time of year. Not only do I decorate the inside and outside of my home and throw my own party, but on Christmas Eve, I have created my own special tradition. I make hot chocolate, open a box of See’s Candies, and watch all my favorite holiday movies. Most of those end up being various half-hour animated specials. Several of those I watch every year are on this new collection and there are a few that I had never seen before.

Trolls Holiday is a lot more musical than the others, much like the film, but in this adventure, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) and set off to bring any kind of holiday to their friends, the Bergens, who don’t have any. It starts off a little slow, but as they cycle through all the crazy different Troll holidays, it ends up being fun and enjoyable.

Shrek The Halls is my favorite. Some of that has to do with the fact that it was the first Dreamworks Christmas special I ever watched but mostly because it has a good mix of humor and heart much like the films starring everyone’s favorite green ogre. In this one, Shrek (Michael Myers) has never experienced a Christmas before and he must now figure out a way to create and celebrate it with his new family. But of course, his methods are untraditional and conflict with Donkey’s and the rest of the fairy tale creatures' ideas of how it should be celebrated. Let’s just say it involves multiple incarnations of Santa Claus. My favorite is Waffle Santa.

Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular is a brief sing-a-long of Christmas carols with the characters from Shrek. It was so short that it felt like it was over before it had even started. Could have been one of those ending credit scenes on one of the films.

Merry Madagascar is by far the funniest one in the bunch. Crazy King Julien (Danny Jacobs) wages a war on some evil red goblin that appears every year to torment them and then flies away. But this year is different as they are prepared and ready, deciding to fight back. With one lucky shot, they take out the menacing creature, sending him and his red sleigh crashing down upon the island. Alex (Ben Stiller) is horrified to find that not only have they just knocked out Santa Claus, but he has amnesia and won’t be able to deliver the presents. Gathering his friend from the New York Zoo, Alex commandeers the sled in order to save Christmas. There are so many funny moments that you will find yourself laughing throughout. It’s missing some of the emotion Shrek The Halls has, but it’s very comparable and great to watch.

The Madagascar Penguins A Christmas Caper doesn’t have a lot to do with Christmas, but Private (Christopher Knights) heads out of the zoo to get his friend a gift only to find himself mistaken for a toy and given to an angry dog to play with. It’s up to Skipper (Tom McGrath) to gather up the rest of the penguins to save their little buddy. It’s definitely a fun adventure but is lacking in the spirt and heart of the holiday.

Dragons: Gift Of The Night Fury finds the Vikings about to celebrate the winter holiday of Snoggletog with their dragons for the first time. But just as they are getting ready, all of the dragons suddenly leave. Once again, everyone turns to the Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who was the first to befriend a dragon, to go out into the wilderness and find out what happened to them. Overall, there isn’t a lot that happens. Simply put, it is nice. Nothing horrible happens, everything turns out okay and the boy and his dragon are reunited.

I’m surprised that it took me so long to see Kung Fu Panda Holiday. Much like Shrek, it contains a lot of heart and emotion. Po (Jack Black) is torn between hosting a banquet for all of the Kung Fu masters or attending his own father’s party at the noodle shop.

I must admit I never saw the film Home for the Holidays originated from but after watching this cartoon I probably won’t be seeing it. I wanted to tap out 10 minutes into it but unfortunately, it had the longest running time of the Christmas specials. Tip (Rachel Crow) tries to teach Oh (Mark Whitten) the meaning of Christmas. Having never heard of the holiday before, he wants to teach it to the Boov, his own alien race. The Boov immediately pounce on the idea and go overkill on the Christmas spirit. This drives the humans crazy and ultimately ends up with the aliens literally towing stars to Earth, which causes huge gravitational problems that begin tearing the planet apart. Unlike the rest of the shows in this collection, it really felt like it was written for little kids. Everything was very simplistic. The story made little to no sense and somehow Kelly Clarkson, playing herself, was thrown into the mix. Her singing was amazing, but did nothing to change my mind about ever watching this again.

 I’ve had the feature film Rise of the Guardians on my radar since it’s release. I had heard it was good, but had I known it was as good as it was I would have seen it sooner. The visuals are impressive, it has a good story, and all of the characters are very likeable. Even though it’s in the holiday collection, it’s not that holiday specific. Easter does occur during the film, but the holiday aspects stems from the iconic characters.

The story is really about Jack Frost (Chris Pine) who rises one day from a lake with no memory of who he is. After 300 years of playing around and bringing cold and snow wherever he goes, he receives an invitation from a group of mythical creatures to join their group in order to stop Pitch (Jude Law) the boogeyman from returning and plunging the world into darkness and fear. It’s up to North/Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman (no voice) to convince Jack to become a hero and join the guardians.

The first Blu-ray disc with all of the features is presented in 1.78:1 Widescreen with a DTS-HD Master Audio track. The quality of both are nice and seem about the same as anything else you might see on Blu-ray. It is not until you pop in the second disc containing Rise of the Guardians, which is presented in 1.85:1 Widescreen with a Dolby True HD Audio track, that you really notice the difference. The second disc has much finer detail and it really needs it. The scenery has so many nuances and the characters of the Sandman and the Nightmare horses need such specific granular details to show each grain of sand that anything less would be unacceptable.

The first Blu-ray has multiple Special Features that are self-explanatory:

“Shrek's Yule Log” is watching Shrek’s fireplace while random characters walk up in front of it.

“12 Days Of Christmas Pop-Up Book “ is the reading of the "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" poem by Shrek while images from a pop-up book illustrate the ogre version of the tale.

 “Penguins Sing Along Music Videos” are re-written versions of Christmas classics that you can read the words and sing along with the music.

“Learn How to Draw” is an artist drawing two different characters, “A Baby Gronkle” and then “Wo Hop Scared Shrekless”. You really just watch the drawing and very little teaching is done.

“Dragons Holiday: Gift Of The Night Fury Deleted Scenes” is the storyboard animation of several scenes that were cut because of time issues.

The Second Blu-ray with Rise Of The Guardians contains a number of special features broken into two categories:

Blu-ray Exclusives: two games you can play.

  • “Jack Frost Snowball Showdown!” - Play Jack Frost throwing snowballs at kids who are throwing snowballs back at him.
  • “Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy” is the game of the same name but in this version you play against the Sandman.

 Legendary Features: There are two standard features that go behind the scenes of the creation process, “The Man Behind the Guardians” and “Dreamers & Believers”. There is also “Sandy's Dream Guide” which is where you pick what topics you dream about and then it explains to you what each one means. And finally a “Filmmakers' Commentary” audio.

When I first saw this collection had been put together, I immediately jumped on the chance to review it. I had seen several of them before but having them all in one set was too much to pass up. After seeing all of them, there is only one that I won’t watch again and that’s pretty good that eight out of nine are winners. Not only can the kids enjoy watching but the adults will too. It’s nice to see all these new holiday shows that both generations can share.

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