Creating a new "Christmas classic" is difficult, but that doesn't stop many folks from trying every year. It seems everyone wants to come up with a new festive standard, be it a new Christmas song, movie, or TV special to join the ranks of Jingle Bells, It's a Wonderful Life, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. But how often does that happen? Every year, the Christmas landscape gets positively littered with the likes of Our Love is Like a Holiday, Fred Claus, and Shrek the Halls.
But amid the clumps of coal, every now and again, a bright and shiny new classic emerges. The most recent: Prep & Landing, a computer-animated TV special that decks all the right halls and jingles all the right bells.
Like a Christmas tree adorned with shiny ornaments, Prep & Landing has a lot about it that works. Its clever script is charming and funny; the characters are cute, likable, and original; and it features a fantastic score by Michael Giacchino, just to name a few bright spots. It's also brimming with Christmas spirit and is a heck of a lot of fun.
Wayne (voiced by Dave Foley) is a Prep & Landing elf, part of an elite, stealth North Pole team that is responsible for making it possible for Santa to visit every kid's house on Christmas Eve. His duties include extinguishing fireplace embers, opening stockings, checking the milk and cookies (cold temperature for the milk, no nuts in the cookies), scouting for creatures stirring, attaching landing lights to the roof, and never being seen. One Christmas, after getting passed over for a promotion and teamed with a dim rookie, Lanny, Wayne loses his Christmas spirit and decides to take a break, nearly causing Santa to miss the house of a good little boy named Timmy.
The whole "person loses Christmas spirit and then gets it back before the half-hour special is over" thing has been done before--in fact it's pretty much the story of every Christmas special ever made--but Prep & Landing illustrates how, when it's done well, it works.
Along with the 22-minute special, the Prep & Landing DVD includes two "Bonus Stocking Stuffer Shorts," the first ("Operation Secret Santa") being much better than the latter ("Tiny's Big Adventure"). In "Operation Secret Santa," Mrs. Claus (voiced by Betty White) tasks Wayne and Lanny with sneaking into Santa's office and retrieving a mysterious box. "Tiny's Big Adventure" revolves around a miniscule elf, whose hat and occasionally arms are the only things visible about him, as he makes a cup of coffee and inadvertently destroys the break room (it's not as amusing as it sounds and only runs one minute in length).
Other bonus features on the DVD include "Kringle Academy Elf Training Videos," "North Pole News," and "North Pole Commercials." These are done in a very simple, Flash-style animation that gets old quickly. They've been made to look like old film reels, though in the most annoying way imaginable: the images are constantly going out of focus in precisely the same manner non-stop throughout their entirety. Here's a tip: going out of focus briefly once gets the point across; it doesn't need to be repeated every two seconds over and over again until I start thinking I may want some new glasses for Christmas.
Make no mistake, Prep & Landing is a real Christmas treat on DVD, as is the included "Operation Secret Santa" short. The rest of the material on the DVD can just be considered the packing filler.
Prep & Landing is the deal real when it comes to merry Christmas classics and fits nicely alongside the best holiday TV specials. This year, we're not only leaving out cookies for Santa, we're also setting out some for Wayne and Lanny.
Clip: "Prepping The House"