A Christmas Carol (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 7, 2010 by Dennis Amith
A wonderful CG animated adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic! Impressive visuals and a fantastic vocal performance by Jim Carrey. This film has now become my favorite adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” and on Blu-ray, you can’t help but love the wonderful picture and lossless audio quality plus the special features. A magnificent Blu-ray release that is highly recommended!
© Walt Disney Studios Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: A Christmas Carol
FILM RELEASE: 2008
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24bit), English 2.0 DVS, French, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish
COMPANY: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
RATED: PG (For Scary Sequences and Images)
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
Screenplay and Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis
Executive Producer: Mark L. Rosen
Co-Producer: Steven J. Boyd
Associate Producer: Katherine C. Concepcion, Heather Kelton
Line Producer: Peter M. Tobyansen
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography by Robert Presley
Edited by Jeremiah O’Driscoll
Casting by Scot Boland, Victoria Burrows, Nina Gold
Production Design by Doug Chiang
Art Direction by Marc Gabbana, Norman Newberry, Mike Stassi
Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara
Featuring the voices of:
Jim Carrey as Scrooge / Ghost of Christmas Past / Scrooge as a Young Boy / Scrooge as a Teenage Boy / Scrooge as a Young Man / Scrooge as a Middle-Aged Man / Ghost of Christmas Present / Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Gary Oldman as Bob Cratchit/Marley/Tiny Tim
Colin Firth as Fred
Robin Wright as Fan/Belle
Jacquie Barnbrook as Mrs. Fezziwig / Fred’s Sister-in-Law / Well-Dressed Caroler
Bob Hoskins as Mr. Fezziwig/Old joe
Lesley Manville as Mrs. Cratchit
Molly C. Quinn as Belinda Cratchit
Fay Masterson as Martha Cratchit/Guest #1/Caroline
Leslie Zemeckis as Fred’s Wife
Steve Valentine as Funerary Undertaker/Topper
Daryl Sabara as Undertaker’s Apprentice / Tattered Caroler / Beggar Boy / Peter Cratchit / Well-Dressed Caroler
Sage Ryan as Tattered Caroler
From Walt Disney Pictures comes the magical retelling of Charles Dickens’ beloved tale – Disney’s A Christmas Carol, the high-flying, heartwarming adventure for the whole family. When three ghosts take penny-pinching Scrooge on an eye-opening journey, he discovers the true meaning of Christmas – but he must act on it before it’s too late. Complete with spirited bonus features, this exhilarating and touching Disney classic is destined to be part of a family holiday tradition, adding sparkle and heart to all Christmases yet to come.
The Charles Dickens classic has been a popular story since it was first published back in 1843. Created during a time during the Victorian Era when people were forgetting Christmas traditions, Charles Dickens wanted to create a Christmas tale that was inspired by his humiliating experience of his childhood and his sympathy towards the poor.
A tale that actually came from his love/hate relationship for his own father, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge was inspired by him having to work at a young age because his father was imprisoned and because after his father’s release, he was still forced to work and make money. So, the cold and stingy character was inspired by his own father, while the discovery of the goodwill of men towards the poor inspired the rebirth of Scrooge.
Needless to say, his perspective towards the intolerance towards the poor made him craft this powerful Christmas tale which would inspire many dramatizations of “A Christmas Carol”. Even for Walt Disney, the company would do their own version in 1983 titled “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” using Donald Duck as Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as the character of Bob Cratchit. And in 2009, Disney would once again take on an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.
This time around, the studio would experiment with their first film in IMAX 3-D and also release it via Disney Digital 3-D. The technology would utilize performance capture that was used effectively for “The Polar Express” (2004) and “Beowulf” (2007) and would feature director Robert Zemeckis (known for the “Back to the Future” films, “Cast Away” and “Gothika” and known for animated films such as “The Polar Express”, “Monster House” and “Beowulf”).
So, for this film, a few major talent would partake in the performance capture and also take part in several roles. The main role of Ebenezer Scrooge would be handled by Jim Carrey (“Bruce Almighty”, “Me, Myself & Irene”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Yes Man”), the character of Scrooge’s nephew Fred by Colin Firth (“Love Actually”, “The English Patient”, “Easy Virtue”), the character of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim courtesy of Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight”, “The Professional”, “The Fifth Element”, “Batman Begins”) and the character of Fan and Belle by Robin Wright (“Beowulf”, “Forrest Gump”, “Unbreakable”).
The film was released in theaters in November 2009 and the film which was budgeted around $200 million would make over $323 million worldwide, a major success in the box office. And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD and also a Disney Blu-ray 3D (the first 3D film on Blu-ray for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment).
“A Christmas Carol” revolves around the coldhearted, bitter moneylender named Ebenezer Scrooge. The opening for the film shows him signing a witness form on Christmas day for his deceased former business partner Jacob Marley. He is not too fond of Christmas activities and would rather focus his life on making and lending money at his counting house business. While walking to his office, you can see the fear of the neighborhood towards Scrooge, knowing that during the Christmas Holiday, not only is he a cold man, he is very irritable and thus, they try to stay out of his way.
The film then flash forwards to seven years later on Christmas Eve. Working for Scrooge is Bob Cratchit who doesn’t make much money at his job but he tries to take care of his family with whatever little he makes. When Scrooge’s nephew Fred comes to invite him to Christmas dinner with the family, Scrooge berates him and tells him that he has no intention in celebrating the holiday. When a group of people trying to get donations to provide the poor with food on Christmas Day, Scrooge tells them that the poor are better off dying to contribute to the country’s surplus. And as for Bob Cratchit, Scrooge hates that his employee has to be away from work on Christmas Day but expects him to do some work and come in early.
When Scrooge walks home from work, a strange light shows up at his home. When Scrooge goes inside his home, a ghost shows up in the middle of his room. It is his former business partner Jacob Marley who tell shim that he is forced to spend his afterlife chained because of his greedy lifestyle. Marley gives Scrooge a warning that he will suffer an worse fate if he doesn’t repent but Scrooge has a hard time believing him. Thus a second spirit of Christmas arrive and the first is The Ghost of Christmas Past. He takes Scrooge on a journey to visit himself in the past.
We learn that Scrooge was a nice young man growing up but was neglected by his own father and was put in a boarding school and was brought home one Christmas Day thanks to his loving sister Fan. We learn that Fan died when she gave birth to Fred (Scrooge’s nephew). We also see how Scrooge began to work in the business of money lending and became successful at it. He would also meet his beloved Belle who he would be engaged to.
But when Scrooge began to become obsessed with making money and growing his wealth, he ended up neglecting Belle and she leaves him. Scrooge is so dismayed that he extinguishes the first spirit.
Scrooge then meets the Ghost of Christmas present and this ghost shows Scrooge how people he knows are having fun on Christmas Day but he sees how people really think of him. Only his employee Bob Cratchit is grateful for the work that Scrooge has provided him but because he doesn’t make much, Cratchit is poor and to make things worse, his son Tiny Tim is sick and if he doesn’t get help, he will die. The spirit then warns Scrooge about the evils of Ignorance and Want.
But then Scrooge meets the final spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Scrooge learns the fate of himself due to greed. Scrooge sees a dark future of himself and is warned that if he doesn’t change, he will die alone.
But having lived a bitter life for so long… Can Ebenezer Scrooge ever change?
“A Christmas Carol” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and the first thing that came to my mind was…”wow!”. I didn’t watch this film when it came out in 2009 but looking at the animation and seeing how much progress there has been since “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf” in terms of capturing near realistic CG, I was quite impressed. From the skin textures as you can see detail from Scrooge’s face to a kid with his face full of zits, suffice to say, this animation was quite impressive, remarkable and just all out fantastic!
The lighting was also amazing in this film. Vibrant colors, the flicker of the flame and the extending heat from that flame was impressive. Seeing the various spirits and how well they were animated, especially the hair of the Spirit of Christmas Present, that was pretty awesome. But just the whole detail of the whole environment, the city, the streets, the surroundings, objects, everything you can think of, it looks fantastic in HD. Everything is literally detailed. Movement was well-captured. The technology has definitely improved since “Beowulf’s” release and once again, this is state of the art animation and another step closer to achieving realism via CG.
Visually, this film just stands out in colors, detail, animation. Blacks were nice and deep and really, there is nothing negative I can say about the picture quality, it’s perfect!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“A Christmas Carol” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-Bit) and English 2.0 DVS along with French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. And similar to the picture quality, you also get the immersive soundcape that audiophiles want. Crisp and clear dialogue through the center channels, sound effects and music through the front channels but also how good the directional sound effects were used for the surround channels. There is also a good amount of LFE with that slow rumble.
The film has so many action sequences as Scrooge is being whisked away by the Spirits but also when he meets the final spirit, that is when the film starts to really take another leap in terms of action and surround usage. But it also goes beyond the expected action sequences, from crowd ambiance, creaking wood, clothing and curtains being ruffled, bells, clocks, pounding on tables, “A Christmas Carol” definitely delivers and once again, another category that achieves perfection in this Blu-ray release.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
“A Christmas Carol” comes with the following special features:
- Behind The Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience – A feature length picture-in-picture viewing mode takes the audience behind the scenes of motion capture filmmaking. Also, features the audio commentary by director Robert Zemeckis. While watching the film, you can easily toggle what you want to see. Very in-depth commentary and the fact that you can have control of what you want to see and the inclusion of the full-motion capture experience is fantastic! Awesome addition to this Blu-ray release.
- Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar – 25 days of holiday surprises extend the holiday cheer, as viewers come back to discover what each door holds.
- Deleted Scenes – (8:39) Six deleted scenes on the Blu-ray Disc. (note: CG is not fully rendered)
- Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling – (14:43) Actress Jacquie Barnbrook hosts a journey through the creative process of Disney’s “A Christmas Carol”. Behind-the-scenes of the making of the film, scanning of the characters and its creative format.
- On Set With Sammi – (1:52) Follow Sammi Hanratty, one of the film’s young stars, as she shares a kid’s eye view of an “anything but average” day on the set.
“A Christmas Carol” comes with a slip-over cover case. Also, included is a DVD featuring the feature film and bonus features. The DVD is presented in 2:40:1 – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions. Audio is in English, French, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English 2.0 DVS. Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
Throughout my life, the Charles Dickens classic of “A Christmas Carol” is usually a yearly Christmas ritual. There are various incarnations of this story that I have enjoyed. From the Steve Martin early ’80s classic to even the Disney animated feature. But I have to say that this is probably the best adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” that I have watched.
Not only was Jim Carrey fantastic in his vocal role (for many characters), Disney did a fantastic job in choosing him to provide the voice because he nailed the voice of Scrooge perfectly.
But where other adaptations have done a good job in portraying the spirits of Christmas, “A Christmas Carol” for 2009 definitely managed to capture the emotion of fear that haunted Ebenezer Scrooge. You watch this film and you can understand why he’s scared. There are quite a bit of scary sequences and even my son had his eyes closed or running back from the hallway and back to the living room because he was scared at times.
That is one thing I have never gotten from “A Christmas Carol” as a child is an adaptation where you actually feel the fear that Scrooge is going through. So, it’s great to have that animated film in which you can also feel that fear and the soundtrack helped contribute to that. The lossless audio on Blu-ray really enhances your experience of watching this film as sound does play a good part in enveloping your soundscape of your room and feeling that fear, those rumbles but also the more happier parts of the film which include the overall feeling of Christmas through song, the sound of snow, the bells, it all sounds remarkable on Blu-ray.
Another thing where this film also succeeds is showing us the past. The film does a great job of showing us how Scrooge had grown up and the challenges he had faced in his life and why he became bitter. The scene between Scrooge and Belle was fantastic and it was captured quite well in this film. Also, the Cratchit family was well-presented, showing us Bob’s good heart but also showing us the despair Bob and and his wife feel towards Tiny Tim. This was well-done!
And of course, the best part of “A Christmas Carol” is how wonderful the film looks. This is one of the best animated films I have ever seen thus far. And I’m talking more towards capturing realism in CG. The skin textures were amazing and how they gave characters a different look was fantastic as some animation studios tend to reuse models with slight changes, in this film, there was actually differences in the people shown throughout the film. As mentioned, the skin detail was amazing. From Scrooge’s face and hair, the Spirits of Christmas Present’s hairy beard to the little kid working at the mortuary with his face full of zits, it’s great to see the animators really going all out in the creation of these characters.
And it goes beyond the characters as we see that same detail applied to the city, the whole landscape, the interior objects, the flames, the snow as we see shoes or a carriage driving by and snow being trampled afterward. This is a heavily detailed animated film and it justifies the heavy budget that this film cost. I’m glad they made their money back and more because this is a major step in the world of animation and capturing realism.
The motion capture was fantastic and movements were natural and for the most part, this film will no doubt become a Walt Disney Christmas classic and that because the animation is so realistic, it’s one of those films that will probably hold up for many years to come.
As for the Blu-ray release, you get the additional DVD but for the Blu-ray release, the picture and lossless audio quality is fantastic and the special features are well-done, especially the picture-in-picture mode which was well-done! There are a good number of special features that really, it’s hard to come up with any negative about this film. It’s a solid Blu-ray release but if I really had to nitpick, the only thing I can come up with is wishing there was more special features that maybe went into the actual history of the Charles Dickens classic or maybe the inclusion of “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”, so people can watch the other Disney adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”. But really, this is a pretty solid Blu-ray release and there is nothing negative that I can say about this release.
It’s also important to let people know that there is also a 3D version of this Blu-ray release that is available. The 3D version marks the first Walt Disney 3D release and for those with a 3D enabled TV and Blu-player can definitely take advantage of this release.
For families, “A Christmas Carol” is a very good family but it’s also one that I recommend that parents watch with their children and for those with young children, this film may not be suitable for them just yet. Because there are so many scary parts, I recommend at least the film being shown to children that are 7-8 years-old minimum. My son is seven-years-old and he enjoyed the film but I can tell you, he ran out many times or buried his face under his hands because of the scary scenes and of course, the well-done sound effects did a fantastic job in adding to those more action-driven or scary moments of the film. But parental guidance is definitely suggested and if you do have older children, fortunately this Blu-ray release does come with a DVD, especially if you are planning a long winter commute.
Overall, this is a magnificent Blu-ray release from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. This is now my favorite adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic and I wouldn’t be surprised if this film would become a classic for many years to come. “A Christmas Carol” is highly recommended!
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