It’s the Christmas season again, and Warner Brothers has brought yet another yuletide classic to Blu-ray. Rankin-Bass gained their reputation largely on a series of holiday specials produced for television during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Their use of stop-motion animation resulted in some fondly remembered gems, including the classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. They also did do a number of hand-drawn animated favorites, including Frosty the Snowman and ’Twas The Night Before Christmas. Produced in 1974, ’Twas The Night Before Christmas is based on A Visit from St. Nicholas (more often referred to as ’Twas The Night Before Christmas), an 1823 poem by Clement Moore.

Twas the Night Before ChristmasUsing the poem as a guideline, writer Jerome Coopersmith (likely with input from producers/directors Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass) concocted a story about a town that was being boycotted by Santa Claus. It seems Santa read a letter in the Junctionville Register, which protested the “myth” of his existence. Worst yet, the crank signed his letter “from all of us.” Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to see why Santa is a bit put off by all of this. Though one does have to wonder if Saint Nick would only be proving the cranks point if he didn’t show up at all.

The story follows two families; one human, one mice. The two families are tied together by the friendship of the two fathers, and the fact that they all live in the same house. Further, Father Mouse (George Gobel) is an assistant to Joshua Trundle (Joel Grey), a clockmaker. We learn early on to the Mouse family that it was Mr. Mouse’s son Albert (Tammy Grimes) who wrote the infamous letter. Albert sticks by his political views; though his father chastises him for believing he knows more than he does. Meanwhile, Mr. Trundle makes a proposal to the town council that he be allowed to construct a giant clock that will play a song designed to convince Santa to come back on Christmas Eve.

Despite Mr. Trundle’s best efforts, something horrible goes wrong with the clock, making him the town pariah. Albert knows something about it, but will he make amends in time to save Christmas for Junctionville?

While ’Twas The Night Before Christmas isn’t quite the classic of some other Rankin-Bass productions, it is charming and a nice disc to watch during the Christmas season. Like the rest of their work, we get plenty of songs and undeniable holiday cheer.

Presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p is better than last year’s standard definition release, but it won’t blow you away. Though this is a 1974 production, things seem a bit flat throughout. Blacks are reasonably inky, and colors are well saturated. The elements from which the remaster was done do show a few blemishes, while grain is obvious throughout.

The soundtrack is a single channel lossless DTS-HD. While this is definitely fuller and clearer than the track found on the standard DVD release, it’s nothing special when discussing HD. Though the music sounds better here than ever before.

A Spanish Dolby Digital monaural track is also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The special features are the same as the ones found on the standard definition release:

  • Christmas: A Global Holiday (8:45, SD) This featurette deals not with the featured program but with Christmas itself. It disperses facts about how the holiday is observed in different parts of the world.
  • Standard DVD