A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, Directed by Bill Melendez) English 8

Voices of Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Tracy Stratford, Cathy Steinberg, Chris Doran, Karen Mendelson

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Poignant. Charming. Thoughtful.

I’ve watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special countless times, but somehow I’ve never seen A Charlie Brown Christmas until this year. It’s wonderful. Charlie Brown wades through the holiday season being the young neurotic that he is, asking some big questions. Lucy convinces him to direct her Christmas play.  Eventually, he’s reminded of the true meaning of Christmas just in time to enjoy it. Iconic, endearing, and Vince Guaraldi’s music is gorgeous.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(845)

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983, Directed by Burny Mattinson) English 8

Voices of Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Clarence Nash, Hal Smith, Will Ryan

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Short. Sweet. Endearing.

Splendid version of Charles Dickens’ much-told tale, this 26 minute short special might be my favorite Christmas Carol. Scrooge McDuck takes his natural role in the story as Ebenezer Scrooge, a hard-hearted old businessman without any empathy or love. One night, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts-the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. They open his eyes and force a change of heart, causing old Scrooge to turn his life around. Short and sweet, Mickey’s Christmas Carol is a fantastically animated special.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(844)

The Little Drummer Boy (1968, Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass) English 7

Voices of José Ferrer, Greer Garson, June Foray, Teddy Eccles, Paul Frees

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(7-Very Good Film)

Nostalgic. Striking. Memorable.

One of Rankin and Bass’ Christmas classics told in their indelible stop-motion style, The Little Drummer Boy adapts the popular Christmas song of the same name and provides a little background. A young Jewish boy named Aaron lives only to play his drum. Swindled into joining a talentless traveling troupe leads Aaron ultimately to Bethlehem where he humbly plays his drum for the newborn baby Jesus. Like all of their specials, Rankin and Bass’ The Little Drummer Boy is one part creepy and two parts sweet, nostalgic, memorable, and a testament to their creativity. One of their best.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(841)

Small One (1978, Directed by Don Bluth) English 7

Voices of Sean Marshall, Gordon Jump, Hal Smith, Bill Woodson

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(7-Very Good Film)

Derivative. Sweet. Skilled.

Slightly derivative of The Little Drummer Boy, The Small One is directed by Don Bluth, during his time at Disney, before he left to start his own animation studio. The young hero, simply Boy, travels through Nazareth searching for a suitable buyer for his runtish, old donkey. The people he meets prove cruel at every turn until he meets a kind stranger named Joesph, who needs a donkey to carry his wife, Mary, on her way to Bethlehem to give birth. We know how that turns out. Sweet film. Nicely animated.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(840)

Shrek the Halls (2007, Directed by Gary Trousdale) English 6

Voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Conrad Vernon, Gary Trousdale

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(6-Good Film)

Fun. Unspectacular. Satisfying.

How Gary Trousdale went from directing two of the best-animated films of all-time (Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to directing this, I’ll never know, but it’s a decent Christmas special without being essential. Shrek prepares for his first Christmas spent with friends and family but when the day comes, he finds it doesn’t go as planned. There’s not a lot of meaningful action here, but the characters are still classic despite being worn out by their studio, and the story is amusing with a number of good jokes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(835)

Edmond was a Donkey (2012, Directed by Franck Dion) French 7

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(7-Very Good Film)

Bleak. Perplexing. Vivid.

Disconsolate Edmond is pranked by his office coworkers who put a pair of fake donkey ears on his head. To their astonishment, Edmond never takes them off. Never. Not while he’s asleep. Not when he’s at home. A bizarre take on mental illness and severe depression, this animated short also captures the monotony of life doing a thankless job. Strong work though with an ultra crude visual style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(813)

Lorenzo (2004, Directed by Mike Gabriel) English 7

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(7-Very Good Film)

Lovely. Entertaining. Slight.

A pompous, over-fed cat gets his due once a shabby stray puts a hex on him, or rather, his large, luxurious tail which then comes alive to torment its owner. Perhaps inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes,” the cat’s tail refuses to stop dancing, leading to some desperate acts and crazy situations, all in tune to its tango soundtrack. It’s an inspired piece of film-making, with incredible hand-drawn animation, aided by some computer wizardry. Beautifully expressionistic work recalling Disney’s masterpiece, Fantasia.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(797)

Get a Horse! (2013, Directed by Lauren MacMullen) English 6

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(6-Good Film)

Nostalgic. Zany. Fast.

Attempting to update a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon for modern times, this short starts off with Mickey in a quintessential premise. The big bully, Pete, is after Mickey’s girl, Minnie, and it’s up to Disney’s greatest creation to save her. Complicating matters, and putting a new spin on the material, is the breaking of the fourth wall, almost literally. Mickey breaks through the theater screen and becomes a three-dimensional figure. The short then sees Mickey using the fourth wall and his bag of tricks to stop Pete. Much of the short is clearly designed to show off the then-booming trend of 3-D. Thankfully, the film avoids being outright gimmicky. It’s a solid piece of animation, though Mickey looks a whole lot better in 2-D.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(738)

Sanjay’s Super Team (2015, Directed by Sanjay Patel) English 5

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(5-Okay Film)

Miscalculated. Underwhelming. Mediocre.

Uniquely personal short film from the Pixar team, relating a scene from the writer/director’s childhood with his father. Young Sanjay, like most kids, fantasizes about superheroes. A battle between his modern fantasies and the Hindu traditions of his family ensues when his father’s prayers conflict with a favorite television program of Sanjay’s. The hyper-cartoonish art style, while lovely, seems at odds with the material, and the main action feels designed to keep younger kids’ attention. I would have preferred a simpler design and telling of Sanjay’s story. Still, a decent enough short film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(737)

Puce Moment (1949, Directed by Kenneth Anger) 5

(5-Okay Film)

Formless. Baffling. Experimental.

A short and relatively conventional piece from Avante-garde filmmaker, Kenneth Anger, whose devotion to all that is aberrant and taboo made him a leading figure in the underground experimental film movement. Although made in the 1940s, this short was re-released in the sixties with a rock soundtrack, and this is the version I saw. The short is highly fetishistic, but never very provocative, as it focuses on one woman in a puce dress staring into the camera for almost the entirety of its six-minute running time. While not boring, the film is also not very interesting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(723)