It's inevitable. This is the time of year when holiday-themed movies, good and bad, flood stores shelves, trying to pry those last couple of bucks from your wallet. They take advantage of your feelings of goodwill toward men. They assume that just because it's the Christmas season you'll want to watch as many movies with reindeer and elves in them as you can possibly find. Sometimes this ploy turns out miserably (see: 'A Christmas Story 2' and 'Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure'), other times it works extremely well (see: 'Arthur Christmas), and then there are those times where it seems superfluous, but in the end it ends up being harmless holiday fun.
'Prep & Landing,' animated by Walt Disney Animation Studios for ABC, is the story about two elves that find themselves in the Prep & Landing crew. They're the elves that prep each house for Santa's arrival. Surely the big guy can't do everything himself, so these highly trained elves scope out the house ahead of time, with the use of high-tech gadgetry and night-vision goggles, they make sure there aren't any creatures stirring before Santa's big arrival.
Wayne (voiced by Dave Foley) is a tired elf. He's been on the P&L team for centuries. It's beginning to wear on him. He's ready for a change. Lanny (voiced by Derek Richardson), on the other hand, is excited to finally be joining P&L and is ready for anything the job will throw at him. Needless to say, Lanny's overwhelming exuberance gets on Wayne's nerves.
There are two short 20-minute cartoons in this set. The first cartoon follows Wayne and Lanny as they try frantically to save Christmas for a single child after they learn Santa is going to skip him over because of their mistakes. In the second cartoon Wayne and Lanny, now best of friends, are called upon to save Christmas once again. It seems some young hoodlum on the Naughty List is trying to hack into the North Pole's mainframe and change his name to the Nice List. It's up to Wayne and Lanny to find out who is doing it and put a stop to it.
Both cartoons are decently clever while poking fun at the holiday season. Kids will most likely laugh all the way through, while Wayne's more pessimistic attitude might even win over the most cynical adults.
The problem here is that there's little incentive to buy this set. There are only two 20-minute episodes. It's not like you're getting a whole season of cartoons. It's hard to fork over the sticker prices even if the producers are banking on the fact that it's Christmastime and you probably won't be able to resist its tinsel charms.
Disney has seen fit to price the set a little lower than most of its new day-and-date releases, but it still seems a tad high for the content you're getting. Truth be told, I enjoyed both cartoons. They have a fun, witty spirit about them. They feel like genuine Walt Disney Animation Studio products. The characters are fun, the humor is boundless, and each of the two episodes has just enough holiday cheer. However, I still couldn't see myself shelling out full price for this set. This is pertinent to the review because at some point you have to wonder if the amount of content you're getting is worth the price you're paying. Trust me, these two cartoons fly by faster than you think they will. And then what?
'Prep & Landing' is an enjoyable little holiday cartoon. If you're up for buying anything themed for the holidays then this will be a no-brainer for you. For everyone else be warned, while the content is adorably fun, there isn't enough of it to warrant a purchase at full price.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Prep & Landing' comes in a 2-Disc Combo Pack. The first disc is a 50GB Blu-ray, which holds the episodes and all the special features. The second disc is a DVD of the episodes with the same special features. Like with every Disney release, they have to think up some wacky edition name for it. This one is called the Totally Tinsel Collection. Inside is a code for Disney Movie Rewards. This release also comes with a slipcover that features the same artwork as the case. It's region free.
Officially made for television, 'Prep & Landing' doesn't quite find the demo-quality stratosphere like other Disney or Pixar CG titles. Its television origins are evident throughout. Many of the artifacts and bothersome aspects of CG on TV are present here. Although, for the most part the cartoons look solid.
Like so many CGI television series, 'Prep & Landing' has a tiny problem with banding. It isn't as obvious as it was when it was simply being broadcast, but it's still noticeable. There are also very slight hints of micro-blocking in the presentation. The beginning of the first episode seemed rather noisy for a CGI production.
On the whole, though, things look quite good. Computer generated animation has always looked great in high definition and this is no exception. When the show looks good it looks really good. Detail is fine and precise. While the show may not be as intricately animated as something like 'Finding Nemo,' it still has enough detail to show off. The hair on the elves and in Santa's beard is good examples of how accurate some of the details can be. Colors are bright, with greens and reds dominating the color spectrum. For the most part, animation is clearly detailed and smoothly finished. The video presentation may not drop your jaw with outstanding detail, but its clarity is strong. In spite of some setbacks it's a solid transfer.
Along those same made-for-TV lines comes the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Again, this mix isn't going to knock you off the couch with its ability to fill your room with copious amounts of lossless sound, transporting you away to a completely different realm of existence. No, this is a straight-forward, no frills type of mix. It does what it needs to do and nothing more.
Clarity and fidelity are nice. Dialogue is always intelligible. Directionality works really well in conjunction with the various channels. Panning effects, like Santa's sleigh coming in for a fast landing, are transferred seamlessly through the speakers.
LFE is constant, but a little light. Rear channels are engaged, but aren't as immersive as a movie with higher production values might be. In the end, like the video presentation, the audio is strong and performs well. It just doesn't enter into demo territory.
'Prep & Landing' is enjoyable as far as holiday-themed cartoons go. It doesn't feel like it was thrown together quickly in a back room just so Disney could put out something new for the holidays. There was clearly some thought and care put into these cartoons, which is very welcome. However, one must weigh whether the scant 40 minutes of actual content really add up in this case. It's still worth a look though. After that you can decide if it's worth your hard-earned dough. Try to find this at a good price.