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Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Danny Thomas, Marlo Thomas, Roddy McDowall
Writing Credits:
Romeo Muller, Arthur Rankin Jr.

A cricket seeks to rescue a poor toymaker and his blind daughter from an exploitative miser.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 49 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/19/2019

• None


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The Cricket on the Hearth [Blu-Ray] (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 24, 2021)

Though most Rankin/Bass holiday specials went with their “Animagic” form of stop-motion work, a few opted for traditional cel animation. Of course, 1969’s classic Frosty the Snowman went that way, as did 1967’s less-known The Cricket on the Hearth.

Adapted from Charles Dickens, toymaker Caleb Plummer (voiced by Danny Thomas) lives with his adult daughter Bertha (Marlo Thomas). One day, Caleb meets a cricket named Crocket (Roddy McDowall). Because these insects supposedly bring luck, Caleb invites Crocket to live with the family.

When her fiancé Edward Belton’s (Ed Ames) gets lost at sea during his service in the Royal Navy, Bertha goes blind. Caleb neglects his trade and falls into massive debt via his attempts to find a cure for his daughter.

Desperate for a way to survive, Caleb winds up in the service of cruel miser Mr. Tackleton (Hans Conreid). Stuck in these awful circumstances, Crocket needs to use his lucky side to help the clan.

As a kid, I scarfed down Christmas specials like crazy, and I delighted in annual viewings of Frosty, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and all the other regulars. Did Hearth exist as part of this repertoire?

Nope. Granted, Hearth debuted when I was barely half a year old, so even if my family watched it back then, I wouldn’t recall it.

I assume Hearth received additional airings in subsequent years, but if so, I never saw them – or they occurred before I was old enough to let them lodge in my memory bank. I recall 1973’s similarly titled The Cricket in Times Square but nothing about Hearth rings a bell.

Perhaps I did see Hearth and simply don’t remember. Now that I watch it circa 2021, I couldn’t blame my younger self if he forgot, as Hearth provides a completely mediocre special.

The biggest problem comes from the show’s lack of dramatic momentum or much that hits home. Oh, Hearth pours on the melodrama, what with a blind girl, a lost sailor, and whatnot.

Unfortunately, none of these elements click. Instead, Hearth just meanders along as it pushes toward the inevitable happy ending.

“Meander” really seems appropriate here, especially since Hearth wastes a ton of time with its bland songs. It feels like we get 30 seconds of plot and then divert toward yet another dull production number.

Nothing about the “story” ever makes much sense anyway. If Crocket is so lucky, why does so much pain befall the Plummer family in the first place?

Throw in a “surprise ending” that seems less than surprising and this becomes a pretty poor excuse for a Christmas special. Hearth offers a slow, boring 49 minutes of animated mediocrity.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus F

The Cricket on the Hearth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the show’s age and TV origins, this became a pretty good image.

Sharpness usually worked fine. Occasional instances of softness materialized, but the majority of the special seemed well-defined and accurate.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws became a sporadic nuisance via some specks, but they didn’t create a big concern.

Colors fared nicely. The special opted for a palette that emphasized bright colors, and these seemed vivid and warm.

Blacks felt deep and dense, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. Though the occasional soft shots and source defects knocked down my grade to a “B”, it veered close to “B+” level.

Though not as good, the show’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack seemed adequate for a special from 1967. A monaural mix, speech sounded intelligible and reasonably natural, albeit a little edgy at times.

Effects offered fairly positive reproduction, while music seemed pretty peppy and warm. Nothing here impressed, but the audio came across as satisfactory.

No bonus materials appear on this Blu-ray.

At their best, animated Christmas specials offer fun for the whole family. Unfortunately, the dull, bland Cricket on the Hearth lacks anything to make it enjoyable or memorable. The Blu-ray offers good picture and adequate audio but it lacks bonus materials. This turns into a disappointing holiday show.

This release of Cricket on the Hearth can be purchased on its own or as part of a set called “The Original Christmas Specials”. Along with Drummer, it includes Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and The Little Drummer Boy.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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