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BIG IDEA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Brian Roberts
Cast:
Lisa Vischer, Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Dan Anderson, Keri Pisapia
Writing Credits:
Mike Nawrocki, Mark Steele

Synopsis:
In this Veggie-version of a holiday classic, Junior Asparagus stars as The Little Drummer Boy, a lonely child who finds the true meaning of Christmas when he stumbles upon the birth of the baby Jesus. A story of generosity, hope and love, this timeless tale will warm the hearts of children everywhere!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 50 min.
Price: $14.97
Release Date: 10/4/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Brian Roberts, Writer/Actor Mike Nawrocki and Executive Producer Leslie Ferrell
• “Behind the Music of The Little Drummer Boy” Featurette
• “Junior Visits a Drum Factory” Featurette
• Music Video
• “Family Activity: Making a Drum”
• Silly Song SingAlong
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 29, 2011)

We get a new take on a classic Christmas story with 2011’s VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy. Junior Asparagus (voiced by Lisa Vischer) plans to go caroling with his pals, but due to a mix-up, he ends up stuck at home and depressed. To cheer him up, his Grandpa Grape (Phil Vischer) tells him a Christmas story.

We go back to Ye Olden Dayes and meet Aaron (played by “Junior”/Lisa Vischer), a boy who lives on a farm with his parents. He loves the animals and gets a drum as a present. When he plays it, the animals dance and everyone’s happy.

Until the Romans come to town and torch the family farm, that is. With his parents gone, Aaron turns cold against the world and strikes out on his own with just the animals as his companions.

As he wanders, Aaron encounters Ben Haramed (Phil Vischer), the sleazy head of a traveling entertainment troupe. He needs a musician and lures in Aaron with promises of money – enough gold that Aaron can afford to totally ignore humanity. We follow his adventures as they lead him toward an intersection with the birth of Christ that alters his glum mood.

This Drummer is based on the 1968 TV special of the same name – and it got its inspiration from the 1941 song originally titled “Carol of the Drum”. I don’t know if any of the other Rankin/Bass shows have been remade, but for those of us who grew up on this stuff, it’s interesting to see the material reworked.

This means that comparisons between the VeggieTales version and the original become inevitable. While I can’t say this edition betters its predecessor, it manages to hold its own and offer an entertaining version of the story.

Actually, both have pretty similar strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, Drummer tells an interesting tale, and it’s a rather dark one, though the 1968 version is considerably more downbeat. In it, Aaron’s parents die, while here they’re just missing. That’s a disappointing change, as it feels like a cop-out; the story seems more powerful in its earlier incarnation. Still, this gives the tale a definite edge most VeggieTales lack.

Unfortunately, also like the 1968 special, this Drummer does its best to soften those edges. Actually, the 1968 version’s comedy seemed more out of place because it went for a darker impression. Its Aaron was notably surlier than the VeggieTales character, and it went for a stronger emotional tone; in addition to the death of the parents, the 1968 edition milks some real feeling from Aaron’s treatment and his connection to the animals.

Since the VeggieTales special lacks as much emotional depth, its comedy seems less out of place. Also, the kind of gags seen here are a staple of VeggieTales offerings and to be expected. Still, it’s a bit of a disappointment that the show’s producers didn’t go for greater emotional impact, as the program softens the character too much. We never really get the impression that Aaron truly hates the world; he just seems a bit annoyed most of the time.

Despite that problem, Drummer offers reasonable holiday entertainment. It takes a good tale and provides a decent interpretation of it. While it doesn’t better its inspiration, it’s enjoyable.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy appears in aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen version has been enhanced for 16X9 TVs. The image provided consistently solid visuals.

Sharpness was good. Some wide shots demonstrated a bit of softness, but those instances remained minor. Instead, the show usually appeared well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and source defects remained absent.

Like all VeggieTales programs, Drummer opted for a lively palette. It came with a wide variety of colors, all of which looked pretty positive. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed nice delineation. This was a fine presentation.

I also felt pleased with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Drummer. Though the soundfield didn’t dazzle, it opened up the spectrum pretty well. Music filled the room well, and other elements cropped up from the side and back speakers. Again, nothing here really impressed, but the mix created a nice environment for the material.

Audio quality was also good. Speech remained concise and distinctive, while effects showed solid clarity and accuracy. Music was consistently full and rich. This ended up as a “B” soundtrack.

When we shift to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Brian Roberts, writer/actor Mike Nawrocki and executive producer Leslie Ferrell. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story, character and adaptation issues, music, visuals and animation, cast and performances, and a few other thoughts.

Like all VeggieTales commentaries, this one comes with a fair amount of happy talk, but it also delivers a lot of good information. Most of this arrives during the film’s first half, as the track sags somewhat as it proceeds, but we still get a useful take on the project. In particular, the notes about the alterations made to the original Drummer Boy prove interesting. This is a likable, usually informative piece.

A featurette takes us Behind the Music of The Little Drummer Boy. It goes for three minutes, 42 seconds and includes notes from Roberts, Nawrocki, and music director Kurt Heineke. The show looks at the adaptation of the 1968 Drummer as well as thoughts about the special’s music. It’s a quick but reasonably informative piece.

Junior Visits a Drum Factory lasts four minutes, 10 seconds and features notes from drum technician Clay Fuqua. He shows some anonymous kids the different types of drums and how they work. This is a decent little tutorial.

Next we get a “family activity”: Making a Drum. It runs one minute, 34 seconds and we see some family make a cheap drum. This might be fun for folks to try.

A Silly Song Singalong for “The 8 Polish Foods” appears. This provides the scene from the special and allows you to watch it with or without original vocals. I’m not a fan of these singalongs, but someone probably likes them.

Finally, we get a music video for “The Little Drummer Boy”. This gives us a version from Bebe and Cece Winans as it mixes shots from the special and images of Bebe Winans involved in charity work. I can’t say either the tune or the video do anything for me.

The disc opens with an ad for Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men. It also provides Previews for Princess and the Pop Star, 25 Favorite Silly Songs, Veggietales.com and Songs for a Princess.

With VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy, we get an update on a well-known holiday TV special. It’s a fairly enjoyable rendition, though I prefer the original. The DVD offers good picture and audio along with a smattering of decent supplements. This is average VeggieTales but still likable.

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