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Tim Hodge
The VeggieTales

Sunday Morning Values. Saturday Morning Fun!

Ebenezer Nezzer is out of control! Filling London with plastic Easter eggs, he's on a rampage to make Easter "bigger than ever!" But just how hard can his mechanical chickens work before they're well ... fried? In just one unforgettable day and night, Cavis and Millward (Bob and Larry) and a music box angel named Hope (Voiced by Rebecca St. James) must convince Nezzer that Easter is about more than just candy and eggs.

Inspired by Dicken's Christmas classic, this very special VeggieTales film explains why millions of Christians around the world celebrate Easter past, present and future.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 49 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 2/10/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Tim Hodge and Writer/Actor Phil Vischer
• “How to Draw Hope and the Mechanical Chickens”
• “Behind the Scenes – The Making of An Easter Carol
• Veggie Karaoke
• Family Fun Activity
• Interactive Storybooks
• Character Bios
• Easter Egg Hunt
• Trivia Challenge
• Maze Game
• Easter Eggs
• DVD-ROM Materials

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Veggie Tales: An Easter Carol (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 25, 2004)

For this newest VeggieTales adventure, we find a holiday piece. Essentially a sequel to The Star of Christmas, a variation on the Dickens classic comes to us via An Easter Carol. As with Star, Carol takes us back to London circa 1880, and we meet Ebenezer Nezzer (Phil Vischer). The richest man in town, he makes plastic Easter eggs but never comes to celebrate the holiday at church.

We learn the local parish will soon unveil a snazzy new stained glass window. Nezzer’s employee and nephew Millward Phelps (Mike Nawrocki) and his co-worker/friend Cavis Appythart (Vischer) want off Easter Sunday to see the unveiling, but their plastic egg obsessed boss refuses their request. He wants to make things “big” and sell those eggs. His grandma told him that “Easter means no death”; he misinterprets this to mean that as long as he makes eggs, it keeps her alive, so he plans to make Easter “bigger and better” to glorify his grandma. Nezzer intends to create “Easterland” and he will demolish the church to take over the territory. He also fires Millward and Cavis.

With all this in place, Nezzer receives a nighttime visit from his Grandma (Tim Hodge). She tells him he’s missed the point of her message and warns of upcoming visitations. In the meantime, Cavis and Millward plan to steal the plans to Easterland and halt the construction.

At midnight, Nezzer meets an angel named Hope (Rebecca St. James) who takes him on a tour. He goes to past Easters, the present one, and an indication of the future as well. He learns what’ll happen in he builds Easterland and starts to learn his lesson.

I’ve enjoyed most of the VeggieTales pieces I’ve seen in the past, but Carol left me cold. Prior Tales offered lively wit and a saucy irreverence that made them stand out from traditional Christian-oriented fare. They also lacked heavy-handed moralizing, as they preferred to convey their messages in more gentle ways.

Carol doesn’t truly hammer us with its point, but it seems much more obvious than usual. I like the prior model better, in that those shows focused more on general ethical lessons than true proselytizing. Carol gets into religious discussions that force morals down our throats to a degree, and that factor makes the program less enjoyable.

In addition, Carol simply doesn’t seem very entertaining. It does little to revamp the much parodied Christmas Carol framework and doesn’t bring new life to the theme. Actually, it kind of melds Christmas Carol with The Grinch, though it relies more heavily on the former. It does neither property well, unfortunately, and seems like a dull exploration of its themes.

That’s the biggest problem with the film, as it simply comes across as bland and plodding. Since it fails to deliver the gentle irreverence of the better VeggieTales, it meanders and doesn’t do much to involve the viewer. It doesn’t help that Nezzer presents one of the series’ less interesting characters; he seems too bland to be one around whom they build a movie.

Not much Easter entertainment exists, so families might pursue the VeggieTales Easter Carol to fill that void. Unfortunately, the program doesn’t present a very entertaining piece. It telegraphs its points more obviously than I’d like, and it fails to generate much life. Frankly, it doesn’t mesh well with prior VeggieTales and I didn’t much care for it.

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

VeggieTales: An Easter Carol appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. If you’ve seen prior VeggieTales releases, you’ll know what to expect here, as Carol provided another solid visual presentation.

Sharpness seemed to be consistently positive. The picture looked crisp and detailed at all times, as I witnessed no signs of softness or fuzziness. However, some jagged edges appeared, and a few examples of moiré effects occurred as well; these were minor but occasionally noticeable. Edge enhancement caused no concerns. Print flaws also appeared absent during this clean image.

The world of VeggieTales offers a fairly bright and varied palette, and Carol followed with a strong batch of colors. The program offered tones that tended toward a more pastel look than the usually cartoony sense of VeggieTales, and the hues were nicely distinctive. At no time did any of the colors show signs of bleeding, noise or other concerns, as they always looked tight and distinct. Black levels were also nicely deep and rich, but shadow detail was a little dense. With the nighttime scenes, the show featured more low-light shots than usual, and these seemed slightly heavy. For the most part, though, the elements looked acceptably visible. Ultimately, An Easter Carol provided a satisfying visual experience.

Also fairly good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of An Easter Carol. For the most part, this soundfield stayed with an emphasis on the forward spectrum, where it offered nicely broad and engaging audio at times. Though not tremendously more involving when compared to most other VeggieTales pieces, Carol did provide somewhat more active audio. Elements moved nicely across the front and appeared less speaker-specific than normal. The effects meshed together well.

The surrounds also added more audio than normal. The rear speakers never became terribly significant partners, but they kicked in some good material at times. We heard doors open and close in the back, and the surrounds generally became livelier than I expected. The rear speakers even contributed some directional dialogue at times.

Sound quality seemed consistent with prior releases. Audio quality seemed to be fine across the board. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and it showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and when appropriate they came to life quite vividly. For the most part, bass response was a bit tepid, and the subwoofer received little work, but some rich low-end did crop up at times. Music demonstrated fairly positive dimensionality. Again, the bass could have sounded warmer and deeper, but I thought the range of the tunes remained quite acceptable throughout the show. In the end, An Easter Carol didn’t give us a stellar auditory experience, but I thought the mix worked quite well as a whole.

This release of An Easter Carol contains a fairly nice roster of supplements. We start in the Features area with an audio commentary from director Tim Hodge and writer/actor Phil Vischer, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. As with their earlier chat for Star of Christmas, this one began well. The pair went through the idea behind the project and how they worked to adapt Dickens. The commentary also pursued information about using the characters, maintaining the appropriate focus, and various little bits of trivia.

Also like the commentary for Star, this one starts to peter out fairly quickly. Not too much dead air occurs, but the pair simply don’t seem to have a lot of useful material to say during the film’s second half. Still, given the brevity of the project and the chipper tone maintained by Hodge and Vischer, this one is worth a screening.

Next we find a quick glimpse Behind the Scenes. This seven-minute and 35-second program shows clips from the movie, behind the scenes footage and interviews with Phil Vischer, Tim Hodge, producer David Pitts, actor Rebecca St. James, and actor/VeggieTales co-creator Mike Nawrocki. It offers a reasonably concise and informative piece that covers the origins of Carol plus its development and some information about its production. A fair amount of these notes also pop up in the commentary, so “Behind the Scenes” occasionally feels redundant. Nonetheless, it presents a modicum of new information and does its job decently.

A five-minute and 54-second Stained Glass Documentary features stained glass artist Sheri Law. She shows us the processes used to make stained glass. We then hear from Wheaton College Professor Emeritus and author of Symbols of the Christian Faith Alva Steffler. He talks about the development of stained glass windows and their importance. I can’t call it an exciting program, but it provides a reasonably good piece of information.

Concept Art includes 10 drawings used to design characters, sets, and other objects. The Progression Reel lasts 80 seconds and really offers a multi-angle comparison. We watch the climactic escape sequence and see the piece’s evolution. It uses the “angle” button if desired to flip from storyboard, layout, animation and final lighting. It defaults to a four-panel composite screen with all of the options, but the “angle” button lets you enlarge any of them.

The “Features” area finishes with some Previews. This section includes ads for Jonah, Ballad of Little Joe, A Snoodle’s Tale, Sumo of the Opera, Easter Tale, VeggieTales Classics, and The Star Of Christmas.

More extras appear in the Fun! section. Fans can try the Trivia Challenge at either “easy” or “hard” levels. Actually, both seem equally difficult. Some of the questions are gimmes, but most require at least a little thought. You receive no reward for correct completion, unfortunately, and the same questions appear if you replay the game.

The Easter Egg Hunt seems absolutely pointless. It shows a street scene and forces you to click on various items to find an egg. It requires no skill and just makes you guess randomly until you locate the egg. Then it bounces you back to the main screen, so it provides no reward or fun.

Veggie Karaoke lets you sing along with the song “Boids”. You can turn the singing on or off and then follow the bouncing egg that accompanies the on-screen lyrics. It’s moderately enjoyable.

Another game comes from the Get Me to the Church Maze. It’s pretty simple and forgiving, and it actually presents a reward for successful completion. When you get to the end, you’ll be able to watch a 51-second clip from Rebecca St. James as she chats about the song she does in the show. She didn’t say much of interest, but she’s a serious babe, so I’m happy to see her again.

After this we locate two storybooks: one for An Easter Carol and one for The Star of Christmas. These allow you to read the tales independently or have them read to you. The presentation seems somewhat static but it’s decent for what it is. “Carol” works better because Phil Vischer reads it; a fairly bland and anonymous female narrator tells “Star”, so it seems less interestingly depicted.

For information about the film’s roles, Bios provides cute listings for Cavis, Millward, Ebenezer Nezzer, Grandma Nezzer, Seymour Schwenk, and Hope. The Family Fun Activity provides a little game designed to get folks to demonstrate their trust for each other. A Craft Activity teaches kids how to make cheap stained glass windows.

Two more instructional videos appear via How to Draw Hope and How to Draw the Mechanical Chickens. In the former, Joe Spattiford takes 10 minutes and 16 seconds to show us the techniques behind the little angel. In the latter, Spattiford uses six minutes and 11 seconds to illustrate one of the fake cluckers. Both features work well.

In addition, a few Easter Eggs appear on the DVD. Go to the “Features” menu and click to the right from “Stained Glass Documentary”. This highlights an egg. Press “enter” and you’ll watch a 127-second clip of producer David Pitt as he discusses the visual development of the “Hope” character.

From the main menu, click right from “Fun!” This gives us a 74-second piece with Pitt as he goes over ways to simplify visual shots to aid the production.

If you go to the “Fun!” domain, click left from “Main Menu”. This highlights another egg. When you hit enter, you’ll see a 21-second clip in which Big Idea animators used computer technology to place themselves inside a scene.

Lastly, Carol includes some DVD-ROM materials. These include Weblinks to bigidea.com and bigideafun.com plus some “Coloring Pages”. Those let you print out three different images you can then color. We can read the script as a Word document. The DVD-ROM area also presents some form of game, but I couldn’t get this to work.

Note that the DVD’s packaging states the disc includes two animated shorts. However, I found no evidence of their presence on the disc; if they’re in there, they’re buried!

While I can’t call An Easter Carol a bad piece, it seems like one of the less interesting VeggieTales programs. It suffers from a slow-paced look at its subject and it fails to present the charm and quirkiness normally present in VeggieTales offerings. The DVD offers the usual high quality picture and sound plus a fairly decent set of supplements. Maybe other VeggieTales fans will like Carol, but it didn’t do much for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4901 Stars Number of Votes: 51
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