Disney's Prep & Landing DVD Review

 Most every kid who knows the story of Santa delivering presents to good boys and girls on Christmas Eve has probably, at some point, questioned the logistics of it all. How does Kris Kringle manage to make all of those stops in one night? How does he find the houses when it snows? And, most importantly, how does he get in and out without being seen?

ABC attempted to help parents answer a few of these inevitable questions in 2009 with the animated special “Prep & Landing.” Now available exclusively on DVD (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, MSRP: $19.99), the story follows Wayne (voiced by Dave Foley), an elf with the elite Prep & Landing division at the North Pole. This special force of elves is deployed to houses ahead of Santa to secure the location with military precision, ensuring that the tree and stockings are ready for gifts, the milk is at the optimal temperature and, most importantly, no creatures are stirring.

After 200 years of dousing fires and putting curious pets to sleep, Wayne is ready to move ahead in his career, but instead of the hoped-for promotion to Director of the Naughty List, he gets a new partner freshly graduated from the Kringle Academy.

Where Wayne is jaded and disillusioned, Lanny (voiced by Derek Richardson) is full of Christmas spirit. He’s raring to go, excited to start “the most tinsel job ever.” Upset at being passed over, Wayne decides to let the exuberant newbie handle all the prep work at little Timmy’s house while he indulges in some uncharacteristically naughty behavior. Disaster inevitably strikes, and Santa is about to miss the house entirely when Lanny helps Wayne rediscover his love of the season and they save the day.

Full of charming characters (coffee-fueled Magee, efficient Miss Holly) and witty turns of phrase mixed in with some cool high-tech gadgetry, “Prep & Landing” provides a fresh view of life at the North Pole and is destined to be one of those holiday specials that becomes a tradition, falling somewhere between It’s a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Fans who might be leery of spending their Christmas cash on a DVD lasting only 22 minutes shouldn’t despair: there are plenty of bonus features to flesh out the disc. First off, “Operation Secret Santa” is a short that follows Lanny and Wayne on a mission filled with secret-agent thrills and sentimentality, made even more awesome by the unmistakable vocal talent of Betty White as Mrs. Claus. About half as long as the movie, “Operation Secret Santa” adds more depth to the story of Santa as well as the two main characters.

By comparison, the short “Tiny’s Big Adventure” is only a few minutes long and mostly one long sight gag. There are a few giggles to be had, but, compared to “Operation Secret Santa,” “Tiny’s Big Adventure” is mostly forgettable.

The other two bonus features—the Kringle Academy Training Videos and North Pole Commercials—are interesting but odd. The training videos are meant to look like they were run on projectors, a concept which is probably confusing to those under the age of 20, and feature artwork reminiscent of old World War II-era recruitment efforts, though they feature very modern technology. The nostalgic flavor will probably appeal more to parents (or grandparents!) than children, but the videos may open up a dialogue about how things were “in the old days” that will bond generations.

The commercials are more modern in tone, but don’t make much sense. A dating service for elves? An eatery called The Fruitcake Factory? A spa retreat for tired elves? None of these seem like they would interest kids (or even adults). They would be cute spaced into the commercial break spots in the main feature, but on their own are a little silly.

Like most Disney releases, there are also the requisite commercials (a teaser for the upcoming Disney Studio All Access service, Lady and the Tramp: Diamond Edition, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas) and the FastPlay option.

Overall, “Prep & Landing” is a worthy addition to any holiday movie collection. Fans of the original should keep their eyes peeled for the sequel, “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice,” in which Lanny and Wayne must recover top-secret North Pole technology that has fallen into the hands of a naughty kid hacker. The animated special airs Mon., Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

“Prep & Landing” is now available on DVD.

Published on SoCal.com

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