STUDIO:  Warner Home Video
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME:  49 Minutes
• Tom and Jerry’s Holiday Story Factory (DVD-ROM only)
• Journey to the Toymaker Challenge

The Pitch

Incorporate the man-on-man carnage of Tom and Jerry into the musical format of The Nutcracker. Release in time for the holidays.  Watch the (Truckload? Satchel? Handful?) money roll in.

The Humans

Featuring words spoken by Chantal Strand, Ian James Corlett, Kathleen Barr, Tara Strong, Garry Chalk, Trevor Devall, Richard Newman and Mark Oliver

Tom then suddenly realized he was suffering from astabmatism.

The Nutshell

Jerry and his good friend Tuffy live in the ceiling of an opera house, with each year just being an excruciating wait until the next performance of The Nutcracker Christmas. He longs to perform on the stage and a little Christmas magic allows for just that. He suddenly has been taken to a kingdom where he and his princess can while away the hours dancing and being merry with the assorted gifts and characters that populate this Christmastown. However, Tom is part of a pack of alley cats that look to take over this kingdom for themselves. When they usurp power, Jerry and a group of allies (a rocking horse with a pull string in order to speak, an elf ornament and Tuffy) must find the Toymaker who created this kingdom in order to set things right.

"Lookit me!  I’m Vic Morrow!"

The Lowdown

There’s something universally fantastic about Tom and Jerry to me; perhaps in our current era the idea of two sworn enemies battling each other to the bitter end for all of infinity is a delicious comment on the nature of men throughout time neatly folded into an animated program that exploits it for all of the mayhem and cartoon antics it possibly can. However, at a certain point the formula begins to feel a little stale, so different hooks have to be utilized in order to prevent the audience from feeling worn down by the ‘been there, done that’ nature of the offering. This seems to be a product of that as all you have to do is give it a holiday twist and you have yourself something just in time for the winter season to try and make a little cash off of. However crass that notion of this flick’s origin might be, A Nutcracker Tale actually succeeds on its own modest terms for the most part, usually working at its best when following through on its premise.

"I’m open to new forms of animation, but this head of dicks model isn’t doing it for me."

The place where this film really flourishes is when it follows its own concept: that is to say, plays out as a cartoon set to The Nutcracker suite. Any moment where the ancillary characters are talking generally doesn’t generate much in the way of humor and exists pretty much as rudimentary plot propulsion towards the next piece and as such feel wholly incongruous with the infinitely more delightful sequences that revel in what plays like an accompaniment to an old silent picture. It’s refreshing for an animated feature to feature any moments without one-liners cluttering the landscape or moments of pure cinema that cut through the din created by violently verbose sidekicks. Another area deserving of praise is the animation; for a direct to television product it is surprisingly fluid and full of energy, raising it above a simple cash-grab usage of famous characters that the public will be interested in regardless of the quality of the project itself. It’s a well animated, well edited piece of work that is diversionary enough both for parents and for kids that it never feels bloated past its fifty minute running time.

Tom and Jerry’s Grand Illusion.

So while it is too slight to really amount to much (although there’s a character beat right near the end that, while almost immediately invalidated, was actually surprisingly emotional) due to its running time, there’s a good amount of visceral animation on display here that relies solely on the syncopation of the moving with a musical score without dialogue that works surprisingly well. It’s a modest success, but a success nonetheless. Slight recommendation.

"Holy shit, this 3-D Beowulf is pretty intense."

The Package

The cover art isn’t so bad, actually. With the play of words from the title utilized in a way that stays true to the tone of Tom and Jerry, I’ll give a golf clap and slight smirk to the effort put into its conception. The animation looks quite good (although formatted to fit a TV, being made for that format after all) and the audio gets enough right to highlight the musical sequences of the picture. In the extras department, I would have to rank this disc as a pretty substantial disappointment. When your featured material runs just south of an hour, it is generally a good thing to add some material so as to make a customer feel as though they’re getting their money’s worth from a purchase of the DVD. All you get here are a ‘Journey to the Toymaker’ game that will take no more than three minutes to complete for any child (is there really ever a game controlled by DVD remote that can be considered entertaining* anyway?) and is by all measures worthless, as well as a DVD-ROM only (screenplays tend to be the only good to come from DVD-ROM exclusive material, as far as I’m concerned) feature where you can make your own Tom and Jerry themed storybook or greeting card. Much cooler than the little game included, but still not enough to call this a satisfying amount of special features.

6.7 out of 10

*And no, frame-by-frame viewing of Meet Joe Black’s car-tastrophe doesn’t count as a game.

Tom does his own editing.