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"A Charlie Brown Christmas" vs. "Prep & Landing"

December 10, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
It was a strange juxtaposition, these two Christmas specials shown back to back on TV Tuesday night.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas," circa 1965, is an old-school cell animation feature that espouses an anti-commercialism stance on Christmas. It is a not-to-be-missed sentimental favorite of my generation. It has the dancing Peanuts gang, the pathetic Charlie Brown Christmas tree, a stellar jazz soundtrack by Vince Garibaldi and the Christmas story as told in the Gospel of Luke recited by Charlie Brown's adorable blanket-toting sidekick, Linus. Despite the name-calling, bossy sourpuss Lucy, I never fail to get the warm fuzzies watching this show, especially when the kids decorate the little tree into a bountiful, beautiful creation and sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" at the end.

"Prep & Landing," new this year, is a computer-generated cartoon that has commercialism at its core. Produced by Disney, it is an action-packed visual masterpiece and is laugh-out-loud funny for parents and kids, for different reasons. It stars a disgruntled elf, Wayne, recently passed over by Santa for a promotion, and his over-enthusiastic rookie sidekick, Lanny. Plus there's Magee, the clever North Pole command center coordinator, who has some of the best lines in the show.

Wayne and Lanny's job is to stealthily prepare homes for Santa's arrival on Christmas eve. They use handheld scanning devices to check that no creatures are stirring and that Santa's cookies contain no nuts (who knew Santa was allergic?). Their gadgets for securing the area rival Batman's. I want a candy-cane rappelling hook for Christmas!

Wayne's enthusiasm for his job has waned to the point of apathy and carelessness. He lets the rookie do all the work at a boy named Timmy's house, and plops in front of the TV to try to bite the head off a Santa-shaped cookie. Timmy wakes up and snaps a shocked Wayne's picture several times. Lanny saves the day by knocking Timmy out with elf dust and deleting the pictures. He also reminds Wayne that they do work not for themselves but so kids like Timmy can wake up to gifts galore on Christmas morning. When Santa has to bypass Timmy's house because of Wayne's goof, Wayne kicks into high gear and reroutes the Big Guy back to Timmy's.

"Prep & Landing" is flashy, fresh and fun. Charlie Brown is classic, kitschy and cute. My 3 1/2-year-old daughter seemed to like both equally. If I personally had to choose one over the other, though, it would have to be Charlie Brown, because it is one of the only Christmas specials that even mentions the core reason I celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ.

You can catch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" again at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15; and "Prep & Landing" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16; both on ABC. Or you can watch "Prep & Landing" online at the link provided.


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