It seems like every year a prominent new Christmas special shows up on television and routinely disappoints. Even Pixar found the going tough when last year they unveiled Toy Story That Time Forgot which I found pretty lackluster. Six years ago though Disney had much better luck with an all knew intellectual property: Prep & Landing.
It seems like a new Christmas special or film needs to do something different in order to make a mark. The Santa Clause has always been my go-to example as that has become a modern classic by taking a different look at the Santa character. Prep & Landing is similar because it chooses to focus on the elves responsible for prepping a house for Santa on Christmas Eve. It’s a novel concept as no child ever actually sees Santa at work and this special gives them a reason why.
The story follows Wayne (Dave Foley) who has been on the prep and landing team for over 200 years and has just seen his subordinate get promoted. Wayne is one of those quiet professionals who has most likely been most passed over for reassignment because he does such a good job where he is and hasn’t made enough noise about wanting a change. He ends up getting paired with a new, enthusiastic, assistant named Lanny (Derek Richardson) and Wayne basically slacks off and lets Lanny run the show. This causes their assignment to be blown and a storm re-routes Santa away from the house they were supposed to prep. Wayne feels awful since the kid is on the nice list, and resolves to get the house prepped and convince Santa to make the trip.
Prep & Landing is a CG Christmas cartoon and it looks fantastic. It was basically made in conjunction with the feature film Bolt which is when Disney’s CG really took a leap forward and started to rival Pixar’s. The voice acting is also really good, and there’s lots of little Easter eggs hidden in the background. Prep & Landing was so successful that it’s spawned another half-hour special and two shorts. They’re actually all pretty good, but the first half-hour special is still the best. It’s the creativity that makes it special and the production values are the cherry on top. Since Prep & Landing is still fairly new it’s shown multiple times each Christmas season (and will air on the 17th this year on ABC) and is often paired with the sequel “Naughty vs. Nice.” If you don’t want to wait for it to come on television, or you missed it, there’s also a DVD and a Blu Ray set that contains both specials and the shorts available for purchase.