I didn't know what to expect with this film, but as I thought I'd spend some money this year building a collection of classic Christmas films on DVD, I added this one to the list and, thankfully, I opted for the 2-disc version.
At first I was phased by the freakish near-accuracy of the animated figures. Almost human, but not quite. Only the elves and and train drivers are in any way caricatures. All the children, the adults and Santa are meant to be as lifelike as possible. The little girl is amazing in this respect - utterly believable.
Perhaps it's because I still write poetry for children that, even at the age of 61, maybe I still retain a bit of the childish sense of magic and joy that is essential to enjoy this film. Because that's what it is .... magical and joyful. At times, it is sentimental, but this never becomes too sickly. At times there is high drama and genuine tension. There is also mystery and a few images and questions which are deliberately left unexplained so that you either want to watch the film again, or think about them at your leisure. (Who, for instance IS the tramp who lives on the top of the train? Why is the boy asked if he believes in ghosts? ....) Yes, maybe they over-use the 'roller-coaster' ride effect once too often, but it doesn't really matter. What REALLY counts is that this is a film that draws you into its fantasy world and holds you there with 100% assurance so that you can always be confident that what you are watching is a great story with lots of twists and a very satisfying ending.
If you want a truly magical Christmas film, this one deserves to be right up there at the top of your list.
Oh yes - and why is the 2-disc version the best? Because the features explaining how the film were made are fascinating.