Mill Creek has just released a double feature collection of two delightful TV adaptations of novels from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, The Color of Magic and Hogfather. This is the first time these films have been available on a physical HD release in the US, though they had been previously released on Blu-ray abroad. While Hogfather was actually the first live adaptation of a Discworld novel, it is based is the 20th novel. And so The Color of Magic is listed first, since it is based on the first two novels, “The Colour of Magic” and “The Light Fantastic”.
Discworld is a flat, round universe that floats through space, held on the backs of four giant elephants that stand atop a turtle, the Great A’Tuin. But in this universe likes all sorts of civilizations and people, both with magic and without.
Terry Pratchett’s The Color of Magic (2008)
The Color of Magic follows the adventures of Discworld’s first tourist, who arrives just as a quickly-approaching star threatens the future of the universe. As the story opens, wannabe wizard Rincewind (David Jason, Only Fools and Horses) has just been expelled from the Unseen University for Wizards—he had spent the last 40 years there training to be a wizard, but failed to even reach Level One. When he was a young wizard-in-training, Rincewind touched the great spellbook Octavo on a dare, and it transferred its eighth great spell into him. While no one knows what this spell can do, Rincewind had been unable to learn any spells ever since that day. Elsewhere in the university, the dubious Level Seven wizard Trymon (Tim Curry, Clue) is constantly plotting ways to bump off other wizards in order to move up the ladder. It is a competitive world of wizardry, and he has his sights set on becoming Arch Chancellor, no matter how many shoes he has to steal to get there.
As the naive, wide-eyed insurance clerk Twoflower (Sean Astin, Lord of the Rings) arrives in Ankh-Morpork, he sticks out like a sore thumb—wearing his bright flowered shirt, shorts, and socks with sandals, and carrying a large camera. As soon as the lowlife locals see that he has a trunk full of gold, they all flock to take advantage of him. The Guild of Assassins even shows up, plotting ways to take him out and steal his gold. However, Twoflower’s gold is locked away in a magical trunk that acts like a loyal pet dog, following and protecting its master. Rincewind reluctantly agrees to serve as Twoflower’s guide, taking him around to all the tourist attractions (even though this concept of tourism isn’t a thing yet). However, as Rincewind leaves Ankh-Morpork, the Octavo starts acting up. There is a star hurdling towards Discworld, and the only way to stop it from destroying the universe is to read all 8 great spells, but since one of them is locked away in Rincewind’s head, the wizards need to find him and bring him back. But Trymon has other plans—he wants to unlock all of the spells and wield the power himself. Meanwhile, a team of astrozoologists on the edge of Discworld have just proven the existence of the Great A’Tuin, but are now curious to learn the sex of this great turtle, and start planning another scientific mission to find out.
Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (2006)
It’s the holiday season and Hogswatch is approaching in the twin cities of Ankh-Morpork. This is a holiday very similar to our Christmas, complete with a large bearded man in a red coat delivering presents, except that the Hogfather’s sleigh is carried by pigs instead of reindeer. However, this tradition may soon come to a rapid end. A group of other-worldly beings known as the Auditors show up at the Guild of Assassins, with an unusual request for Lord Downey (David Warner, Wallander), the master of the guild. They offer him $3 million to “kill the fat man” by sunrise. Downey assigns the task to Mr. Teatime (Marc Warren, Flack), an odd, possibly crazy man with a childlike voice and two different colored eyes. Teatime decides that the best approach will be to attack the Tooth Fairy’s castle to get a hold of children’s teeth and use those to control their minds, making them no longer believe in the Hogfather. And so he abducts wizard Mr. Sideney (Nigel Planer, Marcella) and starts to put his plan into motion. Elsewhere, Death (Ian Richardson, Dark City) is out on his rounds when he discovers that the Hogfather has gone missing. And so with a fake beard and a pillow stuffed up his jacket to make his bony body look more full, Death steps in, taking over the Hogfather’s duties. He is joined by Albert (David Jason, Only Fools and Horses), who poses as a pixie, complete with fake pointy ears. Meanwhile, governess Susan (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey)—who is used to dealing with monsters that hide under the beds and in the closets of the children she watches over—senses that something is wrong with Hogswatch, and sets out to fix the situation. However, she has been hiding a secret about her past, and her unique connection to Death. Can Death and Susan stop Mr. Teatime before he puts an end to Hogswatch, and possibly the world?
These two mini-series can be viewed in either order—there is nothing in one that is dependent upon the other. I actually watched them in TV release order rather than novel order. Despite the latter having a more recognizable cast, I enjoyed Hogfather quite a bit more more than The Color of Magic. Hogfather has a more coherent story, and a more fantastical, holiday feel. Plus, the character of Death is hilarious. (Though Death also has some fun moments in The Color of Magic, where he is voiced by Christopher Lee.) The Color of Magic is more of an adventurous journey film, with one too many stories going on at once—the astrozoologists’ hunt for the turtle’s sex could have been dropped, and the Octavo storyline fleshed out a little more. That said, I still enjoyed both of these miniseries quite a bit.
Both of these films are filled with a lot of humor and wacky characters that should delight viewers of all ages. Younger viewers will certainly enjoy the fantastical worlds set up by both, which includes wizards, fairy tale creatures, dragons, magical swords, magical trunks, giant rock monsters, and more. The worlds are fleshed out nicely and really transport the viewer into the odd Discworld universe. That said, there is also quite a bit of killing involved as Mr. Teatime eliminates those who get in his way. Though, this is done in a gore-free, more humorous way that should still be OK for younger viewers. Both specials also have some humor in there for the adults, such as the Oh God of Hangovers, who shows up in Hogfather, and a discussion about octogenarian Cohen the Barbarian (David Bradley, The Strain) keeping up with his 20-year-old bride-to-be. But this stuff should go over the heads of the younger viewers.
I really enjoyed these specials, and they made me eager to check out more Discworld adventures, whether those be animated, live-action, or audiobook form. It’s a shame that Mill Creek wasn’t able to release this collection a few months earlier as Hogfather would have made for fun holiday viewing.
Mill Creek’s Blu-ray release provides excellent picture and sound. The picture looks crisp and clean, capturing all the details and bright colors of the beautiful and fantastical sets and effects. The audio tracks are mainly center channel focused for dialogue, but also do make nice use of the stereo and surround channels to make things a little more immersive. This was especially noticeable in The Color of Magic in a scene where Rincewind hears voices in his head, and the sounds come from all around the room.
Each of the two-part miniseries are included on a separate disc. The discs don’t offer a Play All option, just the choice to play either half separately, with or without optional English subtitles. The discs are housed in of a standard multi-disc HD keepcase without a slipcover. Also include is a redemption code for an digital copy of the films redeemable via MovieSpree. Unfortunately, none of the supplemental material that was avialable on the previous DVD and international Blu-ray releases of these films has been ported to these Blu-rays.
- The Color of Magic (3:17:46)
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English
- Hogfather (3:13:38)
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Subtitles: English
- HD digital copy redeemable via MovieSpree.
(This is not Movies Anywhere compatible.)
- There is no bonus material included on the discs.
These two Terry Pratchett mini-series are a true delight, taking viewers into a well-defined fantastical world. They remind me of the big made-for-TV productions by the Halmi’s in the 90s, but with better special effects. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but unfortunately doesn’t include any bonus material, despite there being a large assortment of supplemental material on the previous UK releases. The release still comes recommended based on the quality of the programs.