Prep & Landing is a computer animated television special, based on an idea by Chris Williams at Walt Disney Animation Studios and developed by Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton into a half-hour Christmas special. It first aired December 8, 2009 on ABC.
The special was released on-line the next day, along with an original one-minute short film Tiny's BIG Adventure. A sequel, Operation: Secret Santa, aired on December 7, 2010, reprising the original cast with the addition of Betty White as Mrs. Claus. The second half-hour Christmas TV special, Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice aired on December 5, 2011, on ABC, with another holiday special being planned for the future.
Wayne, a Christmas elf, is part of an elite organization known as "Prep & Landing", whose job is to ready millions of homes around the world for Santa Claus's visit. After working with "Prep & Landing" for years, Wayne looks forward to getting promoted. Instead, his former partner and trainee, Peterson, gets the promotion, and Wayne is introduced to Lanny, a rookie whom Wayne has to also train. Wayne is still bitter about the promotion, and decides to slack off during a mission. He permits Lanny to do all of the work, which is disastrous. Meanwhile, Santa is informed mid-flight of a massive snow storm and that Wayne and Lanny haven't fully prepared the house yet. He is told to cancel the landing, which has never happened before; they promise to make it up for Timmy, a boy living at the house. Wayne and Lanny discover that the re-routing was a final decision, but after hearing Timmy thank them in his sleep, Wayne decides to fix it. He calls up Santa, telling him that he must land at Timmy's house. Wayne and Lanny then work together to land Santa safely on Timmy's roof. On Christmas morning, Santa shows Wayne that Timmy had a merry Christmas. Santa offers a promotion to Wayne as the director of the nice list, but he turns it down so he can work with Lanny.
Prep and Landing was originally pitched by director Chris Williams as a short film for the newly re-opened shorts program at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Liking the idea, John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation) considered it to work best as a television special and with ABC executives were keen to repeat the success of the 2007 DreamWorks Animation special Shrek the Halls, approved the project.
Following Williams' directorial debut on the short film Glago's Guest, he was moved on to co-direct the feature film Bolt. The special continued production under directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton's (Goofy's How to Hook Up Your Home Theater) control.
The original premiere date was scheduled for December 1; however, a speech at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York on his Afghan war strategy by President Barack Obama delayed the special's debut one week to December 8, 2009.
The special was released on DVD on November 22, 2011, along with the short films Tiny's BIG Adventure and Operation: Secret Santa. It was also released on DVD and Blu-ray of Prep & Landing: Totally Tinsel Collection on November 6, 2012, together with Operation: Secret Santa, Naughty vs. Nice, and Tiny's BIG Adventure.
Prep & Landing includes a number of references and in-jokes left by the animators. Many pay homage to other Christmas specials and traditions. For example, Magee's office has the Christmas tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas. When Wayne prepares to enter Santa's office, Miss Holly is typing the lyrics to "Jingle Bells". The clear to launch acknowledgement given by the flight controllers during the pre-launch check is "Dash away", and Magee's final clearance is "Dash away all" from the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas ("Dash away, dash away, dash away all"). Timmy Terwelp himself is named in honor of Tiny Tim, a character from Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol.
Others are related to Disney itself. Mickey's Christmas Carol is shown on the television of Lanny and Wayne's assigned house. Although Timmy's residence appears to be in the Ohio Valley region of the United States, the latitude and longitude given for his house (N 34' 9' 20" / W 118' 19' 23") are of The Walt Disney Company's world headquarters in Burbank, California. A license plate with the characters "12501 WED" is a reference to the birth date of Walt Disney. The German Shepherd shown in the prologue getting dusted to sleep was a recolored version of the titular character of the 2008 film Bolt, which was completing production as Prep & Landing was being made. Timmy's night-light features Goofy in a pose from the poster for the theatrical short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.
Lastly, some of the references were inspired by the show's co-director, Kevin Deters. During a scene in which Wayne is "being naughty" and making himself a drink, the milk carton Wayne is using has the logo of Deter's Dairy, a real-life dairy located in Quincy, Illinois, Kevin Deters' hometown. A toy giraffe in Timmy's bedroom is based on a similar toy belonging to one of Deters' children. When Santa shows Wayne what happened at Timmy's house Christmas morning, the home shown is based on Deters' boyhood home.
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On December 1, 2009, prior to its first broadcast, Prep & Landing was nominated for nine Annie Awards in seven categories by the International Animated Film Association, ASIFA-Hollywood. It won three awards, including the award for Best Animated Television Production.
On August 21, 2010, Prep & Landing was honored with four Emmy Awards including the Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour) category.
An 8-page comic story, titled Prep & Landing: Elves Assemble, was released in November 16, 2011, in Avengers #19, Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #20, and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #20. The comic tells a story of Wayne and Lanny preparing Avengers Mansion for a visit from Santa. It was written by Kevin Deters, and illustrated by Joe Mateo.