When Santa Fell To Earth Is A Holiday Tale Unlike Almost Every Other

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new Christmas-themed movie When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the best holiday-themed movies to come along in a very long time. The movie, which is based on author Cornelia Funke’s 1994 book by the same name, is actually surprisingly entertaining. This is the even with the movie being just another adaptation of a book. The main reason for the movie’s success is that despite being adapted from a book, its story actually stands out quite a bit from all of the other cookie cutter Christmas-themed movies. It follows the formula used by so many major studios lightly at best. Another reason for the movie’s success is its minimal use of special effects. And while it was originally done in German or another European language, the work of those responsible for dubbing the film made that dubbing nearly invisible. It may seem like a minor factor. But in the grand scheme of things, dubbing foreign films whether foreign to English or vice versa is very important. Good dubbing results in a movie such as this. Bad dubbing can make a movie into a third rate product not worth even finishing let alone watching. Luckily for this movie, that poor dubbing didn’t work. The end result is a movie that along with its somewhat original script and its minimal use of special effects proves to be as enjoyable as any other holiday-themed movie released each year.

The central reason for the success of When Santa Fell To Earth is its writing. More specifically, the script is to thank for its success. Given, it is based on a two-decades old book. But that book in question is not one that most would consider well-known. What’s more, while there are some alterations in the transfer from the printed page to small screen, they aren’t nearly as much as some adaptations of other more well-known literary works. The story itself also stands out from other holiday movies out there. Most Christmas-themed movies see an average person saving Christmas by filling in for Santa or getting others to realize the “true meaning of Christmas” through a series of events. Those are the most common plot lines in most Christmas-themed movies. This movie takes a road not just less taken but a road no one else saw, period. According to this story, there are actually multiple Santas. But they’ve all been frozen by an evil figure that wants to rule Christmas and turn it into a fully corporate holiday. Enter Nikklas Julebukk (pronounced YULE-uh-buck). Nikklas is the last Santa standing between the evil Gerald Geronimus Goblynch. It’s up to Nikklas to stop Gerald and his henchman, and save Christmas. Nikklas crashes to Earth in his flight from Gerald and his henchman, leading to his meeting Ben and Charlotte, who help him to stop Gerald. There are no big red sleighs. The only reindeer in the movie is one that audiences definitely won’t recognize. Its name is Twinklestar. And instead of the North Pole, Nikklas is trying to keep the story’s villain from taking over Yuleland. Some names and places have been changed in the transition from the printed page to the small screen. But by and large, the story has been kept the same. That and the fact that this story is unlike nearly any other out there within the Christmas-themed genre is more than enough reason to see this movie at least once.

The overall originality of this movie’s script even in its transition from the printed page to the small screen is the most important factor in the movie’s success. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its minimalist use of special effects. The only special effects come courtesy of some CG work to create a pair of “Christmas elves” and a pair of tiny angels who serve as Nikklas’ companions. The elves are entirely CG. The angels (yes, they actually incorporate angels alongside Santa—a very young Santa at that) are live actors. But their wings and flying effects were obviously created via CG and green screen. Even Gerald’s evil giant nutcracker “soldiers” looked like they had been crafted by hand. Other than that, everything else within this movie looks to be live action. Again, one can’t help but make a comparison to other holiday movies out there today. Set against most American holiday movies its balance of live action elements and special effects gives it a rare feel that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It’s one more way in which When Santa Fell To Earth stands out among the already overcrowded market of Christmas-themed movies currently on the market. And together with the its largely original adaptation from its literary companion, this foreign import becomes even more enjoyable.

The balance of live action elements and CG-based special effects in When Santa Fell To Earth and the largely original story adapted from the book of the same name are both important to the overall success of this straight-to-DVD feature. Rounding out the entire presentation is the movie’s dubbing. It would seem that the movie’s original presentation was German simply by observing the movie’s credits and its setting. That would make sense considering that the author of the book on which this movie is based is herself German.   Those charged with dubbing the movie into English are to be commended for taking such painstaking efforts to present a clean product. There are movies dubbed into English that don’t exactly translate very well. The end result is something that looks like the old school kung-fu flicks and Godzilla movies imported from Japan and China. That’s not a good thing. Luckily in this case that poor translation didn’t happen. Audiences almost can’t tell that what they are hearing is in fact American voices speaking over European actors. There are points here and there where audiences will be able to catch the dubbing. But it’s nowhere near as obvious as in those noted old school Asian imports. The end result is a movie well worth watching at least once this holiday season when taken into consideration along with the movie’s story and its balance of live action and CG elements.

The story presented in When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the most original holiday stories presented to audiences in a long time. Given, it is based on a book that was originally published two decades ago. But in comparison to all of the other holiday movies out there it still stands out. And for the most part, it actually stays largely true to its literary link. Only a few minor items were changed in the story’s small screen adaptation. The minimalist use of special effects makes the story even more worth the watch. In an age when even holiday movies seem to rely increasingly on special effects and CG elements, this movie’s balance of live action to special effects makes it all the more worth the watch. Rounding out the presentation is the dubbing process. It’s assumed that the movie, in its original 2011 release, was presented in German. Those charged with dubbing the movie into English for its release this year carried out their duties expertly. The end result of these factors together is a movie that every family should see at least once this holiday season. It will be available on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. It can be ordered direct online now via Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=bd0b8d9a-21f7-e311-a502-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

eOne’s Latest Geronimo Stilton DVD Is More Mousy Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Geronimo Stilton is back again.  Everyone’s favorite rodent reporter is back in a brand new DVD courtesy of eOne.  Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures is available now on DVD in stores and online.  There is just as much to enjoy about this new DVD as eOne’s previous Geronimo Stilton compilations.  The first factor worth noting is of course the writing that went into each of the four episodes included on this disc.  Also worth noting is the series’ animation.  The original style animation to which audiences have become accustomed on previous Geronimo Stilton DVDs is present here, too.  And rounding out the whole thing is the return of the series’ voice cast once more.  All three of these factors, when taken into consideration both by themselves and collectively, show why any family will want to watch Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures.

The central reason for the overall enjoyment of Geronimo Stilton’s latest DVD compilation is the writing that went into each of the episodes included on the disc.  Stilton is essentially Scholastic’s answer to Indiana Jones.  While he’s a mild mannered reporter by day, he is also quite the adventure seeker.  In the disc’s title episode, audiences see Geronimo and his friends go on an adventure that leads to quite the unexpected end after finding a mysterious old letter and map.  What makes this episode really enjoyable is that it actually incorporates a light history lesson along the way.  That lesson is taught so covertly that young audiences wouldn’t even know.  The series’ writers are to be commended for balancing that educational content so well with the show’s more entertaining side.  The surprising end result will leave a smile on any viewer’s face as it in itself teaches quite the valuable life lesson.  And it’s just one of the wonderful lessons shared throughout these episodes that make them such a joy.  It’s just one lesson taught in this collection of episodes.  The overlying lesson that runs through each episode is that it’s perfectly fine to have a love of knowledge.  That is key to the enjoyment of these episodes more so than any other lesson.  Being that this lessons isn’t shoved down audiences throats, the end result is even more enjoyment of each of the compilation’s episodes.

The writing used in each of this set’s episodes is of the utmost importance in considering what makes the collection work.  As important as the writing is to the overall presentation, it isn’t the only factor to be taken into consideration in the presentation’s overall enjoyment and success.  One would be remiss to omit any mention of the original animation style used in this collection of episodes.  The animation style used throughout the Geronimo Stilton animated series looks to have been actually hand drawn.  While it is possible that there might have been some computer usage, it isn’t clearly evident.  If anything, the animation used in this series is similar to that of the short-lived DC series Krypto The Superdog.  Whether or not there was some computer usage, the fact remains that in an age of cookie cutter CG-based children’s shows, animation such as this stands head and shoulders above the rest.  And together with the continued solid writing, that animation makes this box set stand out among this year’s current crop in its own right.

The animation and writing that went into each of the episodes in this set both play their own role in making Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures enjoyable for audiences of all ages.  Having examined both factors, there is still one factor left to examine that makes this DVD worth the watch.  That final factor is the voice cast.  Included among the talents that worked on the series were the likes of: Brian Drummond, Erin Matthews, Sarah Edmonson, Richard Ian Cox and many other. The significance of the series’ voice cast is that many of them have also worked together on the likes of the hit anime series Inuyasha and Dragonball Z among other TV shows and movies. So, that familiarity with one another helped in its own way here as it helped to create a certain chemistry among much of the cast. The end result of that chemistry is an easily suspended disbelief among audiences. The ability of the show’s cast to make suspension of disbelief easy for audiences couples with the series’ animation and writing to make even clearer why any family not yet familiar with Geronimo Stilton will want to check out this DVD.

Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K2OBWTM/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1WPBH8WP2DTRA82510SA&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. More information on all of the latest Geronimo Stilton books and DVDs is available online at http://www.geronimostilton.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Geronimo Stilton Sniffs Out More Family Fun In New DVD

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures, the latest home release from the short-lived Canadian TV series, is another fun collection of episodes for the whole family. The new DVD contains four more episodes from the series’ twenty-six total episodes. Whether or not one is familiar with the Geronimo Stilton literary series or the TV series spawned from the books, viewers will all agree that there is plenty to say of this new home release. The first aspect worth noting in this group of episodes is its writing. The TV series is an import. But it will translates well enough for audiences of any age to enjoy it. The next factor to be taken into consideration in this compilation’s success is its animation style. One part hand-drawn and seemingly one part flash/CG, it still manages to maintain its own identity among the masses of full-on CG series that pollute the television spectrum today. Last but definitely not least worth noting is the show’s voice cast. Most viewers likely don’t know the cast’s names. But they will definitely recognize the cast’s voices. That who’s who of voice actors, the animation, and the writing all come together to make this DVD another from Entertainment One that is worth at least one watch regardless of how familiar one is with the series or the books on which it is based.

The first aspect of the new compilation from Geronimo Stilton that viewers will appreciate is its writing. The series is an import from Canada. Few may realize it, but there is a difference in the writing (and overall structure) of Canadian-based series and American television series in general. The case with this series is different, though. American audiences will enjoy the episodes on this disc just as much as their Canadian counterparts. It translates so well primarily because of all the action and comic relief tied into each of the four episodes. Geronimo’s globe hopping adventures echo hints of both Indiana Jones and James Bond in one. And parents will appreciate the pop culture references tied into each script.  Those pop culture references include spoofs of Agatha Christie and so many classic kung-fu flicks of the 1960s just to name a couple.  The Agatha Christie spoof comes in the DVD’s opening episode, “Intrigue on the Rodent Express.  It’s a reference to the famed story, Murder on the Orient Express.  The original story was written by Agatha Christie and is not only one of the most famous detective novels of all time, but was also adapted into an equally famous big screen feature.  The spoof of all the classic kung-fu flicks comes in “The Mask of the Rat-Jitsu.”  This one sees Geronimo getting caught up in a web of intrigue centered around a group of ninjas led by an evil mastermind bent on stealing a priceless mask.  Younger audiences won’t get the references.  But their parents (and potentially even grandparents) will appreciate the attempts by the show’s writers to reach them as well as their children and grandchildren.  It’s all a collective example of what makes the writing in this group of episodes central to the success of this DVD.

The writers that worked on all four episodes included in Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures are to be commended for crafting stories that will entertain audiences of all ages.  The series’ animators are just as deserving of applause with these episodes.  They are deserving of applause in that they have largely crafted the cartoon through hand-drawn animation.  There were some potentially computer generated elements to each episode.  But by and large, it looks as if this cartoon was in fact crafted by hand.  There are still hand-drawn cartoons out there today.  But as many studios over utilize computers for their “animated” series, this series incorporating more hand-drawn animation than computer generated gives its episodes more of their own identity, which in turn makes them stand out even more among the masses.  The closest comparison that can be made in terms of the animation in these episodes is perhaps to DC’s short-lived series, Krypto The Superdog.  That it can only be loosely compared to one other series solidifies the originality of these episodes’ animation.  It’s one more reason that this new DVD is worth at least one watch.

The writing and animation that make up this latest compilation of episodes from the Geronimo Stilton animated series are both key to the overall enjoyment of this new DVD release.  There is one more factor that older audiences will appreciate in this latest collection of episodes from the Canadian import.  That factor is the series’ voice cast.  Most audiences might not know the names of the people that make up the series’ voice cast.  But they will recognize the various series on which the cast members work/have worked.  Patricia Drake is one example of this.  Most people don’t know her name.  She voiced the scheming Sally Rasmaussen (pronounced Ras-mousen) in Geronimo Stilton.  She has also worked on the cult favorite anime series Dragonball Z.  She also starred alongside Mandy Moore and Macauly Culkin in Saved as well as voicing characters in recent Barbie CG based features just to name a handful.  And fellow cast member Lee Tockar, who voiced a number of characters through each of the four episodes also has voiced characters in Johnny Test, Slugtera, and Max Steel and a number of others.  Having such experienced cast is important to the episodes on this DVD.  It is important in that it means the ability to properly interpret scripts and present the best possible performance.  That top notch performance means more enjoyment for audiences in the long run, which is exactly the case with these episodes.

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures is available now ins ores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FWQAOUS/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0N4SB5TCEE2XTG37PZRG&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.   Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Scholastic’s Latest Storybook Treasures Collection A Great Gift For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo

Scholastic’s new Christmas and Winter-themed collection of stories set to the small screen is another impressive set for the whole family.  Not only does it entertain audiences, but it also educates.  The collection is highlighted by a small screen adaptation of author Rob Scotton’s Merry Christmas, Splat.  This story is a fun piece that is actually much deeper than what some might see on the surface.  It’s just one reason that parents, students, and teachers will appreciate the set as a whole.  Viewers will discover in watching all four of the stories that each one has an important message for everybody.  That’s not the only reason that viewers will enjoy this latest set from Scholastic.  Viewers will also appreciate each story’s animation.  Each story boasts its own animation.  By direct connection, the set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette reveals a little known secret about at least one story’s animation.  And what DVD compilation from Scholastic would be complete without the standard Read-Along option?  Yet again that option has been included for all young audiences.  Together with everything else previously noted, it plays just as important a role in the success of the set.

The lessons taught through this collection are nothing new to Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collections.  That’s not to say that the lessons included her are old.  Rather, the inclusion of stories with valuable lessons is nothing new.  And that Scholastic has continued to include such content is a big reason that its Storybook Treasures collections have been so successful.  It’s a big reason for the success of this latest collection, too.  Viewers are taught through the set’s first story that one’s family will love them even if they haven’t been completely perfect.  In its own way, it also helps to dispel the time honored belief that Santa will only bring gifts if one has been good.  It’s a much better lesson to teach kids instead of telling them that they’ll only get gifs from Santa if they’re good.  That lesson is one that parents should not use on their children, especially in the country’s current economic state.

The lesson taught in Merry Christmas, Splat is just one of the valuable lessons taught in this set of stories.  There is also a lesson of appreciating the little things in life in two of the stories.  Those stories are: Owl Moon and Snowflake BentleyOwl Moon teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life as a young girl goes out into the forest with her father to see a Great Horned Owl.  The way in which the forest and the moon are both described shows how much reverence author Jaqueline Briggs Martin has for something as simple as the way that snow reflects the light of the moon.  It’s truly something beautiful to think about in seeing the illustrations of Mary Azarian.  Snowflake Bentley is made even more interesting in that it does more than just teach a life lesson.  It also teaches a history lesson.  It teaches a lesson about William Bentley, who first used microscopic photography to take pictures of snowflakes.  Bentley’s name is not one that is very well known among most circles.  But his is a life and career that is definitely worth learning about by viewers of every age.  It’s interesting to learn how Bentley became so famous among scientific and academic circles, yet never gained any real major fame or fortune from his work.

The lessons taught through the stories noted here are important parts of Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures collection.  Just as important to note is the artwork in each story.  The artwork used for each story gives each one its own identity.   Again, this is another tradition held by Scholastic with its Storybook Treasures collections.  It’s nice to see the original drawings from each story’s book used in each story, instead of computer generated graphics.  Given, a little bit of computer use is incorporated, as audiences will see in this set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette.  But as audiences will also see, the amount of computer use is minimal at most.  And that is a very good thing.

The bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette included in this latest of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collection is the final piece of the puzzle for viewers.  Anyone that has any experience in the use of Adobe’s Creative Suite or that has any interest in graphics work will appreciate this bonus.  Audiences learn how the artwork of Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas was actually pulled directly from the book and used in the small screen adaptation.  It has already been noted how minimal the use of computers was in each story’s animation.  And this featurette proves that.  It shows how the art from the book was scanned into the computer, and actually brought to life thanks to the use of the Adobe Creative Suite.  It is definitely something that older audiences will appreciate.  And along with the stories themselves, it is a fitting final piece for the overall presentation that is Merry Christmas Splatand more winter stories.  It is available now and can be ordered online from New Kideo’s website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/merry-christmas-splat-and-more-winter-stories/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic is available online at http://www.newkideo.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Lost And Found An Entertaining And Moving Story Of Friendship

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

The need for companionship is among the most basic of human needs.  Ironically enough, it is also among the most important of human needs.  Because of its importance, it has been the basis for countless movies and TV shows.  Even The Twilight Zone, one of television’s most beloved series, used this need as the basis for its very first ever episode in “Where Is Everybody?”  Now Entertainment One has teamed up with Studio AKA to release a story about companionship that will both entertain and move audiences of all ages.  The story, Lost and Found, is based on the children’s book by author Oliver Jeffers.  It follows the story of a young boy and a penguin that become friends.  The most interesting aspect of the story is the adaptation’s script.  Audiences that are not so familiar with Jeffers’ book will learn through the “Making of” featurette that the script for the small screen adaptation is different from the book.  But that’s forgiveable.  That’s because of the story behind the book itself.  Just as worthy of note is the adaptation’s animation.  Reference must be made to the story’s bonus “Making of” featurette again here.  It is obvious in watching the story itself that the near Claymation style animation was in fact CG.  But that the line was so blurred is just as impressive as the story itself.  And having noted the bonus “Making of” featurette twice already, it would be pointless to not note that feature as another reason to check out this new DVD.  All three of these factors taken into consideration, they combine to make Lost and Found a must see for any family.

Studio AKA’s adaptation of Lost and Found is not a direct translation of author Oliver Jeffers’ book.  This is noted in the DVD’s bonus “Making OF” featurette.  Just as interesting to note is that at first, Jeffers didn’t even want to have his book adapted to the small screen.  Ironically enough, the original story on which Jeffers’ own book is based came from a story that allegedly happened at a Scotland zoo according to Jeffers.  He explains the story in the DVD’s bonus “Making of” featurette in fell detail.  It’s so unbelievable that one can’t help but laugh.  What audiences get in this take on Jeffers’ book is a story that shows that friendships can begin in the most unexpected of ways.  It also displays the timeless message that one doesn’t know what one has until it’s gone.  How the boy comes to realize this will be left to viewers to find out for themselves.  But his moment of realization is one of the short story’s most moving of moments.  Anyone that is not left even slightly teary-eyed at this moment doesn’t have a heart.  It’s just part of what makes this story so wonderful for the whole family.

The primary story of Lost and Found is both moving and entertaining.  It is a wonderful piece for the entire family to watch together.  Just as noteworthy about this story is its animation.  At first its animation looks slightly similar to that of Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.  But it doesn’t take long to realize that it was in fact done entirely via CG graphics.  What’s so interesting here is that while it doesn’t take long to realize this, those behind its creation should be commended for making it unlike all the other cookie cutter CG based children’s features currently on the market.  It actually does look like Claymation.  This proves how much work went into giving this story the maximum amount of originality.  It goes without saying that it definitely was original.  It was original both in terms of its animation and its story, making it even more enjoyable.

The animation and the story behind Lost and Found both make this small screen adaptation of Oliver Jeffers’ book a joy for viewers of all ages.  The DVD’s bonus “Making of” featurette plays its own role in the overall presentation, too.  As has already been noted, Jeffers explains in the “Making of” featurette how he came up with his literary take on the story.  Viewers will also learn what went into bringing the story to life as well as much more.  Those that have any experience and or interest in video production and graphics production will appreciate the discussions on how the world of Lost and Found was created.  There is much more discussed.  And again, audiences will discover everything that is discussed in this feature for themselves when they pick up the DVD in stores or order it online.  It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Jim-Broadbent/dp/B00DP4AH5Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1384615898&sr=1-2&keywords=Lost+and+Found.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

EOne’s Translation Of McBratley’s Books A Wonderful Collection For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Guess how much I love you!  Every child loves to hear those words from their parent and vice versa.  They are among the most powerful words that can be spoken between parents and their children.  So it only made sense that author Sam McBratney would use those words as the title of his hugely popular books about family.  Now, parents and children that have enjoyed those books together for years can share McBratney’s on DVD thanks to Entertainment One.  McBratney’s stories are brought to full life in EOne’s new compilation of stories that parents and children alike will want to watch time and again.  One reason for the enjoyment of this compilation is that the stories included in the compilation include wonderful life lessons.  Also noteworthy is the collective run time of the stories.  The stories are short enough to easily keep young viewers engaged so that they will take in the lessons incorporated into each story.  Just as important to note about the episodes included in this single-disc compilation is the animation of each story.  The animation is original.  And it is difficult to tell if the stories were hand-drawn or CG.  This is a positive, believe it or not.  And alongside the stories’ short run times and life lessons, it all comes together to make Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare a family favorite.

The very first thing that makes Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare so impressive is the life lessons tied into each of the stories.  It’s nice to see that the heart of McBratney’s children’s stories have been carried over to the small screen.  Just as nice to see is that the lessons and the stories themselves have translated so well.  The compilation’s opening story, “Hidden Treasure” is a good example of how well McBratney’s stories translated.  It’s a good starting point because it teaches more than just one lesson.  It teaches first and foremost that treasure is what one makes of it.  To a lesser extent, it teaches the classic lesson of not judging a book by its cover.  This is done when it’s revealed that Little Nutbrown Hare’s dull looking rock actually hides quite the stunning treasure when it accidentally falls and breaks open.  Both of these lessons together teach a much larger lesson.  It teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life and that one doesn’t have to have flashy things to have treasure.  This is a wonderful message to send to young viewers.

Another lesson that this collection of stories teaches is one of practice and perseverance.  That lesson is taught in the short story, “Slip, Slop, Slide.”  When Little Nutbrown tries to go skating with his friends in this episode, he ends up falling down.  His friends laugh.  But as his father tells him, they weren’t laughing at him.  In its own way, this is another example of how McBratney’s stories so successfully interweave lessons to make the wonderful stories presented both in his books and on screen.  Little Nutbrown Hare talks to his father, Big Nutbrown Hare, who then takes Little Nutbrown Hare and tries to teach him how to skate.  Both end up falling down in the process.  While it was entirely accidental that they both fell, it helped Little Nutbrown Hare learn that all he needs is practice.  He also learns that it’s okay to fall down.  Yet again, audiences are presented with wonderful lessons and an equally entertaining story.  It’s just one more example of what makes this collection of stories so fun for any family.  It’s not all that families will enjoy about this set, either.  Parents and kids alike will appreciate the short run time of each story.

This single-disc compilation is comprised of seven different episodes.  The total run time of those episodes comes in at roughly eighty minutes.  That puts the total run time of each individual episode at just over ten minutes.  Taking into consideration that the stories included in this set are likely aimed at viewers age 4 – 6, this is just about right for the attention span of said viewers.  Had they been longer, it might have risked said viewers’ attention.  In turn, those same viewers might not have had the patience or the attention to grasp the lessons being taught.  Luckily, that didn’t become an obstacle.  Quite the opposite, was the reality.  The end result is a collection of stories that will keep young viewers’ full attention all while entertaining and teaching valuable lessons.  It’s a double whammy that makes these episodes even more valuable for any parent of a young child.

The run times of the episodes culled for this compilation and their lessons are important parts of the overall presentation that is Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare.  There is one more aspect of the episodes that will likely be overlooked by many.  That aspect is the episodes’ animation.  It is difficult to tell whether the episodes collected were hand-drawn or CG.  This is actually a good thing.  So many CG children’s features are cookie cutter presentations.  There is no originality to them.  However, with the case of this presentation, the animation gives the episodes their own identity.  The colors and angles of the characters and backdrops combine to look like both CG and hand-drawn elements were used.  If this is indeed the case, they were done in perfect balance, making for a fitting final touch to the compilation of shorts.

Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ECIS4BI/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0QV41WYWVJXZGSMGWHR7&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1630083502&pf_rd_i=507846.  Audiences can also win a free copy of the DVD courtesy of Phil’s Picks.  Phil’s Picks will be giving away three free copies of the DVD to three lucky winners this Friday, November 15th.  A Person need only enter at the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks by writing on the page’s timeline that one wants to be entered for a chance at a free copy.  It’s that simple.  Fans can also “Like” the Phil’s Picks FB page while there for all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news.  And the can also get all the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Halloween Stories Collection Vol. 2 Scares Up Lots Of Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Scholastic’s latest installment in its hugely popular Storybook Treasures series “scares” up lots of fun for the whole family just in time for Halloween.  This set boasts so many positives that there simply isn’t time to go into depth concerning each one.  The very first thing that audiences will appreciate in this latest box set is a collection of not only stories but songs, too.  The collective stories and songs will appeal to audiences of all ages.  Not every story or song is appropriate for all viewers.  So parents should use their discretion in deciding which stories and songs their children can watch.  Parents will appreciate that Scholastic has included songs and stories for viewers of all ages in this set.  And by connection, parents will also appreciate that Scholastic has also included once again, the standard read-along feature that can be toggled on or off depending on their young readers’ ages.  This and the inclusion of the stories of songs together make this set another success from Scholastic.

Scholastic has made a tradition of including some wonderful, family friendly stories in each of its previous Storybook Treasures Collections.  The stories culled for its previous releases have run the gamut from classic fairytales to more socially relevant stories to everything in between.  This latest collection is a little different from those sets, though.  And that’s not a bad thing, either.  This collection includes not only some fun and scary stories, but a collection of songs, too.  The interesting thing about the stories collected for this set is that they don’t really fit into the set’s overall Halloween theme.  Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It makes for a nice change of pace in the grand scheme of things for viewers.  Most audiences will recognize the classic ‘Hush Little Baby.’  Perhaps less familiar are the songs, ‘The Erie Canal’ and ‘The Fox Went Out on A Chilly Night.’  So for some, hearing them here might be the first time for just as many audiences.  Audiences of all ages will especially enjoy the Dixieland feel of the prior of the two.  The latter of the two might not be entirely suitable for all audiences.  That’s both because of the song’s lyrics and its imagery.  It involves the fox hunting and killing some geese.  Some younger viewers might actually be unsettled by such imagery.  So parents should use their discretion in terms of this piece.

The songs included in The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 are a nice addition to this set, even though one of them might not be suitable for all viewers.  In that same vein, Scholastic has offered viewers of all ages a grouping of stories that will appeal to viewers of different ages.  This is major boon to this set as parents can pick and choose which stories they want their young readers to take in regardless of age.  One of the best of the stories is the set’s anchor, “The Day of the Dead.”  This short story is fitting for audiences of any age.  It is so important in that it presents Halloween from a perspective with which many young viewers might not be so familiar.  It presents Halloween from the perspective of the Hispanic culture.  Young viewers will learn in this story that unlike in American culture, Hispanics use October 31st to November 2nd to honor the loved ones who have moved on in the previous year.  They honor their loved ones by baking good food and lighting candles that will attract home the spirits of their loved ones.  Viewers will learn that this is done not just in Mexico but in many Latin American and Central American countries.  It serves as an excellent starting point for a discussion with young audiences over what is known as cultural relativity.  Whether in the living room or the classroom, young viewers need to learn that not everybody does things the way that they do things.  So what better way than to use a holiday to explain this concept?

Where “Day of the Dead” is a great story for any younger viewer, the much scarier “Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman” is more fitting for older audiences.  The story, which is somewhat similar to the Brothers Grimm’s story of “Hansel and Gretel”, follows three young boys that go off into the forest and encounter an evil witch despite the youngest of the three having tried to keep his brothers from going in the first place.  The boys had been told about the legend of the witch-woman.  The combination of the narration and the illustrations in this story make it an especially scary story.  Scare factor aside, it does have a happy ending.  Parents should still use their discretion with this story.  It is up to parents to decide if their children are old enough to take in such a scary story.

Scholastic’s The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 offers plenty of fun and scares for the entire family.  Each of the set’s three discs offers stories and songs for young viewers of every age.  And because parents will enjoy them all too, they can sit down with their kids and decide which of the stories are fitting for their young viewers.  Something else that parents and young viewers will appreciate in this set is that Scholastic has once again included the read-along feature that has become standard on each of its Storybook Treasures collections.  This feature can be toggled on or off depending on a child’s reading ability.  It is a wonderful tool to help children develop their reading ability.  It makes this latest set one more invaluable learning tool for any young viewer.  It is available now and can be ordered direct via the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-halloween-stories-collection-volume-2/.  More information on this and other Scholastic releases is available via the New Kideo website and Facebook page, http://www.newkideo.com and http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  More information is also available on the Scholastic Facebook page and website, http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic and http://www.scholastic.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.