Nicktoons Nostalgics Will “Scream” With Joy for Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Halloween is right around the corner once again.  That means that lots of people are looking for entertainment for their annual parties.  This includes parents looking for entertainment for their children’s parties.  Next Tuesday, Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory will release one more new fun release for the whole family that is a perfect fit for those parties in the form of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series is great fun for both new young audiences and for those that grew up with the series.  It is one of Nickelodeon’s famed Nicktoons that brought Arlene Klasky and Klasky Csupo to fame during the 1990s and early 2000s.  And just as the pair set itself apart from the crowd with its groundbreaking series, Rugrats and the equally innovative Wild Thornberrys, it did so just as much with this series, too.  Klasky Csupo showed just how far ahead of its time it was with this series.  To an extent, one could argue that it might well have been the influence behind Disney/Pixar’s 2001 movie, Monsters, Inc.  That’s because the movie in question didn’t come into being until at least three years after Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had ended in 1998.  This is just one part of what makes the series so important for any fan of Nickelodeon’s golden era.  In direct connection, audiences will appreciate the show’s writing.  Again, a comparison to both Klasky Csupo’s other cartoons and to Monsters, Inc. is necessary to show how far ahead of the times and quick the writing was in this series.  A third factor to consider in deciding whether or not to buy or order this new set is its packaging.  Yet again, Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have set the bar with another box set’s packaging in this collection.  What can be said that hasn’t already been said about that?  But that’s a good thing.  And it seals the deal on what is another great trip back in time for any purist Nicktoons Nostalgic.

Klasky Csupo was the Pixar of the television world from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.  That is thanks to its long strain of original hit cartoons that would be the backbone of Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons programming.  Those hits included the likes of Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, and what would end up being the studio’s last Nicktoon, All Grown Up.  Throughout all of the cartoons created by the studio, each one was entirely different from the last.  And Aahhh!!! Real Monsters was one that definitely stood out.  It stood out among both other Nicktoons and other cartoons in general.  The only other studio doing anything remotely similar at the time was DiC Enterprises with its claymation based Bump in the Night.  Between the two, Klasky Csupo’s cartoon still stood out and in a good way, as it lasted well past the latter of the two toons.  No one at the time had thought of the concept of a trio of young monsters living in a dump, learning how to scare humans.  Even the characters themselves were original.  One look at David Eccles’ Krumm makes one wonder if he in fact wasn’t an influence behind Mike Wazowski.  Both of these factors (and others) show just how far ahead of its time this series was.

Aahhh!!! Real Monsters was well ahead of its time in so many ways.  From the general story and characters to other smaller aspects, its cast and writers proved that in so many ways.  In direct connection, it is just as impressive thanks to its writing.  From learning how to scare and avoiding the wrath of their teacher, The Gromble (Gregg Berger—Garfield & Friends, The Angry Beavers, The Garfield Show) to trying to escape capture by Simon the Monster Hunter (Jim Belushi—Life According to Jim, Hey Arnold!, the Adventures of Jimmy Neutron), the writers found so many ways to keep the show fresh through all four of its seasons.  There was even a hunt for a pail that sends Ickis on a wild chase that will leave audiences laughing.  It’s one more of so many wonderfully entertaining moments that make this new set so fun for anyone that grew up with the series and for their kids, too.

The writing and general ingenuity of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters went a long way toward making it one more of Klasky Csupo’s most beloved cartoons.  The same can be said of what made it one of the best Nicktoons of Nickelodeon’s golden era.  There is one last factor in this new set that fans of the show will appreciate in its upcoming release.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released both Rocko’s Modern Life and The Angry Beavers in complete series sets.  Those sets both managed somehow to contain eight discs in a box that only takes up the space of two standard DVD cases on any DVD rack.  The same can be said of this set’s box, too.  Each of the set’s discs are placed on either side of their own “plate” within the case.  As large as it may make the box seem, it actually manages to conserve space in the long run.  For that, both companies are more than deserving of even more credit.  What’s more, this form of packaging also protects the discs from being scratched up.  So it serves as a double whammy in the best possible manner.  Keeping this in mind along with the original writing and the generally original concept behind the show, audiences are presented with another welcome shining release from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  One can only hope that from here, the two companies will eventually strike a deal to release Klasky Csupo’s other classic Nicktoons next.  Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series will be available online and in stores Tuesday, October 8th.  It can be ordered direct online from Shout! Factory’s store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218263.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is available on the official Shout! Factory website, http://www.shoutfactory.com and Shout! Factory Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

Street Sharks Another Blast From The Past For Retro TV Fans

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The 1990s was the last real great era for television.  That decade-long span offered viewers of every age something that so few of today’s programs have.  One might ask what today’s shows lack.  They lack heart.  And they lack substance.  To quote Lois and Peter Griffin:  “All you see is violence in movies and sex on TV.”  Adults and families in general had great sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, Home Improvement, and Third Rock from the Sun.  There were even more wonderful shows for adults and families at the time worth watching.  This trio is just a sample of that mass of worthwhile shows that filled the networks.  Children had just as much from which to choose if not more.  Kids had multiple shows from which to choose on weekday mornings and afternoons across the Big 4.  And even Saturday mornings meant cartoons, too.  Not every one of those cartoons lasted.  But even the shorter-lived shows were worth an occasional watch.  Among the most notable of those short-lived shows was a little action series that went by the name of Street SharksStreet Sharks was DIC Entertainment’s (now dhx media) answer to the massively popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  There’s no denying the number of similarities between Street Sharks and TMNT.  But what can be said of Street Sharks that sets it apart from TMNT is the show’s animation.  Sure the story’s central plot is different.  But at its root, it is largely just a variant of the TMNT plot.  Keeping this in mind, the best place to start in examining this recently released set is to look at the transfer of the footage from VHS to DVD.

Nearly two decades have passed between the original premiere of this “little brother” to TMNT.  The footage has stood the test of time quite well as is evidenced in the set’s four discs.  A quick glance through all four discs contained in the set shows that.  What’s more, in watching through just some of the short-lived show’s forty episodes, one will notice something else that makes Street Sharks worth checking out at least once, if not more.  That other something is the show’s animation.  All forty episodes of Street Sharks were hand drawn.  And while the show might have had quite a few similarities to its “big brother”, one thing that can be said is that its animation style was completely different from TMNT and almost every other cartoon of its time.  Some might consider this to be minor.  But at a time when fully hand drawn cartoons are such a rarity, it proves to be far more important of a factor in the show’s success.  Its animation really made it look like it had jumped right off the pages of a comic book.  In the same breath, it reminds viewers of the importance of art being taught in public schools and colleges today.  Far too many of today’s “animated” features are created either entirely or in large part by computer.  It makes them all look like cookie cutter presentations.  Hand drawn features on the other hand, have more substance and soul about them.  Much the same argument could be made about the importance of Disney’s classic animated features being re-issued throughout 2013.  Keeping that in mind, this is a cartoon worth watching at least by those that grew up in the 90s.

Street Sharks’ animation was key in its ability to last as long as it did.  It isn’t the only positive to this release.  There are those that have criticized Mill Creek Entertainment’s continued use of paper sleeves to package its DVDs in this set.  Given, it isn’t the completely ideal packaging.  But in comparison to DVD sets such Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, at least the DVDs in this set aren’t stacked one on top of another with nothing between them.  It would be nice to have at least padded envelopes for the DVDs from Mill Creek, or even more standard packaging that other companies are using today.  But given the circumstances, viewers should be thankful that Mill Creek would take the time to try and protect the discs from each other if not entirely themselves.  Keeping this in mind, and the show’s old school animation style, the two factors make Street Sharks: The Complete 40 Episode Series worth checking out at least once for old school cartoon fans.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=Street+Sharks.  More information about releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available on the company’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt and http://www.millcreekent.com.

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Cookie Jar, Mill Creek Give Families More Fun In new Box Set

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/Cookie Jar Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Cookie Jar Entertainment

Mill Creek Entertainment and Cookie Jar (formerly DIC Entertainment) have released yet another enjoyable kid and family friendly cartoon collection with the new TV Toons To Go! box set.  The ten-disc set culls over one hundred total episodes from some of the two companies’ best cartoons, dating all the way back to the 1980’s.  So both kids and their parents will enjoy this set. 

The TV Toons To Go! box set kicks off with a pair of discs featuring episodes from the kid favorites, Busytown Mysteries and the Busy World of Richard Scarry.  Richard Scarry’s books have taught millions of children the world over educational and life lessons for ages.  Now in this cartoon, those same stories are entertaining a whole new generation as they jump off the page and onto the small screen.  First time viewers will enjoy the show for its kid friendly nature and for those same lessons, its vibrant colors, and characters.  Parents of those first time viewers will appreciate these episodes as they will create a sense of nostalgia, taking them back to when they first read the books.  The animation style, with its vibrant colors will also appeal to parents, considering how much of today’s “animation” are increasingly computer generated and less hand drawn.  The hand drawn animation style gives this modern classic its own identity and will continue to do so as long as animation heads seemingly farther away from its roots.  It’s one more piece of the puzzle that will help to create a different but related sense of nostalgia among older audiences.  Parents will especially appreciate these two discs as those who weren’t able to get their hands on last year’s release of The Busy World of Richard ScarryThe Complete 65 Episode Series.  That set was also released by Mill Creek Entertainment and Cookie Jar.

While parents and kids will both enjoy the Busytown discs included in the new TV Toons To Go! box set, parents will especially enjoy the inclusion of the classic cartoon, Heathcliff in this set.  While it isn’t the entire series, or even the four-disc set released by Shout! Factory, but this single disc does quite the job for fans as it presents eleven episodes from this classic 80’s cartoon.  Sure it’s not the entire series.  But it still makes for a solid re-introduction for older audiences and an equally solid first time introduction for newer viewers.  As with the previously noted Busytown discs, parents will get a total sense of nostalgia from this show if only for its hand drawn animation.  It alone was a huge part of the show’s identity.  Though the episodic writing was just as solid.  Whether for Heathcliff’s adventures or those of Riff-Raff and his feline friends, the writing behind the included episodes will keep audiences engaged throughout each adventure.

The primary episodes included in this multi-disc set will entertain both kids and kids at heart for hours on end.  Whether it be episodes of classics such as Heathcliff, C.O.P.S., The Littles, or Where On Earth Is Carmen San Diego? Parents have plenty to introduce their kids to for the first time.  And for younger audiences, Mill Creek Entertainment and Cookie Jar have also included episodes of newer toons, too.  To sweeten the deal, the partnership between the pairing also has led to the inclusion of many more modern toons as bonuses on a handful of the set’s discs.  As an example, the set’s first two discs include a bonus episode of Wimzie’s House and Simon in the Land of Chalk respectively.  The set’s fourth disc also presents a bonus episode of Postcards from Buster.  It makes for a nice lead in to the set’s eighth disc, which already contains ten more episodes from the PBS Kids’ “mini-series”/spinoff.  And that disc itself includes a pair of episode of the more modern kids cartoon, Nanoboy as its bonus feature. 

The bonus episodes included in this set do their own part in making the overall viewing experience more enjoyable.  There is at least one more factor that makes this set enjoyable for both parents and kids.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  All ten discs in this set are contained snugly into their own soft inserts within a small easy to carry canteen shaped case.  The case has string attachments that can be tied to anything to keep it safe, too.  It’s a very ergonomically sound packaging idea.  What’s more the inserts that hold the discs are double sided.  Only one side of each is used, thus leaving the opposite side open for other cartoon releases from Mill Creek Entertainment if desired.  Again, it makes for one more positive to the overall presentation from Mill Creek Entertainment and Cookie Jar that parents and kids will enjoy with every watch.  It’s available now in stores and online. 

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Cookie Jar’s Christmas Collection Is Holiday Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Cookie Jar TV’s Christmas Cartoon Collection” is a fun grouping of cartoons for kids and parents alike.  This single disc collection includes ten holiday themed episodes of some of the best cartoons from Cookie Jar (formerly DiC Entertainment).  This new collection includes toons from both the 21st Century and some more classic toons, too.  It all starts with a pair of episodes from the kid friendly favorite, Busy World of Richard Scarry.  The first of the episodes sees an evil mastermind stealing stuff from all across New York City.  It’s up to one man to solve the mystery of who is lifting the legendary city.  In the second episode from the show, Santa’s in danger of not making his annual Christmas run after making a rough landing.  The runners on his sled have broken and even Mr. Fix-It can’t help.  So how is Santa to get his sled flying again?  Kids and their parents will have to find out on their own when they pick up this family friendly DVD. 

 Speaking of Santa, in another of this collection’s best episodes, Heathcliff has a mystery on his hands when the mailman tells him that his and his boy Iggy’s letters to Santa have been returned.  And theirs aren’t the only ones.  So Heathcliff and Spike head off to the North Pole to figure out why everybody’s letters are being returned.  The answer to the mystery is a surprise even to Santa himself.  Although being a holiday episode, everything is worked out in the end, and Heathcliff and Squish get a lift back to their homes from Santa as a thank you for getting all the letters returned to him.  Anyone who is old enough to remember when this classic cartoon originally aired will love not just the warm, fuzzy feelings that it will create, but also the general sense of nostalgia that it will instill, too. 

Heathcliff is just one of the cartoons that will make for a great sense of nostalgia on this new collection from Mill Creek Entertainment and Cookie Jar.  Viewers who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons on ABC will remember a short lived cartoon called Bump in the Night.  This stop motion based toon featured a certain little monster named Mr. Bumpy.  In the show’s holiday episode presented here, Mr. Bumpy is awaiting the arrival of Santa.  He doesn’t want to just see Santa.  He wants to trap him and snag his bag of toys.  It’s not his first try at trapping Santa, either.  Every year that he’s tried, Mr. Bumpy’s plan has failed for one reason or another.  He actually does succeed this year.  But in the process, Mr. Bumpy learns what’s really important during the holidays.  Audiences will enjoy this positive message.  They’ll also appreciate the pop culture references peppered in throughout the episode.  From monster style takes on classic Hanukkah and Christmas songs to a tribute to the Indiana Jones franchise and a spoof of a famous Kenny Loggins song, there is plenty for both kids and adults to love in this episode.  Even veteran actor Cheech Marin joins in on the fun as the voice of a Spanish worm who helps Mr. Bumpy and Squish along the way.  It all comes together to make this episode one more piece of the overall presentation that makes the Cookie Jar Christmas Cartoon Collection such a great collection for families this and every holiday season.  It’s available now in stores and online.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.