Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and 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.

Danny Phantom Complete Series Set Is Loads Of Ghostly Fun For All

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Nickelodeon’s programming today is comprised largely of live action sitcoms aimed at teen viewers.  However, from the early 1990s up until the mid-2000s, the network was known more for its vast array of cartoons.  It’s “Nicktoons” were its heart and soul.  While Nickelodeon does have some cartoons today, the network’s sole remaining real Nicktoon is Butch Hartman’s hugely successful series Fairly OddparentsFairly Oddparents is a standout series, too.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t his first series to have the honor of being added to Nickelodeon’s list of beloved Nicktoons.  His first notable “Nicktoon” was the short-lived supernatural series Danny Phantom.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, fans of Danny Phantom will be able to own the complete series in one box later this month.  Danny Phantom only ran for three seasons.  In its defense, it could be argued that this was because it was ahead of its time.  That aside, series creator Butch Hartman and his writers crafted a number of enjoyable episodes throughout the show’s short run.  Just as worth noting about this new upcoming box set is that is alleviates some minor problems raised in the box sets containing the series’ second season.  Lastly, those that know their Nicktoons history will appreciate the voice talent that made up the series’ cast.  That who’s who of voice actors combined with the enjoyable stories, and the fact that they are all available together for the first time collectively make this upcoming set well worth picking up for any Danny Phantom fan.

Fans of Danny Phantom: The Complete Series  will appreciate this new complete series set first and foremost because it presents the series’ entire three-season run in one complete box set.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released three complete series sets from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers.  Those sets proved to actually take up far less space on DVD racks than the stand-alone season sets that had originally been released.  This set is no different.  All nine discs that make up all three seasons are included in this box.  Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have sweetened the deal even more for fans in that they have maintained the established wise packaging that was used in the aforementioned complete series sets.  The discs are placed inside the box on either side of their own “insert” with the ninth and final disc being placed in its own spot inside the back of the case.  As with the previously noted box sets, this protects the discs and allows the episodes contained within each one to be enjoyed much longer.  It is the starting point of what audiences will appreciate about Danny Phantom: The Complete Series.

The packaging for Danny Phantom: The Complete Series is a good starting point in discussing everything that makes this box set well worth its price.  The episodes contained across the set’s nine total discs make the presentation as a whole even more enjoyable.  It would be easy to say that because its main characters were high school students, Danny Phantom was just another program aimed at audiences of the same age. To a point, it could be seen how teen audiences would take an interest in the series.  Case in point, one of the series’ story arcs involved a potential inter-racial romance between Danny and black classmate named Valerie Gray (voiced by Cree Summer—The Cosby Show, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, etc.).  It really is a sign of the times that the show’s writers would include this without making a big fuss over it, either.  It is a subtle, but nice addition to the series.  There are also the constant struggles to balance trying to be a regular teen with being a superhero. But the jokes that are tossed in each episode aren’t above some younger viewers, either.  So while teens might have been the primary audience, younger viewers would have obviously enjoyed the show, too.  The same applies to today’s teens and pre-teens, too.

The packaging and writing that make up Danny Phantom’s episodes are collectively a big part of what makes the series so enjoyable even for today’s younger audiences.  There is at least one more aspect of the series’ new set that audiences will appreciate in examining the presentation as a whole.  That aspect is the series’ voice cast.  The series’ primary cast reads like a who’s who of voice acting.  It has already been noted that veteran voice actress Cree Summer is part of the primary cast (even though she doesn’t come into play until the second season).  Along with Ms. Summer, Grey DeLisle (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford: The Puppy Years, Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) Kath Soucie (Futurama, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.) and a whole slate of others each play roles in the series.  Fans will also recognize the voices of Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Hellboy & Hellboy II), Martin Mull (Roseanne), and the man who is perhaps the busiest male voice actor in the business, one Frank Welker (Curious George, The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, etc.)  Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Taylor Lautner (the Twilight saga), and the late David Carradine even make appearances throughout the series among so many other big names.  If the massive list of A-listers that play roles in Danny Phantom isn’t reason enough to check out the new Danny Phantom: The Complete Series box set, then one need only set that alongside the enjoyable writing and the equally wise packaging to see just how worthwhile this set is for kids and kids at heart.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, January 28th.  It can be pre-ordered online now from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/danny-phantom-complete-series.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and 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.

Pound Puppies’ Latest Compilation One Of The Show’s Best Yet

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Hub Network/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Hub Network/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Factory has teamed up with Hasbro Studios and the Hub network once again another compilation of episodes from Hub’s Pound PuppiesPound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks is one of the best compilations from this family and kid favorite series to be released yet.  That is largely because of each episode’s writing.  This compilation offers viewers some of the series’ most heartfelt episodes to date.  Just as noteworthy in this compilation is the guest voice talent.  Both parents and kids alike will recognize the celebrity voices that are included in some of the episodes in this set.  Something more subtle, but just as worth noting in this collection of episodes is that each one features its own musical number.  It’s something that hadn’t been seen (or rather heard) in previous collections.  It’s a nice touch to the episodes in question.  The reason for that will be discussed later.  All things considered, Holiday Hijinks is one more great addition to any family’s home DVD library, whether it’s their first introduction to the new Pound Puppies or not.

The latest compilation of Pound Puppies episodes includes five more episodes from the Hub network’s hit children’s series.  This follows the same format as the previous DVD compilations that have been released.  The episodes collected for this collection stand out because they are some of the series’ most heartwarming episodes yet.  The collection’s opener, “I Heard The Barks on Christmas Eve” is the collection’s only actual holiday themed episode.  It’s still a wonderful story, nonetheless.  For the first time ever, viewers see that Mr. McLeish actually has a heart and isn’t the mean middle aged man that he comes across as being in most episodes.  It presents those classic messages that everybody needs somebody and that everybody deserves somebody, especially during the holidays.  Audiences will appreciate how writer Joe Ansolabehere expanded on the show’s central theme of family in the set’s second episode, “I Never Barked For My Father.”  Lucky meets his long lost father and brother for the first time ever in this episode.  These are two of the collection’s finest.  What’s more, older audiences will appreciate the guest vocal talent shared here.  That is another positive to this set of episodes.

The episodes collected for Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks offer plenty of heart and laughs.  The writers behind the show are to be applauded for their work.  Just as worth noting of these episodes is the guest vocal talent recruited for these episodes.  Lucky’s father is voiced by none other than Gary Cole in “I Never Barked For My Father.”  And his long lost brother is voiced by one Gary Cooksey.  Cooksey is best known for his time on Diff’rent Strokes as well as voicing Montana Max on Tiny Toon Adventures and portraying Robert “Buddy” Budnick on Nickelodeon’s hit 90s series, Salute Your Shorts.  Older audiences will recognize Gary Cole from his roles in Office Space, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law just to name some of his work.  Cole and Cooksey are just a couple of the well-known names that grace this collection of episodes.  Fred Stoller (Wordgirl, Everybody Loves Raymond) guests on the collection’s opener as the voice of Ralph.  Ralph is a stray that has lost his Christmas spirit because he has never had a single owner.  That all changes thanks to the Pound Puppies.  Wayne Knight (Seinfeld, Scooby-Doo & The Goblin King, Jurassic Park, The Exes) also shares his talents as the voice of Ralphie, Mr. McLeish’s old friend in “Good Dog, McLeish.”  If that isn’t enough, then the addition of both Tress MacNeille (Futurama, The Simpsons) and Charles Shaughnessy (The Nanny) as guest talent in “Prince and the Pupper” will certainly convince parents to check out this latest collection of Pound Puppies episodes with their kids.  The list of guest talent included in Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks is only a glimpse of the big name actors and actresses that have lent their talents to this series over the course of three seasons.  And it’s just one more reason for families to enjoy this collection together.  There is one more reason that families will enjoy the episodes presented in this set.  That reason is that each of the set’s five episodes includes its own musical number.  It would have been so easy for the writers to go over the top considering the history of musical numbers in shows that aren’t known for musical numbers.  Instead, the show’s writers made each episode’s musical number respectable and within limitations.  They didn’t make them big, cheesy tongue-in-cheek numbers.  They actually add a certain amount of emotion and comic relief where necessary.  Just as with the guest vocal talent and the equally enjoyable writing overall, the musical number become one more part of the whole that makes Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks well worth the watch any time of the year.  It is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-holiday-hijinks.  More information on this and other Pound Puppies DVDs is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutactoryofficial.  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.

Taz-Mania Season One Volume One Another Welcome Unearthing From Warner Home Video

Courtesy:  Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Warner Brothers has largely started off 2013 in successful fashion.  Its only major missteps so far this year have been its DVD and Blu-ray release of Hats Off to Dr. Seuss and Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4.  Save for those two problematic releases, Warner Home Video has largely seen more success through the first two quarters of the year.  Now Warner Home Video has started off its new quarter by catching its footing in the first half of Taz-Mania Season One. Taz-Mania Season One Volume One is one of many candidates for the best children’s DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013.  That’s because unlike the company’s previous missteps, this release gets almost everything right.  The only downside to this set is something that has plagued many of its releases so far this year.  And that will be discussed later.

Taz-Mania Season One Volume One is a welcome release from Warner Home Video.  This relic of a bygone era is one more example of everything that made not only children’s programming great, but also television in general.  As audiences will see in Season 1.0, Taz-Mania made both children’s programming and television in general so great because unlike the cartoons that pollute television’s channel lineups today, it’s a cartoon that even today families can watch together.  That’s thanks first and foremost to the show’s writing.  The show’s writing is witty and clever.  It’s taut enough that adults won’t feel like they’re being dumbed down.  At the same time, it offers just enough comedy for even today’s younger viewers to find themselves laughing.  The constant fights between Taz and Molly are something to which both adults and kids alike can relate, and thus at which adults and kids alike can laugh.  And Taz’s constant adventures with his fellow characters are just as enjoyable.  Viewers of every age will love watching Taz go diving for undersea treasure with Digeri Dingo, facing off against Francis X. Bushlad, and even taking on a part-time job in hopes of getting his own motorcycle.  There’s even a heartfelt story telling how Taz first got his pet, Dog the turtle.  If it doesn’t pull at a viewer’s heartstrings, nothing will.  There is so much more that audiences will enjoy from this first half of Season One.  This is just a taste of what kids and kids at heart can expect from this set.

The witty, clever writing of Taz-Mania makes it a great addition to any Looney Tunes fan’s library regardless of whether one is seeing it for the first time or for the first time again.  It’s just one part of the show’s success.  The animation style is another plus to this modern classic cartoon.  So many of today’s “cartoons” are cartoons in the loosest sense possible; those that are at all.  For the most part, most of today’s kids programming is dominated by CGI created shows and live action fodder for tweens and teens.  Those rare hand-drawn cartoons that are left have been spit-shined.  Taz-Mania is the exact opposite.  Its more “rough” animation style is a throwback to the classic days of animation.  It doesn’t have the finely defined borders and background designs of so many of today’s cartoons.  It really serves to help Taz-Mania develop its own identity, even among other cartoons from its era.  In its own right, one could even argue that Taz-Mania’s animation style is a direct throwback to the golden era of Looney Tunes.  That makes this double-disc set even more worth watching regardless of one’s age.

The writing and animation in the first half of Taz-Mania’s debut season are both big factors in the show’s success.  There is at least one more factor to consider in determining whether Warner Home Video’s people have succeeded with this latest release.  That factor is the double-disc set’s packaging.  The packaging is by and large, a success.  It follows the same formula that has become the norm for multi-disc box sets.  Both of the set’s discs are placed on their own spot inside the standard size DVD case.  As with any other set packaged in this fashion, it protects the discs from scratching and in turn, increases their longevity.  The discs themselves are the only real downside to the entire set.  Anyone that has picked up any previously released sets from WHV this year will notice that the people at WHV have not put a whole lot of thought into appeal on the discs.  Sure, there are designs on both discs.  But both discs are splashed in a single, flat tone.  It would have been nice to see a full color design rather than something that looks like someone took a paint brush and ran it right over a bunch of clear designs.  This is a minor issue.  But it still plays a part in the overall picture.  This might be as simple as a cost-cutting measure.  If so, it’s understandable.  Otherwise, this is something that the people at WHV will hopefully fix with any of its upcoming release. The double-disc set is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the WB shop at http://www.wbshop.com/product/tazmania+taz+on+the+loose+season+1+part+1+1000303587.do?sortby=bestSellers&from=Search.

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Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption Offers Audiences Five More Episodes Of Fun And Lessons

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Hub

The latest release from the Hub network’s Pound Puppies series is just as fun as the previous pair of DVDs.  This new release offers audiences five more episodes filled with entertainment and important lessons for both kids and their parents.  Also included in this new collection of episodes is an adoption certificate that kids can print out and fill out for their very own.  Just as impressive as the set’s episodes is the continued original artwork used throughout the series.  Anyone that remembers Cartoon Network’s Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, will recognize the animation used for this series once again.  Altogether, these factors make Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption just as fun as the previous collections of episodes from this update of the classic 80s series.

This latest release is so much enjoyable first and foremost because of the mix of entertainment and life lessons in each of its five episodes.  Of course the inclusion of some well-known voice actors doesn’t hurt, either.  This time out, audiences learn that even the smallest dog…er…person can accomplish great feats.  This lesson is taught in the episode, “Snow Problem.”  When a young husky puppy named Tundra ends up with the Pound Puppies, he and the others take on a group of bigger, tougher dogs in a sled race that ends up with the young pup winning the heart of one of the racers and being adopted.  The spoof of the famed song, ‘Chariots of Fire’ is a nice addition to this episode.  Viewers also learn that superstitions are superstitions for a reason in “Taboo.”  When they meet the puppy named Taboo, the Pound Puppies discover why it is that he’s had such a hard time finding his person.  Viewers will have to find out the truth behind his adoption problems for themselves when they pick up this new release.  Viewers will especially enjoy the Wizard of Oz reference in this episode.  In the disc’s opener, “King of the Heap”, one of the Pound Puppies is adopted by Junkyard Jim, instead of the newest additions to the pound named Elvis (voiced by Clancy Brown—Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants).  This episode teaches viewers that it’s best to be themselves, rather than something that they’re not.  Being one’s own self is what people admire most.  The show’s writers are to be commended for these lessons, and the others included here along with its more fun moments.  On a side note, voice actor John DiMaggio is back again as the voice of Niblet.  Considering that Futurama is coming to an end yet again, hopefully Hub will keep this show around as he does quite the job as Niblet’s voice.

The collection of fun moments and lessons culled for the episodes in this latest set make it fun for the whole family.  Older audiences will appreciate this set for more than just those factors, though.  They will also enjoy the animation style used throughout the series.  It’s quite similar to Cartoon Network’s former cartoon, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.  What makes this animation style so impressive is that even if it was done via computer, its quality is such that it’s difficult to tell if it was done by hand, by computer, or a combination of both.  If it was done by both computer and by hand, then it proves that the two animation styles can exist side by side.  And that both styles can exist side by side, one can only hope that audiences will get much more of this style of animation and mix of fun and lessons in even more volumes of Pound Puppies episodes.  Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption is available now in stores and online.  It can be purchased online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216951.

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.

Animaniacs Volume Four A Fitting Sendoff For The Warners

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

All good things must come to an end…or must they?  Thanks to the good people at Warner Brothers Home Video, fans of the modern classic cartoon, Animaniacs, the laughs never have to come to an end now that the show’s fourth and final volume has finally seen the light of day.  This latest volume of episodes is just as entertaining as the show’s previous volumes.  The writers take no prisoners, going after everyone in pop culture from Disney and Hanna Barbera to Universal and even Fox.  They’re not the only victims of the show’s witty writing.  Even the best movies in Hollywood’s modern history  aren’t safe as the show goes after the likes of The Maltese Falcon, Mary Poppins, and even The Sound of music just to name a few.  And that’s just on the set’s first disc.  The second and third discs are just as top heavy with laughs.  Audiences will love that the show’s writers make a farce of all the serious TV specials out there with its very own “Very, Very, Very, Very Special Show.”  The set’s third disc even includes a little holiday flavor in “The Christmas Tree.”  Everyone’s favorite sour squirrel Slappy, takes center stage here.  Her constant delivery makes for so many laughs.    

The jokes are nonstop throughout all three discs of this outrageously hilarious cartoon.  They’re just part of the show’s continued enjoyment.  Along with nonstop laughs provided by the razor sharp comedy, the show also continues to show heart throughout various episodes as well as some educational content believe it or not.  “Multiplication Song” teaches math and pokes fun at how drawn out it can be in the same breath.  It’s that same brand of comedy established with shorts such as “Chalkboard Bungle”, “Planets Song” and “The Senses” (all from Season One).  Audiences will love this continued tradition just as much as the show’s other laughs provided throughout all three discs in this set.    

Animaniacs Volume Four offers audiences laughs from beginning to end in every short.  Those laughs wouldn’t have been possible without solid writing and equally solid performance by the show’s cast who return once again in this final set of twenty-four episodes.  Mauriche LaMarche (The Simpsons, Futurama) is back yet again as the voice of The Brain.  And fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (Scooby Doo, The Real Ghostbusters, Tiny Toon Adventures, etc.) returns yet again as the voice of the dopey security guard Ralph, the equally dopey dog Runt (whose spoof of Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character Raymond Babbitt is as hilarious as ever), and many others.  And even Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) is back once more.  Having the whole team back again is a huge win as the chemistry built between cast members is a big part of its ability to effectively interpret the scripts and make them entertaining both for kids and parents even years after the show’s end.

The voice acting, the jokes, and heart from the first three volumes of Animaniacs episodes all remain in Animaniacs Volume Four.  There is one other factor that makes this show timeless.  That last factor is its animation.  Yet again reference must be made to the difference in today’s computer generated “animation” and that done by hand from actual human animators.  The animation that was a trademark of Animaniacs in previous seasons is just as solid in this new release.  Save perhaps for Steven Spielberg’s other hit cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures no other shows looked like this one.  It really served as one more factor in developing the show’s identity, unlike so much “animated” content out there today.  Combined with the show’s comedy and its heart, its animation goes into making this a wonderful way for this wacky show to go out.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Warner Home Video’s online store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/steven+spielberg+presents+animaniacs+vol+4+1000023671.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search

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Audiences Will “Love” Dreamworks’ New Madagascar Special

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Dreamworks Animations’ Madagascar movies comprise one of the company’s most successful franchises.  It’s so successful in fact that it has even spawned a holiday special titled, Merry Madagascar.  Now the Madagascar gang is back again for yet another holiday special.  This time, love is in the air for the gang as Valentine’s Day nears.  Ironically enough King Julian (once again voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) gets his hands on a perfume called “Love Potion #9” that makes anyone that wears it irresistible.  When the “love potion” is used on Marty, it leads to an unintended effect, which ends up in Marty and the rest of Alex’s friends learning a very valuable lesson about friendship and love.  The moral lesson and the laughs together will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the special’s near half-hour run time.  To be exact, Madly Madagascar’s run time is closer to twenty-five minutes than thirty.  Though chances are if it is ever run on television, it will reach the half-hour mark thanks to commercials. 

The run-time aside, much of the reason for the enjoyment in this special comes from the special’s writing staff and the voice cast’s ability to interpret the script.  The entire cast from the previous Madagascar movies is back once more, with one more addition.  Phil LaMarr (Futurama) joins the cast as the voice of a wildlife official at a Safari camp who has to chase after the infamous penguins of Madagascar.  That’s right, even the penguins are back, creating their own mischief as the love bug has hit their leader, too.  The original voice actors behind the penguins have returned, too.  Keeping all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that interpreting the script for this special was so simple for the cast as it had to have been old hat for everybody. 

The cast’s interpretation of the writers’ script plays its own role (no pun intended) in the success of this latest special.  Audiences will also appreciate that the CG-based “animation” used in all of the previous Madagascar installments was used in this special, too.  That familiarity of sorts—as minor as it may be—will help make this new installment a welcome return for audiences of all ages.  The pop culture references to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Palmer, The Black Eyed Peas, and The Clovers also make for their own laughs.  All of this combined with the script writing and voice acting will make Madly Madagascar a Valentines special that the whole family will enjoy year after year.

The main feature included in this new DVD release is enjoyable enough for the whole family.  It’s only part of the overall enjoyment that families will get from this new release.  Just as enjoyable are the bonus shorts included with it.  Two bonus shorts are included on the disc.  The first of the pair is a touching Pixar style piece titled, “First Flight” in which a rather unhappy man learns the meaning of happiness when a baby bird falls from its nest and he ends up teaching the young avian how to fly.  It truly is a moving story as short as it is.  And it will leave both kids and adults smiling and shedding at least some tears of joy.  Being that the only dialogue here so to speak is the man and bird “talking” to each other through bird song, the music played a big role in the success of the story.  It came through in a big way, too.  It added so much emotion to the entire story.  It goes to prove that Pixar just might have some competition next awards season if Dreamworks continues to try its hand with more animated shorts.  And from the viewpoint of this critic, if this short is any indication, more shorts from Dreamworks would be welcome.

The second short of the pair is far less emotional.  Instead it’s on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s taken from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge movie franchise.  The short, titled, “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” is a laugh-a-minute short that follows Hammy and his friends in their discovery of a video camera.  Hammy’s friends use it to play a prank on Hammy.  The writing for this short harkens back to the days of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts with its physical comedy between Hammy and the Boomerang.  And as with the short’s companion Madagascar feature, the original voice actors from Over The Hedge have returned here adding to the hilarity.  Adding even more enjoyment to the short is a little musical number from pop star Ben Folds.  Folds performs a song titled, ‘Heist’ for the short’s end credits.  It’s not that long, obviously.  But it’s still a catchy little tune that will have viewers tapping their toes.  It might even be enough to get audiences interested in hearing more of his music.  His music combined with the equally enjoyable shorts and main feature from the Madagascar gang come together to make for a DVD that any audience will want to check out when it hits store shelves next Tuesday, January 29th.  It will also be available online.  It can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/madly-madagascar.html.

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Nicktoon’s Latest DVD Release More “Wild” Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have kicked off the New Year in fine fashion.  The two companies already have a somewhat busy slate of releases set in this still very young year.  Next month sees the release of Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series.  Before that though, audiences of the fellow classic Nicktoon, The Wild Thornberrys finally get to see the final piece to the show’s second season.  The Wild Thornberrys: Season 2 Part 3 is available in stores and online now.  The Thornberrys’ “wild” globe hopping, adventures have only just begun with this last portion of Season 2, as there are still three more seasons left to be released.  This time out, viewers finally get to see Eliza’s “origin” story so to speak, as it is finally revealed how she got her secret powers.  Also Debbie inadvertently becomes mother to a baby Panda, only to find herself having become emotionally attached to it just like a real mother.  And also Nigel’s life is in Eliza’s hands after he is stung by a poisonous fish during a search for an Angler Fish. 

The adventures included in the final portion of The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 3 continue to show just how strong the writing was for this classic Nicktoon in its infancy.  As with so many other Nicktoons of its era, the episodes included in this double disc set continue to show just how much heart the show had (and still has today by comparison to other shows out there).  Each episode in its own way continued to highlight the importance of family while balancing that with the show’s educational and even ecological aspects.  Every episode included in this new set emphasizes educational aspects without even trying, by teaching about different animals of different regions of the world.  That’s even the case in the set’s “origin” episode, “Gift of Gab.”  It teaches not only geography but also biology. That lesson on biology is also echoed in the episode, “Black and White and Mom All Over.”  Eliza’s sister Debbie learns a lesson of how wild animals connect to the first thing they see when they’re young after a baby panda mistakes her for its mother.  That biology lesson is directly tied in to the show’s emphasis on another aspect that still makes it so enjoyable to this day.  That aspect is its emphasis on family.

The educational role of The Wild Thornberrys is only part of what continues to make this such a fan favorite to this day.  The show’s emphasis on family plays a role in its heart, too.  As already noted, one of the episodes that shows that emphasis is “Black and White and Mom All Over.”  That theme is also evident in “Bogged Down” in which it’s up to Eliza to save Nigel’s life.  As excited as she is to be out with her father, one little error on her part nearly costs him his life.  So Eliza has to put her squabbles with Debbie on the backburner in order to save her dad’s life.    And in “Gift of Gab”, the family aspect is offered when Eliza tells the story of how she and Darwin first met and he essentially became part of the Thornberry family. 

As much enjoyment as The Wild Thornberrys brings from its writing and its educational emphasis, the show’s animation also plays a role in its enjoyment.  In a time when it would seem that the very art of creating hand drawn art is dying, this latest installment of the classic Nicktoon serves as yet another reminder of how much better hand drawn art is in comparison to the CG crafted material that currently permeates television stations across the spectrum.  Just as with even older cartoons (on both television and in theaters), the animation of The Wild Thornberrys boasts a very specific style.  While the show itself was one more creation from Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo (who also created the ultimate Nicktoon, Rugrats), the animation of this show was entirely different from that of Rugrats and the other cartoons which were created by the pair.  The animation style really served as the most basic identifier of the cartoon.  There was a certain roughness and definition all at once about it.  Set against the likes of Rugrats, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Rocket Power, perhaps the closest that any of these comes to The Wild Thornberrys in terms of its animation style would be Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.  Though, even that similarity is slight at best.  That defining mark, added in to the equally impressive writing and work by a star cast of voice actors has made The Wild Thornberrys one of Nickelodeon’s elite Nicktoons.  And thanks to the latest of the show’s DVD releases, it still holds that title to this day.  The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 3 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216648.

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.

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3 Another Wonderful Piece Of TV Nostalgia

Courtesy:  Amblin Entertainment/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Amblin Entertainment/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

The long wait is finally over, Toonsters.  Nearly four years have passed since audiences were offered their last dose of Tiny Toon Adventures episodes.  This past Tuesday, Warner Home Video released the long awaited third volume of shorts in its own two-disc set loaded with enough laughs, puns, sight gags, and pop culture references to make any classic cartoon fan happy.  Would it have been nice to have a full thirty to thirty-five episode collection as with the previous pair of collections?  Yes.  But something’s better than nothing, considering how long audiences have waited.  And this new set is something.  It boasts some of the show’s best episodes.  The episodes are just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable.  The original hand-drawn animation will bring back that sense of nostalgia for lovers of classic cartoons, too.  And the use of some of the top voice talent in the industry then and now make for even more enjoyment.  Altogether, it makes for one more must have for any original Tiny Toon fan and even for any of today’s younger viewers.

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues boasts some of the best episodes from this modern classic cartoon.  The show’s original audiences will love seeing classic episodes such as “Kon-Ducki” (which pays a little tribute to The Wizard of Oz and even The Bee Gees), “The Potty Years”, and its own take on the film noir classic, Sunset Boulevard in the episode, “Sepulveda Boulevard.”  There is also a fun episode titled, “Toon Physics” which explains the differences between real physical science and that of cartoons.  It isn’t the first cartoon to ever poke fun at the incredibility of cartoon physics.  But it’s still just as funny as others of its sort.  This episode features revered voice talent Maurice LaMarche (Futurama, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain) as a spoof of legendary actor Orson Welles.  Instead of Welles, his character here is a whale named—you guessed it—Orson Whales (ba-dump-bump-bump).  This set also includes the “controversial” episode, “One Beer” in which Buster, Plucky, and Hampton show young audiences the dangers of drinking and driving.  Along those same lines, there is even an episode that teaches the importance of childhood literacy in “Why Dizzy Can’t Read.”  These are all just a handful of examples of what Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues has to offer both its original fans and their own kids.  Everybody will undoubtedly have their own favorites from this set.  And even with just two discs, this set boasts more than its share of great shorts.

The episodes alone make for loads of enjoyment for both the show’s now grown-up audience and for their own children.  Adding to the enjoyment of this set is the continued original hand drawn animation.  So much children’s programming today is not true animation.  It is in large part CG-based programming.  So unearthing this collection provides yet another reminder for older audiences of what real animation looks like. And it serves as an example for today’s younger audiences the importance of maintaining the classic art of actually drawing animation, rather than relying on technology for everything.  The only downside to the animation here is that it isn’t as clear as with the show’s previous releases.  It looks like the quality of the transfers with this set weren’t as solid as with the previous releases.  But it’s not that bad.  So while it does leave at least a little bit to be desired, it’s still nice to have this relic of a bygone era given new life.

The show’s original animation and its equally entertaining episodes make for so much enjoyment for audiences of all ages.  The cherry on top for not just this set but also the show as a whole is the inclusion of some of the top voice actors in the industry.  As already noted, veteran voice actor Maurice LaMarche is among the show’s ranks of well known actors.  Also in the cast are the likes of: Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, etc.), Charlie Adler (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, The Superhero Squad Show, etc.), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama), Cree Summer (The Cosby Show, A Different World, Codename: Kids Next Door) and Don Messick (Garfield & Friends, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, etc.).  The chemistry between the cast was obvious throughout this new set of episodes, just as with the previous releases.  Whether for the general comedic timing or the interactions with each other, the voice cast of Tiny Toon Adventures was the perfect choice.  It was their interpretations of their characters that put the final touch on what was and still is today one of the best cartoons of the twentieth century.  Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online via the Warner Brothers store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/steven+spielberg+presents+tiny+toon+adventures+volume+3+1000311856.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search.

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Futurama Vol. 7 Shows the “Future” is Bright For This Show

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Futurama is one of the best shows on Comedy Central today.  Thank goodness the network went out on a limb and listened to the fans of this little show that could.  After having been picked up and resurrected by Comedy Central, this hit show has shown time and again why it is the great show that it is.  Now with the release of its seventh volume, Futurama continues to show why it is one of the elite prime time animated sitcoms out there today.  In the show’s seventh volume, the show’s writers poke fun at the seemingly unending to do surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in one episode.  In another episode, audiences see Fry and Leela rekindle their romance after Fry and Bender go in search of a frozen mammoth.  And in yet another, the show’s writers even poke fun at The Matrix when Fry goes to the Near Death Star to visit the professor’s parents.  These episodes make for just some of the laughs throughout this collection’s thirteen episodes largely for the jokes.  For those who really know their stuff, they’ll love just as much the inclusion of a pair of fellow veteran actors, as well as a reference to another late comic actor to this set.  Add in some hilarious commentary and some deleted scenes and audiences get another great set of episodes in the show’s seventh volume.  And all of that is just the beginning.  Viewers will find even more great references and jokes when they check out this new set for themselves.

One of the factors that have always made Futurama a great show is that while it does use topical humor in its episodes, it doesn’t bog itself down in that brand of comedy unlike certain other sitcoms.  However, when it does venture into the realm of topical humor, it still manages somehow to remain funny without trying to be too much above itself.  That’s proven in the episode, “Decision 3012.”  The show’s writers spoof the controversy raised by the “birthers” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate in this episode.  In the place of the president, the writers use a character named Chris Travers, who is a Senator running for Earth President.  Long-time Futurama fans will appreciate the reference to the Futurama movie, Bender’s Big Score in this episode.  Even Matt Groening and David X. Cohen make light of it in the episode’s bonus commentary.  It’s that reference that ends up playing to the episode’s outcome, which viewers will have to find out for themselves when they pick up Futurama Vol. 7.

Futurama’s writers prove in Vol. 7 that they can tackle topical humor and still make funny episodes.  They have also proven again that they’re able to balance keeping the show successful with standalone episodes while also maintaining at least one ongoing storyline in the romance between Leela and Fry.  It would have been so easy for the show’s writers to let the show descend into a serial like so many others.  But thankfully it didn’t.  That’s evident in the episode, “Fun on a Bun.”  Having already broken up again before this episode, an accident with a sausage maker leads Leela to reveal her true feelings for Fry.  She shows her true feelings to Fry when the sausage maker accident leads to a revelation as to what really happened to Fry.  Again, the show’s writers are to be commended for this episode as it proves yet again their ability to maintain a specific storyline without letting the show become a serial.  Movie buffs and sci-fi buffs will especially appreciate the spoof of The Los World tossed into this episode.

As noted already, one of the biggest factors that has made Futurama so successful for so long is not just its ability to balance storylines and avoid becoming a serial, but also its ability to make completely outrageous random adventures for the Planet Express Crew.  In one of its funniest episodes yet, audiences learn a long held secret surrounding Professor Farnsworth after he visits his parents at the Near Death Star.  The writers take a playful stab at The Matrix trilogy both in dialogue and in visual form.  Any true sci-fi geek will love this little jab.    When the professor doesn’t show up at an awards ceremony that Fry is attending, Fry decides to go meet Hubert’s parents.  The result will leave audiences laughing as it kind of turns the whole concept of the “boomerang child” on its ear by reversing it.  This of course leads to a whole other revelation that will leave audiences laughing.  The secret is something that’s been used many times before in many other shows.  But the minimalist way in which it has been used here keeps it funny.

The episodes noted here are just samplings of the laughs audiences can expect to get from Futurama Volume Seven.  Every viewer will find their own laughs throughout the course of the double disc set.  It’s thanks to good writing and an equally able cast that every episode in this set is so enjoyable.  The main cast is profiled throughout each episode’s commentary.  Audiences will appreciate even more some of the bonus tidbits such as learning that fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, What’s New Scooby Doo, etc.) joins the cast in a handful of episodes this time out.  Welker’s talent makes for even more enjoyment in the episodes in which his talents are profiled. 

The talent of the voice cast gives so much life to each episode.  What viewers get in the final product is proof that that.  That’s also just as evident in the deleted scenes included as bonuses to the set.  Regardless of whether or not the scenes would have fit into the final product, they are more examples of the talent and chemistry of the voice cast.  They serve to show how hard the cast and the writers alike work to offer viewers the best possible product, too so as to live up to the expectations of those audiences who helped so many years ago to show why this show deserved to be brought back.  And they more than do that, making for yet another great set of episodes for any long-time fan of Futurama or even for those who are new to this incredible animated sitcom.  One can only hope that considering this and everything else that makes this new set such a success, fans will see much more of this hit show in the very near “future.” 

Futurama Volume Seven is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com.  After fans order the new set, they can also check out all the latest Futurama news online at http://www.facebook.com/Futurama and http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/futurama.

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.