WHV Finally Gets It Right On Its Latest Peanuts DVD Release

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Warner Home Video has struggled quite a bit in the past year or so with its home releases. The 2013 releases of Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4, Taz-Mania: Season 2 Part 1, and Hats Off To Dr. Seuss were all troubled with their own problems. 2014 hasn’t exactly been off to much of a better start thanks to the release of The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. That release presented only the main Flintstone Kids shorts minus the companion Captain Caveman and Son and Dino shorts. That alone took off major points from that set. But now WHV has finally started to pick up the ball and get things back on the right track thanks to the brand new release of This is America, Charlie Brown. This brand new double-disc has officially made its own spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for families and children. The primary reason for that the features included in this set are both entertaining and educational. Another reason for the set’s enjoyment is the use of both hand drawn animation and historical photos to help illustrate each “lesson.” The last factor to examine in what makes This is America, Charlie Brown a success is its packaging. Each of the noted factors by themselves, play important roles in the success of the set. Together, they make this brand new release one of the year’s best new box sets for families and children.

The first and most important factor in the success of This is America, Charlie Brown is the combination of both entertainment and education. The eight features spread across the set’s two discs educate viewers in such fashion that it doesn’t even feel like viewers are being taught. Thanks to the legacy of the Peanuts gang, it feels more like viewers are going on a fun field trip through America’s history than just learning about history from another documentary. There are even some fun little pop culture references that parents will appreciate along the way. One of those references is to the command module of the Apollo 10 being named Charlie Brown. Lucy comments on this saying that she doesn’t know where such a name could have come from. The kids also see their own comic strip hanging in the Smithsonian Museum of Art. The little reference there is just as funny. On a more subtle level, audiences that know anything about animation history will appreciate Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, Curious George, Garfield & Friends) as the voice of a number of characters here including Wilbur Wright in “The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.” Gregg Berger (Garfield & Friends, Aahhh!!! Real Monsters, G.I. Joe) joins Welker as the voice of Wilbur’s brother Orville. This isn’t the only feature to which Berger and Welker offer their talents, either. Lou Rawls joins them in “The Music and Heroes of America” and makes the journey all the more enjoyable even as being an educational journey. It serves as one more example of how the combination of education and entertainment is such an important factor in the success of this set. It isn’t the only important factor to the set, either.

The combination of entertainment and education in the features that make up This Is America, Charlie Brown is a solid foundation for the mini-series in whole. Just as important to the set’s success is the use of both hand drawn animation and historical photos to help illustrate and advance each story. Kids will be entertained by the hand drawn animation. And parents that grew up in the days of true animation will appreciate the original animation style of this Peanuts presentation. Those behind the mini-series balanced the animated segments with just enough historical photos to help drive home the stories in each feature. They even included some vintage video to help advance each “lesson,” too. And that video is just as balanced. The resultant effect is a presentation in each feature that will keep viewers of any age fully engaged from start to finish. It’s one more aspect of the whole mini-series that maintains the set’s value.

The visual presentation of the mini-series’ features and the ability of the features to entertain and educate without being too outright about their educational purpose are key to the success of This Is America, Charlie Brown. There is still one more factor to examine in the set in considering what makes it worth the purchase and the watch. That factor is the set’s overall packaging. Both of the discs in the set are placed on their own spindle inside the case. On one level, this protects the discs from scratching one another, thus increasing their life span. On another level, it minimizes the size of the box used to contain the discs. The bigger picture of this is that it conserves space on any viewer’s DVD rack. So not only is the mini-series in whole educational and entertaining, its case is ergonomic. Sure, there’s little else to the set whether extrinsic or even intrinsic. It’s a bare bones presentation. But these factors together make This Is America, Charlie Brown a much needed win for Warner Home Video and for fans that have waited so many years for this mini-series to get a proper release.

This Is America, Charlie Brown is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the WB Shop at http://www.wbshop.com/product/this+is+america%2C+charlie+brown-+the+complete+series+dvd+1000411223.do. 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.

New Steve Martin Box Set Is One Wild And Crazy Retrospective

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has proven time and again throughout 2012 why it is one of the leaders in home entertainment.  With releases of so many classic Nicktoons and even the entire original G.I. Joe series alongside the release of the horror classic, They Live, and so many great music releases, one can only wonder what Shout! Factory will do next to top itself.  What to do?  What to do?  How about a triple disc DVD box set profiling the early career of entertainment legend Steve Martin?  Bingo!

“Steve Martin:  The TV Stuff” is the latest release from Shout! Factory’s stable of top notch releases.  Anyone who is a fan of this veteran comedian/actor/musician/author (heck, just call him a jack of all trades), will find this to be an invaluable addition to their own home library.  The triple-disc set follows Martin’s career from 1978 – 2005.  While audiences won’t find much in the way of his work on Saturday Night Live, they will love seeing his 1978 stand-up act taken from HBO archives.  This nearly hour-long performance is funny.  There’s no arguing that.  But audiences should also know that it isn’t meant for younger audiences due to language and other content.  That aside, it’s still a great piece of nostalgia for any comedy fan or fan of Martin himself.  Some of the best moments in this performance include his banjo playing and his magic (yes, magic) act.  On a similar note, audiences will really enjoy the commentary included on each disc. 

The commentary included on this first disc of the set includes some history from Martin himself.  He explains how he eventually came to work in front of the camera versus behind it.  He explains that he originally wanted to be a magician when he was growing up.  That would account for the addition of the little magic act in his original 1978 stand up set.  He also adds some interesting other tidbits such as how he started his early television career writing for very famous television shows including:  The Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher, and The Cher Show.  There’s even mention of where is now famed bit with the fake arrow through the head came from.  Each disc contains its own commentary from Martin.  This is just a tiny sample of what audiences can expect.  And as this reviewer has pointed out so many times before, factors such as this are more proof of the importance of bonus features on DVD’s and blu-rays.  This is one of those cases where the bonus commentary adds so much more to the entire viewing experience.  So kudos once more to Shout! Factory for this inclusion.

His 1978 HBO stand-up act and the commentary are just a couple elements that make this box set enjoyable for any Steve Martin fan.  Also included in the set are his NBC television specials.  Those specials include many of the skits from throughout the years that he’s done.  Fans will love the likes of “Turtle Boy.”  And hearing country legend Johnny cash discussing astrophysics with Steve in his Steve Martin Variety Show skit is hilarious.  There are even appearances by Martin’s SNL cast mates in one of his later TV specials. 

“Steve Martin:  The TV Stuff” may only be comprised of three discs.  But in those three discs, Shout! Factory has managed to compile so much footage from Martin’s career.  Whether it be the skits, the interviews, the standup material, or even the bonus commentary by Martin, this triple-disc set is a wonderful retrospective on his career on the small screen.  The new set will be available in stores and online tomorrow.  It can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s website at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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.