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.

Hats Off To Dr. Seuss A Mostly Welcome New Set

Courtesy:  Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Hats Off To Dr. Seuss is one of the year’s best new family and children’s release.  It boasts plenty of positives.  Yet there are some peculiarities that makes one wonder if the price of this set could have been lowered both on DVD and Blu-ray.  This multi-disc set takes all of the classic animated Dr. Seuss stories and combines them all into one multi-disc set for the whole family.  It all starts off with the most classic of Dr. Seuss’ characters, The Cat in The Hat.  This timeless animated tale is so much better than the live action take on the book.  And now that it has been remastered on Blu-ray the already pleasing hand drawn animation looks even better.  Of course, The Cat in the Hat is just one small portion of what makes this new box set an absolute must have.  Disc one also includes the bonus TV specials The Hoober-Bloob Highway and Daisy Head Maizy.  Both of these were previously released on DVD along with another of the Dr. Seuss classics.  So to have them combined in with this set allows those with the DVDs one more reason to replace them with this set.

The deeply charged story, The Lorax is next.  This is not the recent digitally animated story.  This is the original, much darker, yet still hopeful story that warns the world of its misuse of nature.  And for parents that might be concerned about this original take on Dr. Seuss’ tale of environmentalism is too dark for some younger audiences, the bonus feature explaining the importance of trees is kid and family friendly.  A group of activists explain just what makes trees so important to the world and what their favorite trees are.  This can make for a good catalyst for a discussion both in the living room and the classroom.  Looking at how urban sprawl has done so much damage to the world to this day, this is still very much an important piece for audiences of all ages, and a reminder of what can and already is happening.

What is perhaps most intriguing about this set—for all of its positives—some of the bonus features are actually doubled up.  For example, audiences can watch The Butter Battle Book both on the disc containing Horton Hears a Who and on the Blu-ray set’s second disc containing The Lorax.  And it would seem that some of the trailers might be doubled up, too.  At least one of the presentations of The Butter Battle Book could have been replaced with another of the Dr. Seuss stories not included in this set.  There is still one story surprisingly missing from this five-disc set.  That story is The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat.  Had that been included instead of a double presentation of The Butter Battle Book, then this set might have been considered the year’s best family and children’s release.  Perhaps there were rights issues to be worked out or other contractual issues.  But viewers should not be fooled.  Should this set ever be re-issued with that missing story, then perhaps it could be considered complete.  But without it—and with doubled up trailers and a doubled up animated feature—this is not the complte Dr. Seuss box set.  One can’t help but take off points for that.  And for that matter, considering the price of the sets, hopefully if it is re-issued somewhere down the road, the price will match the content.  Right now it doesn’t.

Hats Off to Dr. Seuess is not a perfect box set, as one should be able to tell by now.  For its issues with pricing and with doubling up stories and trailers, the positives are enough to make up for the negatives at least a little bit.  The inclusion of all of D. Seuss’ other famed animated features make the overall presentation of both the DVD and Blu-ray set largely a success.  There is one more positive to this set.  That one remaining positive is the general packaging.  Four of the set’s five discs are placed on either side of two “plates” inside the box.  The final disc containing How The Grinch Stole Christmas is placed in its own spot as well on the back of the box.  This form of packaging is ever increasingly the standard for packaging of multi-disc box sets.  This saves space on DVD/Blu-ray racks.  And because each disc has its own space entirely separate from other discs, it protects each disc, thus preserving them and making them watchable for much longer than sets that are less wisely packaged.  Luckily, it would seem that the number of box sets being packaged in that less wise fashion is becoming less and less each year, and more are moving toward this more “modern” form of packaging.  When taken into consideration of the bigger picture of the whole box set, it’s one more piece of the puzzle that despite the one blaring negative, still makes this a set that any family will want to add to their home library.  Hats Off to Dr. Seuss is available on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online.  It can be ordered online at the WB Store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/dr+seuss+hats+off+to+dr+seuss+collectors+edition+bluray+1000271763.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.