The Wild Thornberrys Season Three Another Welcome Addition To Any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s DVD Library

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys—Eliza, Nigel, Maryanne, Donny, Darwin, and Debbie—have returned once again for another season of globetrotting adventures.  After seeing the previous season chopped into three separate volumes, Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have released season three in its entirety to audiences as it should be.  This last of Nickelodeon’s great classic Nicktoons is on cruise control in its third season as it offers more lessons about different cultures, about geography, and life lessons, as well as laughs.  It offers just as much enjoyment for audiences of all ages as the show’s previous two seasons.  One change that is noticeable here is the inclusion of Eliza’s cousin Tyler.  Tyler joins the cast in the season’s third episode, ‘Tyler Tuck, I Presume.’  After having two seasons of sisterly conflicts between Eliza and Debbie, Tyler’s introduction added a nice new dynamic to the Thornberry family.  All of this along with the show’s continued animation standard combine to make The Wild Thornberrys Season Three another welcome addition to any “Nicktoons Nostalgic’s” home DVD library.

When it first started out in 1998, The Wild Thornberrys did something that no other cartoon at its time was doing.  At least this was the case with mainline cartoons.  What it did was it entertained at the same time that it educated. It taught the importance of geography and biological diversity through the family’s adventures.  The use of a locator on a map to set the scene taught about the different locations of countries across the globe.  The stories themselves taught about the different flora and fauna of each region by having Eliza have to help the different animals from different situations.  The manner in which the show’s writers executed this educational content was genius.  It was done covertly, thus not even letting on to viewers that it was actually educating them.  This same standard has been carried into the show’s third season.  It’s nice to see that the show’s creators and writers maintained this core standard once again.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg in what makes Season Three so enjoyable.

The educational content carried into Season Three is just the starting point of what makes The Wild Thornberrys Season Three such a joy.  Another factor that made this season as enjoyable as the shwo’s first two seasons is its valuable life lessons and lessons of cultural diversity.  One of the most valuable life lessons taught in Season Three is the simplest of lessons.  It is the lesson of the importance of family.  That lesson is taught in the holiday themed episode, ‘A Family Tradition.’  Eliza and Debbie learn the importance and value of family when they are given the chance to return to the United States to spend Thanksgiving with their grandmother, Sophie (voiced by veteran actress Betty White—Hot in Cleveland, Golden Girls).  As is the tradition with holiday themed episodes of TV shows everything turns out well in the end.  Those that have yet to see this episode, will have to find out just how it all plays out when they pick up this new box set themselves or order it online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com

Audiences will appreciate the lessons of cultural diversity just as much as the life lessons contained throughout each episode of Season Three.  One of the best examples of an episode that teaches this lesson is the episode, ‘Spirited Away.’  The Thornberrys travel to Mexico in this episode right as the people there are celebrating the famed Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Viewers learn through this episode, the traditions of the Day of the Dead and of the Mexican people.  And of course, what Thornberrys episode would be complete without Debbie having to chase down Donnie yet again?  The continued antics of Donnie provide plenty of laughs for viewers, making each episode complete.  What’s more, this episode also offers a little bit of a kid friendly ghost story that will leave viewers more with a warm feeling than that of fear.  It’s one more episode out of so many this season that makes Season Three even more enjoyable for fans seeing this season for the first time and for the first time again.

As evidenced already, The Wild Thornberrys remains enjoyable this season thanks to the fact that it continues to do what made it successful all along.  This also includes the original animation style established from early in the show’s life.  The Wild Thornberrys was just one of many cartoons created by Klasky-Csupo.  And while it was just one of a handful of cartoons crafted by the company, its animation was only slightly similar to the studio’s other creations.  The studio’s art department managed to continue establishing the show’s identity through its animation in Season Three.  And as slight as it is, one can see that the animation has been honed a little bit more this season.  The outlines of the characters, animals, and general scenery are more defined.  It’s just slight enough to maintain the more rough style established from the show’s beginning.  It’s just one more factor that, along with the continued wise packaging of the set, makes Season Three even more worth adding to any fan’s DVD rack.  The Wild Thornberrys Season Three is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217077.

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Hey Arnold! Has As Much Fun And Heart As Ever In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Hey Arnold! was and is one of the greatest shows that Nickelodeon has ever aired.  It was also one of the best of the best of the network’s “Nicktoons” programming block.  Now with only two real “Nicktoons” left—Spongebob Squarepants and Fairly Oddparents—the release of this classic Nicktoon’s previous three seasons is more welcome than ever.  Fans have been able to pick up the show’s previous trio of seasons thanks to both Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  Now next Tuesday, fans will be able to pick up the fourth season of Hey Arnold!  Whether one already owns the previously released seasons or not, Season Four is one more welcome addition to any classic Nicktoons Nostalgic’s home library.  This critic should probably copyright that term, huh?

Hey Arnold! lasted as long as it did in its original television run because its writers were so capable at balancing its family friendly comic elements with warmer, more heartfelt elements without getting too emotional.  Audiences get even more of that in what would eventually become the penultimate season of this standout cartoon.  This is exemplified early on in the episode, “Oskar Can’t Read?”  “Oskar Can’t Read?” stands out this season as it actually tackles the issue of adult illiteracy.  Mr. Kokoshka is typically seen as a lazy mooch who refuses to do anything to help himself.  But when it’s discovered that he can’t read, Oskar actually sets out to prove that he will do whatever it takes to be able to read because he is genuinely embarrassed about his inability to read.  Adult illiteracy is one of those topics that is rarely discussed, but crosses generations.  So even now years after this episode originally aired, it remains just as moving and entertaining today as it was in its original airing.  That the show’s writers would tackle the subject at all is one more part of what makes this series and Season Four so enjoyable.

For all the seriousness of “Oskar Can’t Read?”, Hey Arnold! Season Four offers its own share of more comical, easygoing stories, too.  Among the best of that crop is “Synchronized Swimming.”  This episode is centered on the classic battle of the sexes.  Coach Wittenberg (voiced by James Belushi—The World According To Jim) is at it again with his wife.  This time the couple is disagreeing on whether boys can participate in the artistic aquatic event.  This was not Belushi’s first appearance as Coach Wittenberg.  And he was just as funny as ever this time out.  Coach Wittenberg’s wife Tish is just as funny being that she is so much like him.  Just like Jack (Coach Wittenberg), she can’t properly pronounce Synchronized Swimming.  There’s just something funny about this and the couple’s constant competitiveness.  The process of Arnold and his friends training to be a synchronized swimming team is just as funny.  The end result turns the battle of the sexes on its ear in a way that will leave any viewer laughing and smiling. It’s just one more episode that makes Hey Arnold! Season Four so enjoyable. 

Hey Arnold! Season Four offers a solid balance of laughs and more serious matters over the course of its two discs, as one can tell through the episodes already noted here.  There is at least one more episode that exemplifies that balance in this season.  It’s an episode that pays tribute to America’s men and women in uniform.  The episode in question is simply titled, “Veterans Day.”  In “Veterans Day” Arnold and Gerald are taken to a big Veterans Day ceremony by Arnold’s grandpa, Phil.  Martin, Gerald’s father, comes along, having served in Vietnam.  Martin makes a statement that still rings true to this day, as sad as it is.  He notes that people see it less as a chance to honor those that served as more as just an excuse for another day off.  He adds how few people actually attend ceremonies honoring veterans.  Save for parades, there is a certain amount of truth to this statement even to this day.  Along the way to the veterans’ ceremony, both Phil and Martin share their stories with Arnold and Gerald, hoping to impart some knowledge to the boys.  That goal is achieved, as both young men learn some very valuable lessons about honoring those that served, especially as their numbers grow older and fewer.  Yet again, the writers behind Hey Arnold! have taken a very weighty topic and put it into a format that young audiences will understand and hopefully appreciate to this day, and that audiences that originally watched it as kids will appreciate even more as adults.  This and the previously mentioned episodes comprise just one more sample of what continues to make Hey Arnold! the timeless show that it is.  Of course, there are plenty of other episodes for audiences to enjoy over and over again.  Some of the best of the rest include: “Eugene’s Birthday”, the Halloween themed episode, “Headless Cabbie”, and the season finale, “Dino Checks Out.”  In all, audiences will have their own favorite of the season’s seventeen total episodes. And there is definitely plenty from which to choose.  Audiences will get to see their favorites over and over again when the double-disc set hits stores and online outlets Tuesday, May 14th.  It can be ordered online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217311

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Hey Dude Season 4 Offers Thirteen More Episodes Of Laughs And Lessons

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Saddle up, fans!  Hey Dude has returned once again thanks to the good people at Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  Now in its fourth season, this classic kid friendly sitcom is just as enjoyable as its previous three seasons.  Sure, by today’s standards, much of the writing is corny to say the least.  But much of it is also very serious.  The combination makes for a wonderful sense of nostalgia among those that grew up with this ingenious precursor to so much of the lesser material currently airing on Nickelodeon and its sister stations (Nicktoons, TeenNick, etc.).

Hey Dude Season Four is comprised of thirteen more episodes on two discs packaged quite well.  Among this season’s thirteen episodes are plenty more laughs and life lessons that will take any original viewer back.  They will also serve as a reminder both for said viewers and their own children of what once made television great.  Among the best of the best this time are the episodes, “Magnum Ernst”, “Do The Right Thing”, and “Dudesbury.”  The latter pair of the trio both feature Danny, the ranch’s Native American hand as the main character.  And while both teach important lessons, audiences will appreciate the different feel of each episode.  “Dudesbury” is more lighthearted in its lesson about respecting others’ feelings, while the other—“Do The Right Thing”–is more serious and just as important to society to this day.  This episode sees Danny facing off against an archaeologist who wants to dig up an ancient Native American burial ground near the Bar None Ranch and put the artifacts and bones on display.  He makes an interesting argument when he asks Mr. Ernst if he would want someone digging up one of his family members and putting them on display for people to gawk at.  At another point, the archaeologist makes a rather harsh comment about the land on which the burial ground sits was not Native American land, thus justifying his actions.  While this episode was filmed back in the early 1990’s, this is an issue that the Native American community still deals with to this day.  So in hindsight, it makes this episode on more worth checking out in Season Four.  While the episodes featuring Danny offer their own entertainment and insight, “Magnum Ernst” is nothing but good old fashioned slapstick comedy.  It will entertain both kids and adults.  Older audiences will appreciate this episode in that it directly pays tribute to the much more classic sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show.  Mr. Ernst does quite the job of mirroring the buffoonery of one Deputy Barney Fife.  Given Don Knotts can never be beaten in what he did.  Many have tried.  But actor David Brisbin made for his own share of laughs in his attempt.

The episodes noted comprise just a part of everything that the show has to offer, content-wise in its penultimate season.  All thirteen episodes contained in this set’s two discs offer entertainment and life lessons that still ring true for audiences of all ages today.  Speaking of the set’s dual disc setting, the set’s packaging is another of its positives.  Each of the set’s two discs is placed securely on either side of the case in its own space.  This protects the discs from being scratched up and likely helps cut back on the set’s overall cost to consumers.  This maintains the integrity of each disc for much longer than perhaps other lesser packaged multi-disc sets from other companies.  Together with the set’s enjoyable episodes, it all comes together to make Hey Dude Season Four one more great set for any fan of Nickelodeon’s greatest era.  It’s available in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216702.

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The Haunting Hour’s First Season Closes With Two More Scary Sets Of Stories

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub

R.L. Stine and The Hub are back with two more volumes of seriously scary stories for kids and their parents.  The Haunting Hour Vol. 3 & 4 offer audiences ten more tales of terror that will entertain and scare audiences every time they turn them on.  This latest pair of volumes offers not only five great episodes each, but some star power, too.  The Haunting Hour Vol. 3 boats guest appearances from the likes of Robert Capron (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Maddison Pettis (Cory in the House), Christopher Heyerdahl (Hell on Wheels, Sanctuary), and others.  Apparently, Heyerdahl has a thing for playing villains, much like Tim Curry, as he takes on the role of quite the scary character in the episode, ‘Fear Never Knocks.’  Heyerdahl’s character is absolutely creepy in his role in this episode, terrorizing a pair of children who stumble upon their grandfather’s “box of fear.”  He is released when young Jenny decides to play with the box, and releases both her fears and those of her brother and fear itself (played by Heyerdahl).  Also in Volume Three, Maddison Pettis is one of three kids that get caught up in a supernatural story that brings the past and present together thanks to a mysterious mask.  The mask shows events that happened in the past, which themselves lead to another mystery that will leave viewers guessing right up to the end of the story.  And in another of the set’s best episodes, Robert Capron plays a young man whose overactive apetite leads him to get much more than he hoped for after a strange ice cream truck starts making rounds through the boy’s neighborhood.  This is an episode that will send “chills” (ba-dump-bump-bump) through every viewer, and will make them think twice next time they see an ice cream truck come through their neighborhood.  What’s more, it’s a valuable warning against over eating, too, ironically enough.  It’s little things like this, and the writing for the other noted episodes that make The Haunting Hour Volume Three another nice inclusion for any fan of ghost stories and of R.L. Stine’s work.

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub

The scares don’t stop with Volume Three of The Haunting Hour.  Fans will also enjoy Volume Four, which was released alongside Volume Three.  The show’s fourth volume offers even more scares, as well as guest appearances.  It all opens with another episode that’s just as much a warning as it is a scary story in ‘Wrong Number.’  Debby Ryan (The Suite Life on Deck, Radio Rebel) stars in this episode as Steffani.  Steffani is a rather spoiled young woman that is the very stereotype of the stuck up “mean girl.”  But she gets what’s coming to her when she and her friend decide to prank call an elderly woman one night.  The consequences of her actions turn out to be deadly, as a matter of fact.  This is just one of the many scary stories presented in The Haunting Hour Volume Four.  Another equally terrifying tale included in this set is the episode, ‘Lights Out.’  Super 8 star Gabriel Basso stars as Teddy, a young teen skeptic who is pulled into a ghost hunt after watching a ghost hunt show on TV.  Teddy’s friends set out to prove to him that ghosts are in fact real in their hunt for the supernatural.  He learns that lesson in a way he never would have expected, nor will viewers who have never seen this episode.  The twist ending will scare audiences to no end and leave them talking.  As with Volume Three, what is presented here is just part of what makes Volume Four so enthralling.  The stories presented in these two volumes are sure to scare and entertain both kids and adults alike.

The Haunting Hour recently wrapped its third season on The Hub network.  Allegedly, a fourth season might be in production.  That gives ample time for both seasons Two and Three to be released to DVD while fans await the show’s return to The Hub.  Until then though, these last two volumes of Season One will keep audiences coming back again and again.  All four volumes are available in stores and online and can be ordered online direct at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com

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3rd Rock At Its Best In Its Fifth Season

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/NBCUniversal

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/NBCUniversal

NBC’s hit sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun was one of the greatest sitcoms of the 90s.  Now nearly twenty years after it first debuted, it still stands as one of the funniest sitcoms to have ever been created, despite what some critics might want audiences to believe.  And thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, fans can now own all six seasons of this laugh riot comedy.  Audiences who remember the series in its original airings will each have their own favorite season(s) and episode(s).  But there’s no denying that of the series’ six seasons, its fifth season marks one of the series major high points.  From the general writing to the guest spots, 3rd Rock From The Sun Season Five is an example of everything that used to make sitcoms great in television’s modern era.

3rd Rock’s fifth season is an exemplar of great comedic writing and timing right from the get-go.  The triple-disc set’s first disc offers what are two of the series’ best episodes in “Dial M For Dick” and “Sex and the Sally.”  In the first of the pair of episodes Dick and the others attend a mystery dinner theater.  Obviously being aliens from another world, they have no idea that the murders in question are just an act.  That is, they don’t know until something quite unexpected happens.  Audiences will have to find out what exactly that is for themselves.  Along the way, Dick thinks himself a sleuth and tries to pin the blame for the murders on one of his own group.  This alone will leave audiences laughing no less with each watch.  Speaking of laughing, audiences might find themselves laughing so hard that they’re crying in “Sex and the Sally.”  Sally discovers the dangers of sex and ways to keep from getting pregnant.  Along the way, the side effects of her using birth control will undoubtedly leave audiences laughing uncontrollably.

The set’s first disc offers more than its share of laughs, as is already noted.  But the laughs don’t end there.  The second and third discs are also front-loaded with more than enough comedy for audiences to enjoy over and over.  The return of guest star William Shatner as The Big Giant Head in “The Big Giant Head Returns” leads to a love triangle as Harry admits to Mamie that he loves her.  At the same time, Tommy tries to hypnotize Sally in order to get her to stop buying shoes.  It doesn’t work.  But it does work on Harry, resulting in some hilarious physical comedy on his part. 

If the solid writing and the physical comedy aren’t enough to keep audiences engaged, then maybe the bevy of guest stars will.  William Shatner returns not once, but twice this season.  Also Star Trek TNG star Jonathan Frakes makes an appearance along with then WWF/WWE wrestler Chyna, Larisa Oleynick (The Secret World of Alex Mack), “The Hoff” himself, David Hasselhoff (Baywatch, America’s Got Talent, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Pirana 3DD), and many others.  The continued revolving door of guest stars proves just how popular the show was.  Though, Shatner shined brighter than any others with both appearances this season.  Audiences will love seeing Shatner poke fun at himself when he brings Dick (John Lithgow) to a club and The Big Giant Head decides to do some “singing.”  This is just one of so many moments that will stick with both long-time audiences and newer audiences.

Whether for this moment or the loads of others peppered throughout all three discs of Season Five, 3rd Rock From The Sun has proven once more that it is still one of the greatest sitcoms in modern television history.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Mill Creek Entertainment’s online store at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-5.html

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Rocko’s Modern Life Series Box Set Is A Modern Hit

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have completed the course for one of the best of the network’s original Nicktoons.  On Tuesday, February 26th, the two companies will release Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series on DVD.  The set contains all four of the show’s seasons in their entirety on eight discs.  This set is a must for any true hardcore Nicktoons Nostalgic.  It is without a doubt one of the best box sets of 2013 all the way around.  From its packaging to its episodes and even the new original artwork by series creator Joe Murray, this brand new upcoming set is everything for which fans of Rocko’s Modern Life have waited for so long.

Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series is a winner from the very moment that it’s picked up in store or ordered online.  Shout! Factory has shown once more why it continues to be the leader in releasing box sets with this set’s packaging.  Rather than place the series into a large, bulky box set, all eight discs are placed onto opposing sides of four separate inserts.  Placing the discs in such fashion gives each disc its own backing, thus helping to increase its longevity.  Adding to the longevity factor is a small “lip” placed at the top and bottom of each insert.  The “lip” allows for each disc to be smoothly removed and replaced safely.  And being on separate inserts, audiences can flip through each insert effortlessly to get to the disc that they want to watch.  Being that the set includes eight discs, the box overall is a little larger than the standard double disc.  But in comparison to the size of other multi-disc boxes still being released today, the overall packaging is still a space saver for any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s DVD rack.

The packaging of this new upcoming box set is a major positive. The episodes are just as much a positive.  As already noted, all four original seasons of this modern classic are contained in this box set in their entirety.  And the transfers to DVD are highly impressive.  The quality of each episode’s footage has been fully maintained.  What’s more, now that the show’s original audiences are all grown up, the show’s episodes will present even more enjoyment as they will get many of the jokes presented.  They’re like a fine wine, for lack of better comparison.  They’re that much more of a joy now that the original audiences can look back on them with a whole different take on them.  And making them even better, those same audiences can now share these laugh riot episodes with their own children, thus preserving the legacy of this outrageous cartoon for a whole new generation of fans. 

In relation to the jokes and the quality of the footage contained on these discs, the original hand drawn animation simply cannot be ignored here.  This has already been noted with the previously released first three seasons of Rocko’s Modern Life.  Having all four seasons together now, audiences can really see how the hand drawn animation served to give this cartoon its own original identity.  This was really a landmark of cartoons during the 1990s.  It’s something that has by and large been lost in the Twenty-first century.  Given, there are still hand drawn cartoons out there.  But for the most part, this generation’s cartoons are created via computer.  It makes them sterile and unoriginal.  In comparison, this show’s animation serves as a reminder of everything that once made cartoons great, and hopefully will again one day both for the show’s original viewers and today’s younger audiences.

Staying on the same vein of hand drawn animation, fans that pick up this new set will even be presented with brand new hand drawn animation both inside and outside the set.  The new box art was drawn by series creator Joe Murray.  It adds that much more vintage feel to the set, thus making it that much more special and a must have for the show’s original viewers.  This new eight-disc set will be available in stores and online Tuesday, February 26th.  To sweeten the deal for fans, the first 200 who order their copies of this new box set at Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com will receive an 18” x 24” autographed lithograph of an all new original illustration from Joe Murray himself.  Fans can pre-order the set online at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216544.

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New Clifford DVD A True Celebration For Every Fan

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Clifford the Big Red Dog is turning fifty years old.  Unbelievable!  Everyone’s favorite oversized furry friend is celebrating his birthday with a brand new DVD release next month.  Celebrate with Clifford is the first new Clifford release in two years.  It will be available in stores and online February 5th.  The new release is a special double disc release loaded with lots of fun, family friendly adventures from Clifford, his fellow canine friends, and his owner, Emily Elizabeth.  The two discs in this new release boast fifteen episodes from the hit series.  The set’s first disc, Celebrate with Clifford has seven of the show’s episodes included in the set.  All of the aforementioned episodes included in the first disc are full of family friendly fun and important life lessons that ring true for audiences of all ages.

Audiences learn a number of important lessons throughout the first seven episodes included in the set.  In the episode, “Clifford on Parade”, Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle—The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) and Charley (Gary Leroi Grey—The Cosby Show) both learn about working together and about compromise when they have to decide on an idea for the float that they’ll enter in the town’s annual parade.  Thanks to Clifford, they end up with one interesting float that even incorporates Clifford himself.  In another episode, “Team Sprit”, young viewers are introduced to the lesson of good sportsmanship and being kind to others.  The story here centers on young Vaz.  Vaz is friends with Emily Elizabeth and the other kids.  But he’s not the best soccer player.  And Jetta doesn’t help as she openly tells Vaz he’s not that great of a soccer player.  Of course she learns her lesson in the episode’s end.  Audiences can find out how she learns her lesson when they check out this new DVD set for themselves.

All seven episodes included in the set’s main disc offer plenty of enjoyment and lessons for viewers.  Luckily for viewers, they’re not all that viewers get in this new set. The eight bonus episodes included in the bonus disc also offer their own enjoyment.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s even a Valentine’s Day themed episode in “Clifford’s Big Heart.”  In this episode, Clifford is trying to make a Valentine for Emily Elizabeth, but things don’t exactly go as planned.  That is until he finally realizes the best idea for a special Valentine just for her.  His special gift will warm the hearts of both kids and their parents.  Still not enough?  How about the birthday and party themed episodes included in the set?  “Clifford’s Big Surprise”  sees Clifford getting his very own birthday surprise from Emily Elizabeth, her parents and his canine friends.  At first it seems like everybody is avoiding Clifford.  It leaves Clifford bored since there’s no one to play with.  Luckily he finds a way to play by himself.  Ironically, it’s right about then that Emily Elizabeth comes looking for Clifford so she and the others can surprise him with his birthday party.  It’s just one of a handful of birthday themed episodes included in the set’s bonus second disc.  The complete double disc set will be available February 5th in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=28180&TitleParentId=8311.

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

Hey Arnold! At The Top Of Its game In Season Three

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

The third season of Nickelodeon’s classic Nicktoon, Hey Arnold! Was and is the hit classic cartoon’s finest hour.  Out of the show’s five seasons on the air, this season showed the writing staff behind the show at the top of its game.  To add to the enjoyment this time out, both Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have gotten back to the basics and put the show’s entire season into one triple-disc set instead of splitting it up into separate volumes.  And who can overlook the show’s continued standout hand drawn animation?  As with all of the classic 90s Nicktoons, the hand drawn animation of Hey Arnold! helped to establish the show’s identity as well as provide its own form of entertainment for audiences.  Assembled together, it all worked together to make for some of the show’s best episodes ever.  And it all worked together to exemplify why Hey Arnold! was then and is still now, a modern classic cartoon.

 Hey Arnold! Season Three shows the writing staff of this classic cartoon at the top its game.  The episodes contained in Season Three are enjoyable first and foremost for their laughs and life lessons that are peppered throughout.  Also making Season Three so enjoyable is that the show’s writers manage to flesh out the show even more, balancing episodes centered on Arnold with those centered on his friends, too.  The episodes centered on Arnold’s friends are just as enjoyable as those centered on Arnold.  One of the prime examples of this comes right off that bat in the episode, “Harold The Butcher.”  Audiences get from this episode a solid story that focuses on Arnold’s friend Harold.  It entertains and teaches the very valuable lesson of the value of hard, honest work.  Harold learns this lesson after being made to work in Mr. Green’s butcher shop as punishment for shoplifting one of the hams from the shop.  The irony of the episode is that what starts as a punishment turns out to be something that Harold thinks could be his calling as he enjoys being a butcher so much.

Harold isn’t the only one of Arnold’s friends that gets his own episode in Season Three.  Side, another of his friends, gets two of his own episodes this Season.  Both are enjoyable in their own right.  But it’s the episode titled, “Sid’s Revenge” that audiences will really enjoy.  Sid learns the valuable lesson to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it in this episode.  He learns this lesson after having been wrongly accused of using fake vomit for a prank at school.  When Principal Wartz doesn’t believe him, he wishes some very bad things against Principal Wartz.  Ironically enough, circumstances arise that lead Sid to believe that Principal Wartz has indeed died.  His reaction to these circumstances makes for some of the season’s funniest moments.  That’s thanks in large part to voice actor Sam Gifaldi.  Gifaldi’s comic timing is perfect from start to finish as always.  His work is so solid that both the show’s original audiences and their own kids will still find it funny to this day.  It’s just one more example of what makes Hey Arnold! Season Three such a joy.

Audiences will get a kick out of seeing the episodes centered on Arnold’s friends in Season Three.  Of course Arnold still gets his time in the limelight.  Those who have picked up the already released first two seasons know that they already get to enjoy both the entertainment and the important lesson taught in “Arnold’s Christmas.”  Now audiences also get to enjoy just as much enjoyment from “Arnold’s Thanksgiving.”  And as in “Arnold’s Christmas”, both Arnold and his secret admirer, Helga G. Pataki, learn a very valuable lesson.  They learn in this half hour holiday special, to appreciate having the families that they have, as dysfunctional as they may seem.  In seeing how dysfunctional the teacher’s family is, they realize that maybe what they have isn’t so bad after all.  The lesson taught in this special episode makes it another excellent example of what makes Season Three so enjoyable.  It isn’t without its entertaining factors, though.  Audiences will laugh seeing just how dysfunctional Helga and Arnold’s families are.  In the case of Arnold’s grandparents, his grandmother thinks Thanksgiving is July 4th.  So everyone in the board house is forced to celebrate in kind.  In Helga’s case, she’s treated like a complete outsider since her older sister Olga is home for the holidays.  The way her parents react is so outrageous.  Yet there’s a certain amount of truth to their reaction.  Anyone with more than one child will agree with the portrayal at least to a point.

Hey Arnold! is a solid show for the whole family.  Anyone that grew up with this modern classic cartoon knows that.  Whether in its third season or its other four, its writers developed stories that are timeless.  They are timeless because of the balance of their general entertainment value and for the equally important life lessons taught through so many of the show’s episodes.  This season’s episodes are no different.  That has already been noted.  The show’s animation style also helps to make it enjoyable.  The animation used for Hey Arnold! is unlike the animation for any other show from Nickelodeon’s golden era.  It really served to help establish the show’s identity in coordination with the equally solid writing for each episode.  One example of how different this show’s animation was from any of the other Nicktoons of its time is the background art.  While Arnold and his friends were so finely drawn, the backgrounds look like they were drawn with color pencils.  In all reality, the backgrounds could even be argued to look like they were drawn with a certain style chalk.  It’s a rough style.  But that roughness set against the smoother style used for the characters makes for a wholly original style.  And it’s that original animation style mixed with the equally impressive writing throughout that makes Hey Arnold! Season Three well worth picking up for any classic cartoon fan.  It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, January 29th.  It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216624

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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.

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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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