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.

Power Rangers Is At Its Peak In Season Three

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The third season of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers sees this classic children’s series at its peak.  The show reached its apex in its third season primarily because of its writing.  It is also just as impressive as Shout! Factory has presented these original episodes exactly as they aired on Fox Kids’ weekday afternoon programming block in the 1990s.  This includes the short “squeezeback” segments (say that three times fast) that accompanied each episode’s credits.  This season is the peak for the original Power Rangers series as it presents the season in its entirety instead of being cut up into half seasons as was done with the show’s first two seasons.  These three aspects together make Season Three of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers one that any original fan of this show a must have.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season Three presents the Power Rangers franchise at the top of its game first and foremost because of the show’s writing.  Whereas the show’s first two seasons only saw a small handful of extended story arcs, this season was made up almost entirely of broad multi-part story arcs, beginning with a voyage to the planet Edenoi in the three-part episode, “A Friend in Need.”  This was an important way to open Season Three as it served as a solid filler that helped keep the franchise “fresh” and thus keep viewers.  Viewers had become rather familiar with Rita and Lord Zedd over the course of the show’s first two seasons.  The show’s writers obviously knew that the pair couldn’t do but so much against the Rangers by themselves before audiences got tired of them.  So, what better way to keep the franchise alive than trying out a new villain?  The new villain—Count Dregon—only lasted a short time before the show’s writers transitioned in the appearance of more new foes for the Rangers.  Those foes were Rita Repulsa’s brother and father, Rito and Master Vile.

On a side note, many fans of the Power Rangers franchise might recognize the name of the Masked Rider within this season’s opening story arc.  That’s because this story arc would eventually lead to a short-lived spinoff that lasted less than a year from September 1995 to August 1996.  In later years, the show on which this was based, Kamen Rider Black RX would be introduced to American audiences.  Though it too, would only last a short time.

The new villains introduced into the show’s canon in Season Three were just part of what helped keep the show fresh.  Three of the original Rangers left the show in its second season.  This season, another Ranger passes on her powers.  This transfer makes up its own story arc.  The story arc in question was the three-part episode, “A Different Shade of Pink.”  The episode’s story happens in a fashion that harkens back to the Green Ranger sage from the show’s first season.  It crosses that with the simple passing of the torch, and once more helps to move the show forward and keep it fresh for yet another season.  Along with a new member of the team, there is even a new set of Zords for the Rangers in their fight against Rita and company.  It all leads up to the season finale, “Rangers in Reverse.”  “Rangers in Reverse” leads into its own extended story arc that would become a mini-season of its own in Mighty Morphin’ Alien Rangers.

The extended story arcs that largely made up Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season Three did a lot to help keep the Power Rangers franchise fresh for its audiences.  From another change in the team’s lineup to new foes, powers, Zords, and even armor, a lot changed this season.  And the show’s writers did a commendable job of keeping it all straight and believable.  Looking at this season from a wider vantage point, Shout! Factory is to be commended for presenting Season Three exactly as it was originally aired.  That includes the squeezeback segments included with the show’s end credits.  These segments feature loads of bloopers from each episode’s gag reel.  It’s a minor piece of the puzzle.  But it adds its own element of enjoyment to the overall presentation of the show.  And any purist Power Ranger fan will appreciate the Shout! Factory made certain that this was included for fans.

The writing of the episodes in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season Three made this season the best yet for the franchise.  That Shout! Factory would make sure that each episode was presented exactly as it was in its original broadcast makes this new set all the more enjoyable for the show’s original fans.  There is still one more factor to which audiences can credit this latest set’s success.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  The first two seasons of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers were split up into two halves each.  This time out, Shout! Factory opted to reward loyal Power Rangers fans with a complete season in one box.  And as become the standard from Shout! Factory, the packaging is praise worthy.  All three discs are placed in their own spot inside the slim case.  Shout! Factory has highly impressed again here as this standard is safe for the discs, and ergonomic.  This is the final touch on what is already another impressive release that will take the show’s original fans back on a great trip down memory lane.  And for the children of the show’s original fan, it will serve as one more lesson in what once made children’s commercial programming so great. 

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season Three is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217378.  After ordering Season Three, audiences can also go to the official Shout! Factory website and Facebook page at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial to stay up with the latest releases from Shout! Factory. 

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.

Power Rangers Season 2.0 Twice As Nice As Season One

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

The one and only Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers are back.  Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Billy, Zack and yes even Tommy are back for more adventures in the first half of the show’s second season.  Season Two Volume One is an important piece of the Power Rangers legacy.  That’s because this collection features some big changes and the start of some other, equally big changes.  Along with the big changes, Season Two Volume One also presents twenty-six episodes of everything that the show’s fans had come to enjoy from its first season, only stepped up.  And now fans of this classic Fox Kids series can finally re-live all of that any time that want thanks to Shout! Factory and Saban Brands.

Season Two Volume One is an important point in the evolution of the Power Rangers legacy.  It features the departure and re-introduction of Jason David Frank to the team.  Frank’s character Tommy loses his powers as the Green Ranger once and for all, but eventually returns much to the surprise of the other Rangers, as the White Ranger.  This is just one of the important milestones for the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series as it marks the return of one character that had been temporarily written out of the show.  It’s even more important in that Tommy would later go on to become the head of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in the second half of Season Two (which is due out May 28, 2013).

Tommy’s departure and eventual return is just one important part of the Power Rangers’ evolution in the first half of Season Two.  Just as important is the introduction of three new characters who would later go on to be three of the new Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  Those characters are Adam (Johnny Yong Bosch), Rocky (Steve Cardenas), and Aisha (Karan Ashley).  The trio would end up taking the places of Zack, Jason, and Trini respectively.  This cast shakeup is an important part of the show’s second season because other than the introduction of Tommy in Season One, it marks the very first real major cast change in the long-running franchise’s history.  It wouldn’t be long though, before more cast changes would happen.  By the time the show reached its next incarnation, Power Rangers Zeo, Kimberly, Billy, and Aisha would all be replaced.  And Jason, the original Red Ranger, would also return, albeit for a short time.  The changes would go on from here.  That’s what makes this very first major shakeup such an important part of Season Two.

The introduction of new soon-to-be team members and the re-introduction of another are big parts of the success of Season Two Part One.  Just as important in the first half of this season’s success are the show’s writing and its general production.  In comparison to more recent incarnations of the Power Rangers franchise, the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers presented a product that was more…raw.  It didn’t have that sleek, spit-shined feel that so many newer PR shows have had.  There’s something special about that feel, from the special effects of the time to the animatronics of Goldar and the other baddies to the general shooting.  It’s completely different from the shows that would follow, making it that much more special.  The writing is just as impressive as the production.  Sure some of the writing seems as cheesy and campy as the production at times.  But it doesn’t feel forced like the franchise’s more recent series.  It just feels more natural.  That combination of more natural writing also led to more natural acting from the cast.  It made the cast more relatable to young viewers.  That ability of the show to reach its young viewers, combined with the show’s more natural writing and production went a long way toward making Season Two just as successful as the show’s debut season.  And thanks to Shout! Factory and Saban Brands, those audiences who first saw this show as kids can re-live all that joy again in the first half of Season Two.  Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season Two Volume One is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216673.  Audiences and fans of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and other classic shows can get more info on this show and more 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.