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.

WHV, Hanna-Barbera Off To A “Rocky” Start in 2014 With New Flintstone Kids Compilation Set

Courtesy:  Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers Home Video

Warner Home Video had a tough time through much of 2013 thanks to issues with a number of its new releases. It did manage to get itself at least somewhat righted by year’s end. But if the release of The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is any sign, it looks like that ship is starting to list yet again. The release of the new double-disc DVD set marks the first time that this “kiddie-fied” version–as many media critics called it in its original airing in the 80s–of The Flintstones has ever received even a semi-proper home release. Previous compilation sets from Warner Home Video that also included other well-known cartoons of the era included episodes of The Flintstone Kids. But until now, it had never received any solo release. And while this release isn’t terrible, it also doesn’t do full justice to what was just one of a handful of spinoffs from The Flintstones.
The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is not the best way to re-introduce this short-lived Flintstones spinoff. But it is also not the worst way to reintroduce the series to the generation that grew up watching the series, either. To the set’s credit, the episodes contained in this set look just as good today as they did when they originally aired nearly thirty years ago on ABC. That being noted, those charged with transferring the original content from tape to disc are to be applauded for their efforts. The colors are especially rich and vibrant when the set’s episodes are viewed via a Blu-ray player and HDTV. On an even deeper level, the very fact that these episodes have been resurrected for a whole new generation is a positive in itself. In an era when it seems that children’s programs are increasingly created through computers, this blast from the past is a welcome return. It serves as one more example of the creativity that once existed among animators. There is still some creativity among animators today. But sadly, it is far less as is evidenced by all of the computer generated programs that now fill the TV spectrum. So again, to the credit of Warner Home Video, Hanna-Barbera, and those charged with transferring these episodes from tape to disc, there is at least one positive to The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock.
That the episodes included in The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock look as good as they do in their transfer is definitely a positive. The quality of the footage will help bring back a certain sense of nostalgia for those that grew up with this short-lived series. And for those that are seeing it for the first time, it serves as another example of what once made children’s programming on the “Big 4” so great. This aside, The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is not without its faults. The most glaring of those faults is the obvious omission of the companion shorts that were included in the series’ original airing. The shorts in question were: Captain Caveman and Son, Dino’s Dilemmas, and Flintstone Funnies. Given, all ten of the central episodes in the set were the full length episodes, rather than the shorter episodes. But considering that there’s no telling how long it might be before (or if) audiences get another collection of episodes, it would have been nice to have those companion shorts included as perhaps bonus material. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead what audiences get is a bare bones compilation that boasts only ten of the series’ original episodes. That leaves the series’ now grown up fans wondering when or if the remaining fourteen episodes will see the light of day.
The omission of the series’ original companion shorts is just one of the problems plaguing The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. One more problem about this set is its lackluster disc art. Fred and Barney are presented in the disc art for the set’s lead disc, while Rocky and Dino are splashed across the set’s second disc. It was nice to see them exactly as they were presented in the included episodes. However, they are all presented in a single, flat color. In this case, that flat color was a flat red. Some might ask why this has any significance to the set. The answer is that it shows a continued lack of effort on the part of Warner Home Video to present a physical product that is appealing to the eye at least on an extrinsic level. WHV followed this same formula in 2013 with the releases of Animaniacs: Volume Four and Tiny Toon Adventures: Volume Four. The latter of the two had another even worse issue. But that’s a story for another time. The fact that WHV would continue to use a bare bones approach with its disc art as well as with its content hurts the set even more.
The disc art and bare bones presentation of the set collectively do their own share of damage to the overall presentation that is The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. While they do their share of a disservice to the overall presentation, there is at least one more saving grace that makes up for these issues. The saving grace in question is the set’s packaging. Both of the set’s discs are presented on their own insert in the standard single-disc case. The separate inserts protect the discs from scratching one another. The end result here is increased life of each disc. That both discs are placed wisely into a single disc case saves space on audiences’ DVD racks. That smart packaging and the high quality of the video in its transfer that make up for the set’s poor disc art and bare bones presentation. It makes up for those negatives just enough to make The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock at least somewhat worth purchasing or ordering. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from WHV’s online store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/the+flintstone+kids-+rockin%27+in+bedrock+dvd+1000406690.do?sortby=bestSellers&refType=&from=Search.
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.