Shout! Factory landed no fewer than four of its releases on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for families in 2013. 2014 is still very much in its infancy. And already Shout! Factory has landed one of its new releases as a definite on this critic’s list in the recently released The Red Skelton Show:The Lost Episodes. Now this critic can say that Shout! Factory has landed another potential on that list for this year in the form of Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three. Shout! Factory will release this two season set in partnership with Warner Brothers Home Video on March 18th, 2014. Whether one recalls this standout toon from their own childhood or is brand new to the series, Beetlejuice: Seasons Two& Three will impress any viewer. It will impress any viewer first and foremost because of its writing. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this season is its animation. And lastly, one must make note of the set’s packaging. All of these factors together make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three another must see both for kids and kids at heart.
The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice is central to the success of this new box set. The series’ writers maintained the same writing style established in its first season throughout every episode of Seasons Two and Three. The pop culture spoofs are there. So are the moments in which the writers break down the fourth wall. Even more impressive is that despite the fact that while the episodes take place in the Netherworld, the writers continued to make each episode kid friendly rather straight up spooky. Audiences will love the spoof of Sherlock Holmes in ‘A-Ha.’ And those that are old enough to remember the show will love just as much the spoof of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in ‘Uncle B.J.’s Roadhouse.’ In this same episode, the writers incorporate that breaking down of the fourth wall. This is a comic element that far too few animation studios use in today’s “cartoons.” Its use in this episode is a prime example of how much hilarity it can add to a cartoon, especially when done right. So while it is wonderfully entertaining on the surface, it serves an even deeper purpose in comparison to the “cartoons” that populate the television spectrum today. It serves as a lesson on how much writing has changed in children’s programming from the 80s and 90s up to where it is today. If anything, one could argue that such an example shows how much writing for today’s mainstream children’s programming has de-evolved. That being the case, it makes this collection of episodes all the more enjoyable.
The pop culture spoofs and breaking down of the fourth wall are both integral parts of the writing in Beetlejuice: Seasons 2 & 3 that are rarely used in today’s mainstream children’s programming. Just as integral to the show’s success in its second and third seasons is the fact that the show’s writers could take a spooky world and craft kid friendly adventures centered in that world. Those adventures made the Netherworld not seem as spooky as it did in the movie on which the animated series is based. The adventures are so kid friendly that they almost make the Netherworld feel like the human world for lack of better wording. One can’t help but wonder if perhaps that approach to writing Lydia and Beetlejuice’s adventures was an inspiration behind the world of Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. at least to some point. That writing works with the show’s animation to make these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.
The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice goes a long way toward making these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season. In direct relation, the animation (especially that of the Netherworld) makes Seasons Two & Three even more enjoyable. It serves as a companion to the writing and makes the Netherworld that much less spooky for even today’s younger viewers. The colors used in the Netherworld scenes are actually relatively bright. This creates more of a welcoming and upbeat feel to that world. On an even deeper level, so much of today’s children’s programming is crafted by either flash animation or by full on computer generated graphics. Beetlejuice by comparison was, like most real cartoons of its era, created entirely by hand. For those that grew up with this modern hand-drawn classic, seeing that hand-drawn animation is a breath of fresh air among the stale, cookie cutter style excuses for cartoons that are out there today. It’s just one more reason that any true cartoon lover and any original fan of this series will want to pick up this dual-disc set when it hits store shelves next month.
Both the writing and animation in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice are important to the success of each season. Just as important as the writing and animation in the box set’s upcoming release is its packaging. Because both the second and third seasons were so short, each one received its own disc inside a single standard-sized case. It would have been so easy for Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video to split up the seasons regardless. That seems to be the trend among so many studios today with home releases of their programs. So it’s nice to see that Shout! Factory and WHV didn’t take that route with this release. It presents a certain level of ethics between the two companies. The episode listing for each season is also provided as part of the set’s packaging. Each season’s episode list is included inside the case on one side. There is little left to note of this set, if anything, after noting all of the positives of the packaging. The packaging, together with the animation and writing, combine to make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two and Three yet another certifiable candidate for a spot on this critic’s annual list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for kids and families. It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, March 18th and can be pre-ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/beetlejuice-seasons-two-three. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available 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.