Maybe it is just this critic, but it seems that increasingly the case that families are becoming increasingly segregated in their own homes. That is due to the advancement of technology and to the fact that there seems to be less programming than ever for families to watch together. Even if there is less for families to watch together, it does not mean that there is nothing out there. PBS and its home distribution arm proved that true this year with their new family DVD box sets alongside Nickelodeon, Universal, Warner Brothers and other companies.
This year actually saw a wide range of enjoyable new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for the whole family to enjoy together, not the least of which was another new collection of classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episodes from PBS and PBS Distribution. The first time release of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory is another great new offering for the whole families that released this year. Even fans of Universal’s How To Train Your Dragon franchise got something special recently in the franchise’s “Ultimate Collection.” All three of these titles and plenty of others make up what are this year’s top new family DVD and BD box sets list from Phil’s Picks. Between these new releases, new offerings from Nickelodeon’s Loud House,Spongebob Squarepants, and The Casagrandes, another new Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood collection from PBS/PBS Kids/PBS Distribution, and so many other releases, this year showed that thankfully there is at least still some programming left for families to enjoy together.
As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this collection features the year’s Top 10 new releases in the given category and five honorable mention titles for a total of 15. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Family DVD/BD Box Sets.
PHIL’S PICKS‘ 2021 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVD/BD BOX SETS
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Mister Rogers Meets New Friends Collection
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tigertastic 50 Pack
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: The Complete Series
Spongebob Squarepants: The Complete 12th Season
Loud House: Season 3 Volume 1
Loud House: Season 3 Volume 2
The Casagrandes: Season 1
How To Train Your Dragon: The Ultimate Collection
Curious George: 5 Movie Collection
Rugrats: The Complete Series
PBS Kids’ 20 Snowy Stories
Garfield & Friends: The Grumpy Cat Collection
Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space
Thundarr The Barbarian: The Complete Series
Animaniacs Season 1
It should be added as a special note, this year marks the first time ever that Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space and Thundarr The Barbrian have ever gotten a proper, official release. There are DVD releases for those titles, but they are not official releases. They are DVD-R sets that Hannah Barbera and Amazon partnered to release, so they are not official. This year’s BD releases of the series’ are in fact the real deal. They are released through Warner Archives and are well worth the money and the watch. Speaking of the watch, that show is one of the many that made Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Grown-Up DVD/BD Box Sets list. That list will come Monday, so stay tuned!
Reboots are big business for Hollywood, or so it would seem. Looking at recent headlines for TV shows rebooted by the major TV studios (including digital servers), reboots do not actually seem to be doing as well as studio executives and advertisers would like people to believe. Punky Brewster became the most recent reboot to be cancelled this month. The show was axed from NBC’s Peacock streaming service after just one seasons. Also cancelled this year are reboots of MacGuyver, Murphy Brown, Charmed (which did not even get past the pilot stage), and even Lizzy Macguire. Fuller House, the reboot of the classic sitcom Full House also got the axe from Netflix this year after five seasons. Even the reboot of Rod Serling’s classic series The Twilight Zone was justifiably canceled early this year after just two seasons. Between that reboot, the update of Hawaii 5-0, and that of MacGuyver, which itself ran for five seasons before its end (two seasons less than the original series’ run), it is safe to say that reboots really are not the safe bet that studio execs and advertisers thought they would be. Even Roseanne ended up being “cancelled” and re-tooled as The Connors. Now keeping all of this in mind, one cannot help but wonder how long Hulu’s reboot of the classic cartoon series Animaniacs will last. It was just recently announced that the series, which saw its first season released to DVD June 1, will launch its sophomore season in November. If the lead season of this reboot is any indicator, one can only imagine that it will be lucky to be renewed for a third season. That is proven in part through the content featured in the first season of this reboot. It will be discussed shortly. The lack of any bonus content with the season’s home release is also of concern, especially considering the original series’ legacy. So this will be discussed a little later. Looking at all of the negatives noted here, it makes the DVD’s pricing problematic, too. This will be discussed later, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this recently released collection. All things considered, they make the first season of Hulu’s Animaniacs a completely disappointing presentation. It additionally is more proof that reboots are clearly not the best investment for any network.
The first season of Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot is proof positive that for all the reboots out there, reboots do not make the best business sense for any network, whether on TV or online. This is proven in large part through the content featured throughout Season 1. Given, there was plenty of adult-themed humor that ran through the original series during its five-season run from 1993-1998. Steven Spielberg himself was even quoted as saying much of the humor in the original series was inspired by the humor of Looney Tunes and none other than Groucho Marx. At the same time, there was also plenty of more family friendly content included throughout the show in the noted time frame. By comparison, this updated take on the series is nothing but dated, adult humor. It is all snarky shots about the world’s current social and political atmosphere. The only time when the show actually goes full family friendly comes late in its run in the short, “Here Comes The Treble.” The celebration of classical music finds the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot going toe to toe against a very self-righteous conductor. The story is a reboot in itself of a certain classic Looney Tunes short in which Bugs Bunny faces off against an arrogant opera singer. Even worse is the moment in the “Pinky and the Brain” short, “Mousechurian Candidate” in which the writers decided to go blue. Brain tells Pinky in one line that he is going to put one character “through hell.” Yes, the writers went there. Thankfully it is the only point at which such language is used. The original series succeeded without ever having to use foul language, so why did the show’s writers feel the need to go such route here?
Speaking of Pinky and The Brain, they are they and Ralph are the only secondary characters who are regularly featured in this season. There is one episode, “Good Warner Hunting,” in which the writers bring back all the old secondary characters (E.g. The Hip Hippos, Slappy Squirrel and her nephew Skippy, Katie Kaboom, etc.) but instead of paying tribute or even hinting at them being brought back long term, the story in the episode feels more like the writers were thumbing their noses at viewers. They were acknowledging the absence of those characters from the reboot, but basically just kept them as a secondary element in that one sole episode. In their place are far worse secondaries “The Incredible Gnome in People’s Mouths” and “Starbox and Cindy.” These characters and their shorts come across like something that was crafted when the writers were high on something. One cannot help but wonder, in looking at these new secondaries, if the writers from Ren & Stimpy were involved in this season, considering this and all of the primary writing concerns. All things considered here, the content featured in the lead season of Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot is reason enough to not watch or even buy the show’s two-disc set. It is just one of the problems from which this set suffers. The lack of any bonus content detracts from the presentation’s appeal even more.
The lack of bonus content is important because while Animaniacs only ran for five seasons in its initial run in the 90s, that was still a long run. To this day, it is still very much a beloved property. That is again because of the brand of verbal and physical comedy that it brought forward. Yes, it was modern at the time, but it resurrected a brand of comedy that was far more common to cartoons and movies of the early 20th century. What’s more, the work put in by the voice cast and the animators added even more appeal. Sadly, none of that is discussed here. As a matter of fact, there is no bonus content to speak of. There is no retrospective on the importance of the original series. There is no defense made by the show’s cast and crew for this unnecessary reboot. That someone or certain parties felt that the show did not need defense in its rebooting (considering it is among so many reboots) is just lazy and irresponsible. Maybe had someone taken the time to try to defend this reboot, it might have led some viewers to rethink their views especially after watching the featured main content. That is not guaranteed, but the possibility is there. On another note, that the only references made to the original series came in the shorts (and in rather sarcastic, dismissive fashion at that) is only that much more disrespectful to the legacy of the original show and to the fans. It leaves audiences feel that the writers wanted to bring in the audiences who watched the original show, but did not care enough to actually keep things family friendly. It is all just so disappointing.
Now keeping in mind everything addressed here, it makes the two-disc set’s pricing problematic in its own right. Walmart has the set available in store at a price of $20. It should be no more expensive than $15, honestly, considering It runs 13 episodes. If it were more expansive, that would guarantee the price. That is the same price at Amazon, Target, and Best Buy. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million each list the set at $24.99 and $24.98 respetively, far exceeding the more commonly occurring price of $20. All things considered, neither price is worth paying considering how little this set has to offer audiences of any age. Between the dated, adults-only content that fills out most of the season and the lack of any bonus content, the prices are just too much all the way around. Keeping this in mind, it is yet another negative and shows once more why this two-disc debut season of Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot is a failure.
Hulu and Studio Distribution Services’ DVD presentation of Animaniacs Season 1 is a disappointing offering from the companies. Knowing that the series has already been re-upped for a second season, odds are that those behind this reboot or even its home release have learned anything from the mistakes of this presentation. There is nothing redeeming about the set. The main content is clearly aimed mainly at adults, unlike the original series. To make it worse, the content featured here does not even have any longevity. It is dated throughout so much of what is shown. All of this in mind, the content is just one of the set’s shortcomings. The lack of any bonus content in the set decreases its enjoyment even more. Taking that into account along with the less than memorable primary content featured in this set, the whole makes the set’s pricing even less appealing. Keeping all of this in mind, the whole makes this presentation anything but appealing.
Animaniacs Season 1 is available now for those who actually want the set. More information on the set is available along with all of the latest Animaniacs news at:
This year has seen so many covers collections released. From rock to pop to jazz, it seems every genre has seen any number of covers records, to the point that it has made the whole field somewhat trite. Yes, there are some covers sets that standout, but for the most part, the field has really become one big mass once again. Enter Punk Rock Factory’s forthcoming record, Masters of the Uniwurst. The 22-song record is the most standout of this year’s new covers records. That is due in large part to its featured songs. They will be discussed shortly. The band’s performances of the featured songs also plays into the record’s presentation and will be addressed a little later. Staying on that note, the songs’ sequencing plays its own important part to the collection’s presentation and will be discussed a little later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this 34-minute record. All things considered, they make the record the best of this year’s new covers records so far.
Punk Rock Factory’s forthcoming record, Masters of the Uniwurst is unquestionably the best of this year’s covers sets so far. That is due in no small part to its featured songs. The songs in question are punk rock takes of classic kids’ TV shows from the 80s and 90s. Given, it is hardly the first time that any act has taken on such songs, but it’s also an approach that is not overly taken for covers records. Powerglove is well-known for doing such. There are also compilations of theme songs from kids’ shows covered out there, but again, they are compilations. Keeping that in mind, that the band would take this avenue is worthy of applause in itself.
Adding to the reason for applause is the mix of theme songs that the band opted to take on in this collection. The band did not just take the easy route and cover theme songs that others have taken on. Yes, the band took on the theme songs from the likes of The Flintstones and Pokemon and even Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, but it also took on theme songs from other shows, such as Goof Troop, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and even M.A.S.K., as well as Animaniacs, Denver The Last Dinosaur, and Round The Twist. Simply put, the band chose a relatively solid mix of familiar shows and theme songs, and some equally well-known shows whose theme songs have been less covered. That balance continues to show the importance of the record’s featured songs. It shows that the band put a lot of thought into the record’s body. It shows the band members wanted to make sure if from only this element, audiences became engaged and entertained. Keeping all of this in mind, the record’s songs are just a portion of what makes this record stand out. The band’s performances add their own layer of enjoyment to the record.
The band’s performance of each song is important to the record’s presentation because of the updated touch it gives to each classic theme song. Case in point is the band’s take on the theme song from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. The band stays true to the source material here, yet somehow, with its punk influence here, the song actually proves even better than the original. Whether that is because of the guitars, the vocals, the drums, or everything together, the fact of the matter is that this song, which even boasts some classic metal influence, really gives the song a welcome update. Longtime devotees of the series (and the TMNT franchise) will easily find this a welcome take on the song. On yet another note, the band’s take on the Arthur theme song (yes, the band even takes on the theme song from Arthur, which was originally updated by a well-known member of the Marley family)shows the importance of the band’s performance in its own way. Yes, it is another punk rock opus, but the band still stays true to the original, even including the slightest hint of reggae along with the collective chorus to make this such a unique and surprisingly enjoyable take on another classic theme song. And then there is the band’s take of the Saved By The Bell theme song. The original song had a little bit of a rockabilly vibe about it. In the case of this performance, the band’s punk take amps up that take while, again, staying true to the source material. It is another unique approach to a theme song that has rarely if ever been covered by other acts well-known and otherwise and considering the stylistic approach and the energy that results from the performance, shows even more why the band’s performances are so important to the record’s presentation. Taking this into consideration along with the band’s performance of the other songs examined here and those in the rest of the record, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the band’s performances. Even with its importance, it is still not the last of the record’s notable elements. The record’s sequencing rounds out the most important of the collection’s elements.
The sequencing is so important to the record’s presentation in part because it ensures the theme songs and shows do not get redundant. Put in more layman’s terms, the sequencing ensures that throughout the album’s run, the songs (and shows) do not just stick to one era or another. Thundercats, an anime show takes audiences back to the 80s. From there, the band moves forward to the 80s with the theme song from the still very popular Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series. The band sticks to the 90s from there as it takes on the theme song from Arthur. The show itself is completely different from the other two songs, and so is the theme song in terms of its original stylistic approach and sound. The diversity in shows and theme song styles and sounds continues fluidly from there, from the easy, lighter Goof Troop theme song to the more energetic Animaniacs theme. Again, this is in reference to the original songs. The band’s take on them does well to honor those original takes, again. From that point on to the record’s end, the changes continue throughout, doing their own part to keep the record engaging and entertaining.
The ordering of the content at the surface is just part of the importance of the record’s sequencing. The sequencing also ensures the record’s energy remains high even as the song styles change. At no point does that energy pull back. It stays high from beginning to end, ensuring even more, audiences’ engagement and entertainment. Taking this into consideration along with the role of the sequencing in regards to the content’s general ordering, the two items pair to show wholly why the sequencing is just as important to this record as the content and the band’s performance thereof. All things considered, they make this record the best of the year’s new covers compilations so far.
Punk Rock Factory’s forthcoming covers set, Masters of the Uniwurst, may not be its only covers collection (it took on a number of Disney songs in its most recent record), but it is still a welcome new collection of covers from the punk outfit. That is due in large part to its featured songs. The songs are a collection of songs, some of which are more often covered than others and some of which are lesser handled from shows that are themselves a balance of well- and lesser-known kids shows. That balance of content is itself reason enough to audiences to take in this record. The band’s performances of the record’s featured songs adds its own touch to the presentation. That is because the performances in question amp up songs that were already catchy to begin with while staying true to the source material. The record’s sequencing rounds out the most important of its elements. That is because it ensures the collection’s aesthetics add their own important touch to the whole. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make Masters of the Uniwurst the master of this year’s field of new covers compilations. Masters of the Uniwurst is scheduled for release Friday.
More information on Punk Rock Factory’s new compilation record is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
Shout! Factory Kids and Hasbro Studios will release yet another new collection of episodes from the hit children’s series Pound Puppies next month.
Shout! Factory Kids and Hasbro Studios will release Pound Puppies: Pick of the Litter on Tuesday, July 14th. The single-disc collection will feature five more episodes from the family friendly series. This collection sees voice actor Grey DeLisle (Secret Agent Oso, Curious George, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) make an appearance as a puppy named Buttercup in “Cuddle Up Buttercup.” Buttercup looks so much like the toy sensation Cuddle Up Buttercup in this episode. Because Buttercup looks so much like the toy dog, she is in high demand. So it’s up to the Pound Puppies to connect her with her perfect person before she is adopted by some random child. There is also a story that puts a twist on the classic story the Prince and the Pauper in “I’m Ready For My Close Pup” as famed TV dog Pooches is sick of the limelight and wants a break. So she trades places with Cupcake, who ends up letting fame go to her head. All the while the Pound Puppies are searching for Pooches’ perfect person, who turns out ironically to be her on-screen enemy Amy. Amy might be Pooches’ enemy in front of the camera. But off camera, she loves Pooches very much. Lauren Tom (Futurama, King of the Hill, Codename: Kids Next Door) guest stars in this episode. There’s even an international flare in this collection in “The Pups Who Loved Me” as Lucky and British Pound Puppy agent Bondo have to chase down the Super Secret Pup Club when the young pups play in Bondo’s flying car and accidentally set off the car’s controls. Rob Paulsen (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain) guest stars in this episode alongside Jeff Bennett (James Bond, Jr., Curious George,Codename: Kids Next Door). These are just a few of the episodes presented in Pound Puppies: Pick of the Litter. There are two more episodes that audiences will enjoy together, too in the form of “Dog on a Wire” and “Pound Preemies.” Pound Puppies: Pick of the Litter will be available on DVD in stores and online on Tuesday, July 14th. It will retail for MSRP of $12.99 but can be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s online store for a discounted price of $11.99 at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/pound-puppies-pick-of-the-litter. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Shout! Factory Kids is available online now at
Shout! Factory Kids will release the latest addition to its kid friendly Transformers series Transformers Rescue Bots this Tuesday, February 10th. Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure is the sixth of the series’ collections released by Shout! Factory Kids and Hasbro Studios. Five previous collections having already been released, it is common sense that this DVD is just as worth the watch as the series’ previously released compilations. The central reason that it proves to be just as worth the watch as its predecessors is the collection of episodes chosen for the single-disc presentation. Six more episodes have been culled for the set starting with the series premiere “Family of Heroes.” The set also pulls in a second episode from Season One in the form of “Return of the Dinobot” that presents a Dinobot unlike anything most audiences know of from the Transformers’ previous incarnations. There is also a two-part episode from Season 2 and a pair of stand-alone episodes also from Season 2 to complement. All six episodes together make for plenty of enjoyment for Transformers fans of all ages. The same can be said of the writing behind each episode. Whether in the series premiere, the included two-part episode from Season 2, or for the remaining pair of episode, the writing in these episodes is to thank for their enjoyment. And last but hardly least worth noting of these episodes is work of the series’ all-star cast. Veteran actors LeVar Burton (Star Trek The Next Generation, Reading Rainbow, Captain Planet and the Planeteers), Jason Marsden (The Fairly Oddparents, The Garfield Show, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and Mauriche LeMarche (The Simpsons, Futurama, Animaniacs) are joined by the likes of Parvesh Cheena (Outsourced, Sean Saves the World, A To Z), Steve Blum (Digimon: Digital Monsters, The Boxtrolls, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie), and Elan Garfias (Handy Manny, Chowder, Ni Hao Kai-Lam) among other names. And the interpretation of the episodes’ scripts rounds out the reasons that these episodes are so enjoyable. Regardless of the cast members’ level of experience, nothing but professionalism was shown in each episode, making easier suspension of disbelief and in turn the overall enjoyment of the episodes. By itself, the work of the cast in each of these episodes makes for its own level of enjoyment among audiences. Together with the work of the series’ writers and those charged with assembling the episodes, all three elements make Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure a great adventure for Transformers fans of all ages.
Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure is not the first collection of episodes that Shout! Factory Kids has released from Discovery Family’s family friendly update on Hasbro’s classic franchise following everyone’s favorite robots in disguise. It is however a fully enjoyable collection of episodes. It is a fully enjoyable collection both for those that are and those that are not so familiar with the series. The central reason for that enjoyment is the collection of episodes pulled for the DVD. Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series, every one of the series’ fans finally gets to see how the series started thanks to the inclusion of its premiere episode to open the whole thing. Audiences also get to see the writers’ vision of at least one of the legendary Dinobots as well as other early adventures of the Rescue Bots. The collection in whole offer loads of action and laughs for Transformers fans of all ages. The episodes by themselves offer loads of action and laughs for the whole family. That is thanks to the adventures that make up each episode. Keeping in that vein, the writing behind each of the episodes is to thank for making each episode so enjoyable.
The writing that went into each of the episodes on this DVD is just as noteworthy as the episodes themselves in considering what makes it so enjoyable. One way in which the writing proves so important is in the series’ premiere episode “Family of Heroes.” Audiences will note in this episode that at least one of the Rescue Bots—Heatwave—is not instantly fond of being on Earth. As a matter of fact, he would much rather take a mission on another planet than deal with humans who want to control them. Obviously they aren’t really trying to control the Rescue Bots. And eventually, Heatwave overcomes his mistrust as Cody and his family prove that they can be trusted. Yes, it’s a tried and true story element used in so many other series and movies. But especially in the case of this series, it’s interesting to see that things don’t start out with a full-on “happy-happy-joy-joy” vibe for the Rescue Bots or for the humans in terms of their relationship. It is just one example of why the writing in these episodes makes them so enjoyable. The writing in the two-part episode “What Lies Below”/”What Rises Above” is another good example of why the writing behind the episodes makes them so enjoyable. It could even be argued to be the best example of the disc’s episodes in terms of its writing. That is because of the amount of material that went into the episode in whole. Chief Burns and his brother Woodrow (voiced here by Mark Hamill—Star Wars, Batman: The Animated Series, Codename: Kids Next Door) have to come to terms with the tensions built between them ever since their childhood. At the same time, Heatwave exhibits his own personal growth as the leader of the Rescue Bots as he and Optimus Prime work to get back to the others and get out of the volcano. At the same time, the writers pay tribute to Jules Verne in this episode as a hidden prehistoric world is discovered along the way. Through the whole story, none of the noted elements overpowers the other. The end result is a story that easily keeps viewers fully engaged, wondering what will happen next. The writers’ tackling of myths in “In Search of the Griffin’s Nest” and the classic theme of AI becoming sentient (and dangerously so at that) in “Movers and Shakers” is as enjoyable as any sci-fi story. Whether for the solid work on the DVD’s included two-part episode, the series’ premiere, or even that in “In Search of the Griffin’s Nest,” the writing behind the episodes included on Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure shows time and again why it is so pivotal to the overall enjoyment of the DVD. Together with the episodes selected for the compilation, both elements strengthen even more the argument in favor of this latest addition to the series’ already-released compilations.
The episodes tapped for inclusion on Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure and the writing behind each episode make a strong argument in favor of this new DVD. The work of the series’ voice cast is just as worth mentioning in the overall enjoyment of these episodes. From the series premiere to the episodes that followed, the chemistry and professionalism between the cast is obvious. Considering the cast’s collective years of experience, that should come as no surprise. That’s especially the case with lead stars Jason Marsden and Mauriche LeMarche. Marsden, who voices lead character Kade Burns, and LeMarche, who voices Kade’s father Chief Charlie Burns, breeze through their roles. The same can be said of fellow veteran LeVar Burton as he voices supporting character Doc Greene. Even young Elan Garfias (Cody Burns) impresses in his own right. While Garfias might not have the years of experience as Burton, LaMarche, and Marsden, he still shines as the voice of Cody. He handles his role in every episode with the ease and professionalism of a seasoned veteran. And together with his older, more experienced co-stars–including those not noted here–the group as a whole proves to be the perfect choice for each role. The choices paid off in spades, too with each cast member alone and together keeping viewers just as fully engaged with its work as the stories behind each episode. It is the last part of the DVD’s whole that makes it so enjoyable for Transformers fans of all ages. Together with the work of the show’s writers and those tapped to select the DVD’s episodes, all three elements together show in full why Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure is yet another great collection of episodes from what is one of the greatest incarnations of the Transformers.
The latest compilation of episodes from Hasbro Studios’ Transformers Rescue Bots is another great collection for any fan of this kid friendly series. The compilation, which was released last Tuesday, September 2nd, is especially well-timed considering the proximity of its release to Halloween. That is primarily because of the five episodes featured in the disc. The episodes presented on this disc offer their own not so scary stories that are still a good fit for any child’s Halloween party. For those that might be new to this series (like this critic), said audiences will also appreciate the series’ animation. Being another product of Hasbro studios, it should come as no surprise that the series’ animation plays a role in its enjoyment, too. And last but not least of all worth noting in the overall presentation is the series’ list of voice talents. The actors charged with putting a voice to the series’ characters are largely well-known figures. They are figures that have quite the resume when it comes to animated programs, children’s programs, and sci-fi shows, too. Some have experience in all three realms, making their acting all the more believable and in turn enjoyable. The combination of those experienced voice talents and the series’ animation and writing makes Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue just as enjoyable for those that are new to this series as those that are more familiar with the show.
Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue is the fifth compilation of episodes from the Hub network’s hit children’s series. The compilation was released just last week in stores. Its timing could not have been better taking into account its episodes and the fact that Halloween is a little more than a month away. The episodes collected for this compilation each present their own not so scary but still entertaining story for kids at their Halloween parties this year. The DVD opens with a mystery that sees everyone in Griffin Rock suddenly disappearing after a horde of robotic bugs infests the town. It’s up to Cody, his friends, and the Rescue Bots to solve the mystery. The second episode sees some “ghosts” suddenly appearing. It turns out though, that things aren’t always what they appear to be when Cody and the Rescue Bots investigate the “hauntings.” There’s even a little twist that parents and kids alike will like, regardless of whether or not they are believers. “Spellbound” is the third episode chosen for the DVD. One could argue that this episode lifts lightly from Stephen King’s novel Cell as cell phones are being used to take over the minds of the Griffin Rock’s citizens. This is an especially enjoyable episode not only for this reason, but for its emphasis on caring for the environment. “Blame The Gremlins” is another great addition that parents and children will appreciate as it offers its own frightful fun. When Cody’s big brother Kade (voiced by Jason Marsden) starts having nightmares about gremlins, those nightmares become reality and invade Griffin Rock. Parents that are familiar with Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone series will appreciate the subtle homage to the episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” in this episode. One could even argue that there’s a subtle reference to a certain gremlin from Warner Brothers’ beloved Looney Tunes franchise. “Feed The Beast” closes out the DVD with a little tale of Griffin Rock’s own version of the legendary Sasquatch. As with the discs other episodes, it offers its own frightful fun for younger viewers. All of the episodes together will keep young viewers fully engaged from start to finish.
Of the stories included on this disc are not enough enjoyment by themselves, audiences that might be new to Transformers Rescue Bots will appreciate the fact that the episodes are kid friendly. They don’t have the level of violence and deep, thought provoking material that makes up the original Transformers franchise or any of its offshoots over the years. It makes for a fun and safe way to ease younger viewers into the Transformers universe. It could be argued that to that extent, it actually takes a page from the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, The Flintstone Kids, Taz-Mania and others that came from that era. That’s because while many critics came down hard on the series, the reality was that they were in fact a way to slowly and gently bring younger viewers into the likes of Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, Scooby–Doo and other classic franchises. To that extent, the very concept of this franchise makes the writing all the more valuable and enjoyable to the overall presentation that is this latest compilation.
The writing that went into the episodes on this DVD makes them (and the franchise in whole) a joy for both children and adults. Its mix of family friendly stories and its more grown-up pop culture references will make watching them as a family a fun time. And especially today, families need as much time as possible together. It’s not all that makes this collection enjoyable, either. The series’ animation also makes the episodes presented here fun, too. Audiences that are familiar with Hasbro Studios’ properties will find it no surprise that this series’ animation bears a somewhat similar animation style to that of both Pound Puppies and Littlest Pet Shop. It is safe to suffice that the same individuals charged with crafting the artwork for those series were also behind Transformers Rescue Bots, too simply by watching these episodes. Even with its similarities to those series, it does bear its own identity apart from them. The differences lie mainly in little things like the contours of the characters and the backgrounds and even the coloring. Other than that, this series’ animation lies in the same category as those others from Hasbro Studios already noted. Even as similar as its animation is to those series, it still is nice to see animation today that can look so much like it was hand drawn instead of all of the cookie cutter CGI shows out there for younger audiences today. It’s just one more part of what makes this new DVD so welcome in any family’s DVD library.
The animation in Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue and the writing in its episodes together make this latest collection of episodes welcome in any family’s DVD library. The last factor to note that makes it such a welcome addition to any family’s library is the series’ list of voice actors. Those behind the characters in this series are no strangers to voicing animated characters. The cast includes Jason Marsden, Kath Soucie, Levar Burton, Mauriche LaMarche, Tim Curry, Diamond White and so many others. While their episodes are not included in this DVD, Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman The Animated Series) and Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) even offer their talents in a couple of episodes, too. Having such a who’s who of actors lending their talents to this series is a tribute to its popularity and the popularity of the Transformers franchise in whole. Jason Marsden is known for his work on Nickelodeon’s The Fairly Odd Parents and as the voice of Nermal in Cartoon Network’s The Garfield Show. He has worked on a number of other series and movies, too. These are just a couple examples of his body of work. Kath Soucie and Levar Burton both worked together on Captain Planet and the Planeteers early in the 1990s. Soucie is also known as the voice of Phil and Lil DeVille in Nickelodeon’s beloved Nicktoon Rugrats. Not to omit Mauriche LeMarche or Tim Curry, the resume of these two actors could fill pages and pages. Needless to say they are quite the well trained and well-respected actors. And having them on this series’ cast is quite the statement. Newcomer Diamond White has already started building up her own resume with voice acting credits including work on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, and Sophia the First. She also plays the role of Sophie in Nickelodeon’s teen-centric series The Haunted Hathaways. Needless to say, the cast that was tapped for the roles in Transformers Rescue Bots more than did its job with this latest collection of episodes. Their years of training and experience helped them to interpret each episode’s script and in turn make it each story all the more enjoyable. The end result is a collection of episodes that the whole family will enjoy again and again while they wait for the next collection of episodes from this surprisingly entertaining show.
The A-list voice cast tapped to voice the characters in this latest collection of episodes from Hub’s Transformers Rescue Bots goes a long way toward validating it and the series in whole. Parents will note the celebrities’ names and want to check out the actors’ work for themselves. They will also appreciate some of the subtle pop culture references thrown in for good measure in some of the episodes included on the DVD. Kids will enjoy the animation and stories in general. All things considered, there is a lot that makes Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue a hit for the whole family. So much in fact that it could potentially end up on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s website at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/transformers-rescue-bots-mystery-rescue. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.
Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have announced that the companies will release Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series on DVD box set later this month.
Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series will be released Tuesday, August 19th on DVD box set from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory. The box set comes on the heels of the recently released fifth and final season of the classic series. The new sixteen-disc set will retail for SRP of $29.93.
Hey Arnold! features a who’s who list of voice talents across its ninety-nine episode. Among some of the series’ more notable voice talents are: Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons), Francesca Smith (Disney’s Recess), Toran Caudell (Disney’s Recess), Jamil Walker Smith (Stargate: Universe), Jim Belushi (Life according to Jim, The Blues Brothers), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs) and many others.
Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week. The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs. The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing. By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes. Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes. It makes the set all the richer. And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances. Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection. Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.
The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD. Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs. The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes. As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too. In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes. Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups. On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others. Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there. This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series. That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes. Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing. This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener. Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes. It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era. And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.
As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment. Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms. Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes. “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds. It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person. There’s just one problem. The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves. In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs. The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past. All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter. “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17. The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur. It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.
The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 – 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.
Nickelodeon’s programming today is comprised largely of live action sitcoms aimed at teen viewers. However, from the early 1990s up until the mid-2000s, the network was known more for its vast array of cartoons. It’s “Nicktoons” were its heart and soul. While Nickelodeon does have some cartoons today, the network’s sole remaining real Nicktoon is Butch Hartman’s hugely successful series Fairly Oddparents. Fairly Oddparents is a standout series, too. Interestingly enough, it isn’t his first series to have the honor of being added to Nickelodeon’s list of beloved Nicktoons. His first notable “Nicktoon” was the short-lived supernatural series Danny Phantom. Now thanks to Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, fans of Danny Phantom will be able to own the complete series in one box later this month. Danny Phantom only ran for three seasons. In its defense, it could be argued that this was because it was ahead of its time. That aside, series creator Butch Hartman and his writers crafted a number of enjoyable episodes throughout the show’s short run. Just as worth noting about this new upcoming box set is that is alleviates some minor problems raised in the box sets containing the series’ second season. Lastly, those that know their Nicktoons history will appreciate the voice talent that made up the series’ cast. That who’s who of voice actors combined with the enjoyable stories, and the fact that they are all available together for the first time collectively make this upcoming set well worth picking up for any Danny Phantom fan.
Fans of Danny Phantom: The Complete Series will appreciate this new complete series set first and foremost because it presents the series’ entire three-season run in one complete box set. Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released three complete series sets from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers. Those sets proved to actually take up far less space on DVD racks than the stand-alone season sets that had originally been released. This set is no different. All nine discs that make up all three seasons are included in this box. Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have sweetened the deal even more for fans in that they have maintained the established wise packaging that was used in the aforementioned complete series sets. The discs are placed inside the box on either side of their own “insert” with the ninth and final disc being placed in its own spot inside the back of the case. As with the previously noted box sets, this protects the discs and allows the episodes contained within each one to be enjoyed much longer. It is the starting point of what audiences will appreciate about Danny Phantom: The Complete Series.
The packaging for Danny Phantom: The Complete Series is a good starting point in discussing everything that makes this box set well worth its price. The episodes contained across the set’s nine total discs make the presentation as a whole even more enjoyable. It would be easy to say that because its main characters were high school students, Danny Phantom was just another program aimed at audiences of the same age. To a point, it could be seen how teen audiences would take an interest in the series. Case in point, one of the series’ story arcs involved a potential inter-racial romance between Danny and black classmate named Valerie Gray (voiced by Cree Summer—The Cosby Show, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, etc.). It really is a sign of the times that the show’s writers would include this without making a big fuss over it, either. It is a subtle, but nice addition to the series. There are also the constant struggles to balance trying to be a regular teen with being a superhero. But the jokes that are tossed in each episode aren’t above some younger viewers, either. So while teens might have been the primary audience, younger viewers would have obviously enjoyed the show, too. The same applies to today’s teens and pre-teens, too.
The packaging and writing that make up Danny Phantom’s episodes are collectively a big part of what makes the series so enjoyable even for today’s younger audiences. There is at least one more aspect of the series’ new set that audiences will appreciate in examining the presentation as a whole. That aspect is the series’ voice cast. The series’ primary cast reads like a who’s who of voice acting. It has already been noted that veteran voice actress Cree Summer is part of the primary cast (even though she doesn’t come into play until the second season). Along with Ms. Summer, Grey DeLisle (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford: The Puppy Years, Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) Kath Soucie (Futurama, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.) and a whole slate of others each play roles in the series. Fans will also recognize the voices of Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Hellboy & Hellboy II), Martin Mull (Roseanne), and the man who is perhaps the busiest male voice actor in the business, one Frank Welker (Curious George, The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, etc.) Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Taylor Lautner (the Twilight saga), and the late David Carradine even make appearances throughout the series among so many other big names. If the massive list of A-listers that play roles in Danny Phantom isn’t reason enough to check out the new Danny Phantom: The Complete Series box set, then one need only set that alongside the enjoyable writing and the equally wise packaging to see just how worthwhile this set is for kids and kids at heart. It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, January 28th. It can be pre-ordered online now from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/danny-phantom-complete-series. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.
Warner Brothers has largely started off 2013 in successful fashion. Its only major missteps so far this year have been its DVD and Blu-ray release of Hats Off to Dr. Seuss and Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4. Save for those two problematic releases, Warner Home Video has largely seen more success through the first two quarters of the year. Now Warner Home Video has started off its new quarter by catching its footing in the first half of Taz-Mania Season One. Taz-Mania Season One Volume One is one of many candidates for the best children’s DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013. That’s because unlike the company’s previous missteps, this release gets almost everything right. The only downside to this set is something that has plagued many of its releases so far this year. And that will be discussed later.
Taz-Mania Season One Volume One is a welcome release from Warner Home Video. This relic of a bygone era is one more example of everything that made not only children’s programming great, but also television in general. As audiences will see in Season 1.0, Taz-Mania made both children’s programming and television in general so great because unlike the cartoons that pollute television’s channel lineups today, it’s a cartoon that even today families can watch together. That’s thanks first and foremost to the show’s writing. The show’s writing is witty and clever. It’s taut enough that adults won’t feel like they’re being dumbed down. At the same time, it offers just enough comedy for even today’s younger viewers to find themselves laughing. The constant fights between Taz and Molly are something to which both adults and kids alike can relate, and thus at which adults and kids alike can laugh. And Taz’s constant adventures with his fellow characters are just as enjoyable. Viewers of every age will love watching Taz go diving for undersea treasure with Digeri Dingo, facing off against Francis X. Bushlad, and even taking on a part-time job in hopes of getting his own motorcycle. There’s even a heartfelt story telling how Taz first got his pet, Dog the turtle. If it doesn’t pull at a viewer’s heartstrings, nothing will. There is so much more that audiences will enjoy from this first half of Season One. This is just a taste of what kids and kids at heart can expect from this set.
The witty, clever writing of Taz-Mania makes it a great addition to any Looney Tunes fan’s library regardless of whether one is seeing it for the first time or for the first time again. It’s just one part of the show’s success. The animation style is another plus to this modern classic cartoon. So many of today’s “cartoons” are cartoons in the loosest sense possible; those that are at all. For the most part, most of today’s kids programming is dominated by CGI created shows and live action fodder for tweens and teens. Those rare hand-drawn cartoons that are left have been spit-shined. Taz-Mania is the exact opposite. Its more “rough” animation style is a throwback to the classic days of animation. It doesn’t have the finely defined borders and background designs of so many of today’s cartoons. It really serves to help Taz-Mania develop its own identity, even among other cartoons from its era. In its own right, one could even argue that Taz-Mania’s animation style is a direct throwback to the golden era of Looney Tunes. That makes this double-disc set even more worth watching regardless of one’s age.
The writing and animation in the first half of Taz-Mania’s debut season are both big factors in the show’s success. There is at least one more factor to consider in determining whether Warner Home Video’s people have succeeded with this latest release. That factor is the double-disc set’s packaging. The packaging is by and large, a success. It follows the same formula that has become the norm for multi-disc box sets. Both of the set’s discs are placed on their own spot inside the standard size DVD case. As with any other set packaged in this fashion, it protects the discs from scratching and in turn, increases their longevity. The discs themselves are the only real downside to the entire set. Anyone that has picked up any previously released sets from WHV this year will notice that the people at WHV have not put a whole lot of thought into appeal on the discs. Sure, there are designs on both discs. But both discs are splashed in a single, flat tone. It would have been nice to see a full color design rather than something that looks like someone took a paint brush and ran it right over a bunch of clear designs. This is a minor issue. But it still plays a part in the overall picture. This might be as simple as a cost-cutting measure. If so, it’s understandable. Otherwise, this is something that the people at WHV will hopefully fix with any of its upcoming release. The double-disc set is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the WB shop at http://www.wbshop.com/product/tazmania+taz+on+the+loose+season+1+part+1+1000303587.do?sortby=bestSellers&from=Search.