No Surprise Here: ‘The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island” Is Another Relatively Enjoyable Addition to Shout! Factory’s “Boxcar Children” Cinematic Universe

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Legacy Classics

Shout! Factory and Legacy Classics are bringing the classic literary figures The Boxcar Children to Blu-ray and DVD in a brand new, Dove-approved adventure next week.  Set for release August 7, this second cinematic adaptation of the beloved children’s books is another mostly enjoyable offering from Shout! Studios and Legacy Classics Family Entertainment despite production values that again prove somewhat problematic to the movie’s presentation.  Those collective production values will be discussed a little later.  That’s because again, this production is not entirely negative.  It does boast a story that is certain to keep audiences of all ages engaged from start to end.  The bonus material included in the movie’s upcoming home release is another positive worth discussing.  It will be noted later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, and are certainly not the only items that could be discussed in examining the movie’s presentation.  One could also discuss the work of the movie’s voice cast, which includes at least two very well-known actors.  All things combined, The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island proves, unsurprisingly, to be an enjoyable new entry in Shout! Studios’ ongoing slate of stories from the beloved literary series.

The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, the latest entry in the ongoing Boxcar Children cinematic series from Shout! Studios and Legacy Classics Family Entertainment, is a mostly enjoyable addition to the series.  That is due in part to a relatively simple story that, through its simplicity, is easy for viewers of any age to follow.  This time out, the kids – Mike, Benny, Jessie and Violet – are staying on an island on which their grandfather James (voiced by veteran actor Martin Sheen – Apocalypse Now, Spawn, The West Wing) has a barn of sorts.  While they are exploring the island, the children – who are obviously orphans no more, considering that they have their grandfather – run into John Joseph (Dan Dehaan – Chronicle, The Place Beyond The Pines, The Amazing Spiderman 2).  John Joseph has been hired by Dr. Moore (J.K. Simmons – Spiderman 1 – 3, Whiplash, La La Land) to help take care of things on the island.  Early on, it is revealed that John Joseph has a secret, but it isn’t until later that said secret is ultimately revealed.  His secret won’t be given away, but it goes without saying that his secret is somewhat predictable.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it could help to continue the children’s story in the next Boxcar Children entry.  Obviously, the story has a happy ending, though one can’t help but wonder why exactly the kids were living alone on that island for the summer in the first place when they end up going back to their grandfather’s mansion in the end, which is only a boat ride away.  Story begets story, perhaps.  The obvious rebuttal there is that had they not gone to live on their own in the barn (which had no electricity), there would have been no story leading to John Joseph’s secret and revelation.  What’s more, the discovery of the Native American skeleton in the cave seems to be brushed aside.  That loose end would have been a nice side story.  Maybe it will be covered in another adventure.  Getting back on the subject at hand, even with those digressions in mind, the movie’s story is still simple enough that it will keep viewers of all ages engaged and entertained from start to end of its roughly 82-minute run time.  Of course while the story itself will keep viewers engaged, the movie’s production proves problematic in the bigger picture of the movie’s presentation.

Once again, audiences get in this movie, a presentation whose animation is on par with an old N64 video game.  In other words, while it does create a clear setting for the story, the overall look sadly leaves so much to be wanted.  If one were to compare this full-on CG animation to other CG movies currently available, the comparison to said movies would reveal an aesthetic item that makes the movie somewhat uncomfortable to watch.  In the same vein, the movie’s music, while a nice addition to the overall presentation, sometimes has a tendency to overpower the cast’s own presentations.  This happens not just once or twice, but at multiple points throughout the movie.  As minor as that may seem, it does play a big part in the movie’s presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s production, while interesting to learn about in the companion bonus features, does detract from the viewing experience.  It doesn’t make the movie unwatchable, but it does take away from the overall experience.  As much as it takes away from the movie’s presentation, the noted bonus features make up at least to a point.

The bonus material included in the movie’s presentation includes the standard behind-the-scenes featurette and some insightful pieces on the music, sound effects and sound mixing included as extras.  The behind-the-scenes featurette is highlighted by the discussions on and from the voice cast and creative heads, of course.  It also includes an interesting note from one of the movie’s creative heads about how someone close to Gertrud Chandler Warner, the author of the original Boxcar Children books directly played into the movie’s creation (and that of its predecessor).  It’s noted in this interview that there was insistence that the cinematic adaptations of the books stay true to their source material and that said insistence overpowered the thoughts of some very powerful figures.  While the movie’s animation may leave viewers wanting, at least viewers know that certain higher-ups who wanted to update the story didn’t get their way, and instead allowed the story’s adaptation here maintain the look and feel of the original story.  It’s a small victory for creative power, but a victory nonetheless.  What’s more, this discussion itself serves to show yet again the importance of bonus features to a movie.  This in itself creates its own appreciation for the movie, making up at least a little for the low quality of the movie’s animation.  It’s just one of the discussions that proves the value of the bonus features.  The discussion on the movie’s music and its creation is just as interesting as that of the discussion on the approach to the movie.  Audiences learn through this discussion that the movie’s soundtrack was created almost entirely through real instruments.  The introduction of said instruments might even be the first-ever for many audiences.  It was for this critic.  That aspect of the movie’s creation adds even more appreciation for its presentation as does the standalone discussion on the creation of the movie’s sound effects.  The discussion on the sound production and mixing is the only one that will leave viewers scratching their heads, again considering the problems with the final product.  Even with that in mind, the other noted bonus features do just enough to make up for that feature.  That’s because they show how much time and work went into making the movie aesthetically appealing.  To that end, that work – set alongside the movie’s story – does just enough to make the movie worth an occasional watch even with the movie’s production problems.

Shout! Studios’ and Legacy Classics Family Entertainment’s latest addition to the Boxcar Children cinematic universe is a relatively enjoyable offering for the whole family.  It does have its shortcomings thanks to some production problems that cannot be ignored, but its easily accessible story and its interesting bonus material do enough to make up for that problem.  In turn, they join to make The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island a movie that is unsurprisingly enjoyable for the whole family for an occasional watch.  It will be available next Tuesday, August 7 and can be pre-ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Shout! Factory Kids, Legacy Classics Partner To Release New Boxcar Children Adventure

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Legacy Classics

Shout! Factory and Legacy Classics are bringing the classic literary figures The Boxcar Children to Blu-ray and DVD in a brand new, Dove-approved adventure this summer.

The Boxcar ChildrenSurprise Island is scheduled to be released August 7 via Shout! Factory Kids.  The story, co-directed by Dan Chuba (The Boxcar Children) and Mark Dippe (SpawnGarfield Gets RealGarfield’s Pet Force), follows the young orphans as they spend the summer on their grandfather’s tiny, almost uninhabited island.  As it turns out, there is at least one other person living on the island, a mysterious figure named Joe.

Joe seems very friendly and helpful, but something about him doesn’t seem right.  So, the kids start trying to figure out if he’s hiding something.  The movie features the voice talents of J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 – 3WhiplashLa La Land), Martin Sheen (The DepartedApocalypse NowSpawn), Griffin Gluck (Just Go With ItWhy Him?, Just Before I Go), Dane Dehaan (ChronicleThe Place Beyond The PinesThe Amazing Spder Man 2), Joey King (The Kissing BoothWhite House DownThe Conjuring), Talitha Bateman (The 5th WaveAnnabelleCreation, Love, Simon) and Gil Birmingham (TwilightThe Twilight SagaBreaking Dawn Part 1, The Twilight SagaBreaking Dawn Part 2).

The Boxcar ChildrenSurprise Island can be pre-ordered online now direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Shout! Factory, GKids Partner To Release Updated Take Of Classic Brothers Grimm Story

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/GKids

Shout! Factory’s partnership with GKids is producing yet another home release for both companies this winter.

The Girl Without Hands is currently scheduled to be released Tuesday, Feb. 20 in stores and online.  The movie, based on the classic tale from the Brothers Grimm, will be available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It follows a young girl who is being chased by the devil yet is protected by the grace of God.

The story is not one that would be suitable for younger viewers, despite being released via GKids as it deal with the girl’s hands being cut off and being pursued by the devil, but rather for older audiences.  It does have a positive ending, though.

This take on the Grimms’ classic story debuted at the ACID section at the most recent Cannes film festival and was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Cesar Awards, a French film honors festival.  It won the Jury Prize at the Annecy International Animation Festival, which is a French festival celebrating animated films.  It features the voice talents of Anais Demoustier (ThereseThe Snows of KilimanjaroSweet Evil) and Jeremie Elkaim (Declaration of WarHand in HandMarguerite & Julien).

Along with its main feature, The Girl Without Hands will also feature a handful of bonuses including an interview with director Sebastien Laudenbach and some of his own short films.  It also features a “making of” featurette and a trailer for the movie.

The Girl Without Hands will retail for MSRP of $22.97 on DVD/BD combo pack and $16.97 on DVD, but can be pre-ordered now at a reduced cost of $18.97 (DVD/BD) and $13.97 (DVD) via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

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More information on this and other titles from GKids is available online now at:

 

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Public Media Distribution To Release New Adaptation Of Author’s Classic Book Next Month

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

PBS will take families on a special trip next month with its new DVD We’re Going On A Bear Hunt.

Based on author Michael Rosen’s book by the same name, the DVD will be released Feb. 13.  The story presented in the new DVD follows siblings Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby, and their dog Rufus as the group goes in search of bears. The journey is not without incident as the group has to go through snowstorms, mud and even dark forests in that search.

The 25-minute program features the voices of Olivia Coleman (BroadchurchThe Night ManagerHot Fuzz), Pam Ferris (MatildaCall The MidwifeHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and Mark Williams (Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceHarry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and will retail for $9.99.  It can be pre-ordered online now via PBS’ online store.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt has sold more than 11 million copies since its original publication in 1989.  It was illustrated by Helen Oxenbury and published in the UK by Walker Books.  Simon & Schuster published the book in the United States.

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PBS Distribution, Magic Light Pictures Partner To Release New Family Holiday Flick

Courtesy: Magic Light Pictures/PBS/PBS DIstribution

Courtesy: Magic Light Pictures/PBS/PBS DIstribution

PBS Distribution has a new DVD on the way just in time to get the whole family into the holiday spirit.

PBS Distribution announced this week that it will release the animated feature Stick Man next month in partnership with Magic Light Pictures. The presentation, from the makers of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, follows its title character as he makes his way through the seasons as he tries to make his way home to be with his family in time for Christmas.

Stick Man’s journey through the seasons is anything but easy. From being thrown into a river to having to escape a swan’s nest to even escaping a fire, Stick Man’s journey is wrought with peril.  There is even a visit by Santa himself (voiced by Hugh Bonneville—Downton Abbey, Notting Hill, The Monuments Men) along the way.  The story, based on author Julia Donaldson’s beloved children’s book, is narrated by Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous, Coraline, Shrek 2).

The story’s title character is voiced by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, Hot Fuzz). Rob Brydon (Cinderella, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) lends his talents to the presentation, too along with Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Paddington, Blue Jasmine), and Russell Tovey (Being Human, Grabbers, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) to bolster the presentation even more.

As an additional bonus for audiences, the story also comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette that presents the process of how Donaldson’s book was brought to life on the small screen. The 20-minute presentation tells that story through interviews with Donaldson as well as director Jeroen Jaspert, composer Rene Aubry, and others who worked on the adaptation.

Stick Man will be released on Tuesday, November 8 and will be available exclusively on DVD via PBS Distribution.  It will retail for MSRP of $12.99 and can be pre-ordered online now via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Mr. Holmes Is An Intriguing Portrayal Of Sherlock Holmes

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

On November 20th, 1886 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought to the world one of the greatest figures in literary history when he published his novel A Study in Scarlet. The book was the debut of none other than Sherlock Holmes. In the nearly one hundred and thirty years that have passed since that novel was first published, Holmes has become one of the greatest detectives in the realm of fictional crime and in the literary world in whole. Holmes’ many adventures have been published and republished countless times over that time. Just as many movies and even TV series have been spawned from Doyle’s “best man” so to speak. There has even been a number of new, original stories crafted by modern authors in the past fifty years or so that have been influenced by Holmes’ adventures. In 2015 Lionsgate Studios released a new Sherlock Holmes story unlike any out there. The story, Mr. Holmes, is based on one of those new, original literary tales that goes by the title of A Slight Trick of the Mind. The book was authored by Mitch Cullin. Despite being marketed as a suspense/thriller piece, it is in fact neither one. In reality it is more drama than anything else as its story reveals. That story is this movie’s central element. The work of veteran actor Ian McKellan is just as important as the movie’s story. Last but hardly least of note in this movie is its cinematography. The various shots of the British countryside in which McKellan’s Holmes resides are stunning to say the very least. Each element is in its own right important to the whole of Mr. Holmes. Altogether they make Mr. Holmes a story that any Sherlock Homes fan should see at least once both because of its differences from Doyle’s original Holmes stories and despite those differences.

When Lionsgate brought author Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of The Mind to the big screen last year in the form of Mr. Holmes it is safe to say that up to that point, few if any stories like it had been crafted about the world’s most famous detective. That central-most element of Mr. Holmes makes it worth the watch if not more. The movie was originally marketed as a thriller/suspense tale. But in reality it is neither. It is in fact a drama that follows Sherlock Holmes in the twilight of his life as he struggles to remember the events of his final case so as to put them to paper. That, essentially, is the movie’s plot. As audiences soon learn in watching the story unfold, McKellan’s Holmes is battling the growing effects of dementia as he tries to recall the events of the case in question. At the same time Holmes is also having flashbacks to a meeting with a man in Japan whose father the man claims met Holmes years before and left his family as a result. It doesn’t initially make any sense but does eventually tie back in to Holmes’ attempts to recall the events of that final case. At first the story jumps around with few clear transition points, forcing audiences to give the movie their full attention. And it does move slowly at first, too. But as the story unfolds it becomes somewhat easier to follow. And perhaps it could be argued that this was intentionally done so as to accent Holmes’ growing mental struggles. If that is the case then kudos to writer Jeffrey Hatcher for taking such an approach. Regardless it must be mentioned. Even with all of this in mind Mr. Holmes still proves to be a story that is worth at least one watch especially among true fans of Holmes’ many adventures. It is not the only reason that Mr. Holmes is worth a watch either. Lead star Ian McKellan’s work on camera is the movie’s real shining bright spot.

The story behind Mr. Holmes is unlike almost any story that has ever been crafted about Holmes since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Holmes to the world nearly one hundred and thirty years ago. It presents a story of a Holmes at his worst so to speak rather than his best as he battles the onset of dementia. It is a story that is worth at least one watch. While its separation from so many other Holmes stories makes it well worth at least one watch, lead actor Sir Ian McKellan’s work on camera makes the movie even more worth the watch. He fully embraces the portrayal from beginning to end, creating a character whose struggles make viewers’ hearts hurt for him. It is clear that this Holmes is so quickly slipping away and trying to pass on his love of deduction to a younger generation in his friendship with the young Roger (Milo Parker — Robot Overlords, Ghosthunters on Icy Trails, The Durrells). It would have been so easy for McKellan to go over the top with his portrayal. But being the consummate professional that he is, he avoids that trapping and in turn puts in an Oscar-worthy performance. Even with the Academy voters not giving that credit where it is due, audiences that watch his performance will agree that McKellan has once again put in an award-worthy performance here and single-handedly saved the movie.

Sir Ian McKellan’s portrayal of the aging Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes is the movie’s single brightest element. His performance is one that was just as deserving of an award as any of the others throughout his career. That is not to take anything away from the movie’s central story. As a matter of fact McKellan’s performance and the movie’s original story are both reasons in themselves for audiences to see this movie at least once. While both elements give audiences reason enough to watch this movie at least once, they are not the movie’s only notable elements. Its cinematography rounds out its presentation. Audiences will be blown away by the shots of the famed White Cliffs as McKellan and Parker go for a swim in the ocean. The shots of the British countryside where Holmes lives are just as powerful. This is especially to note considering just how few sets were actually used in the grand scheme of the movie. And the footage of the train traversing that countryside is especially powerful. Who cares that the engine and its cars might not have been exactly from 1947. That is beside the point. Watching the engine as it steamed along the countryside is still something that will leave any viewer in awe. There’s something about the contrast of its power against the calm, gentle countryside that just makes it stand out. It’s something that must be seen to be fully understood and appreciated. The same applies with the other noted shots and so many others. Considering this, the cinematography is one more saving grace for Mr. Holmes. together with McKellan’s expert work on camera and the intriguing new portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in this story, the movie in whole proves to be worth at least one watch.

Lionsgate’s new Sherlock Holmes story Mr. Holmes is a take on the world-famous detective that is definitely brave to say the very least. It isn’t just another Sherlock Holmes crime story. It is in its own right a tribute to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as audiences will note in watching the story. But even more so it is a story of the world-famous detective at his weakest. It shows a man whose mental greatness has all but fled him. He is a pale shadow of his former self. Yet even in the twilight of his life he still has just enough left in the tank to finish off his final case and correct at least one of the stories that he claimed Mr. Watson improperly recalled. That story in itself makes the movie worth at least one watch. The work of Sir Ian McKellan adds even more interest to the story. As a matter of fact his portrayal of the aging Holmes is the brightest of spots in this movie. It is just as award-worthy as his work in his other films. The movie’s cinematography is just as impressive as McKellan’s work. It really accents the emotion established by the story’s script. It rounds out the movie’s most notable elements. Together with McKellan’s work and that of scriptwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, all three elements combine to make this intriguing portrayal of Sherlock Holmes one that is worth at least one watch. It is available now in stores and online on DVD + Digital combo pack and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack.

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Peg + Cat’s New DVD Is Yet Another Great Treat For The Whole Family This Halloween

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

The countdown is officially on, everyone. September is finally in its final days. This Thursday, October will finally be here. And that means that it won’t be long before Halloween is finally here, too. And with it will be plenty of offerings for audiences of all ages to get into the festive mood. The problem is that it seems that most of those offerings are the same ones that are released every year. So what is a person to do in the search for something new? Well for those festive families out there, PBS Kids has an answer in the form of its latest collection of episodes from its math-based series Peg + Cat. Peg + Cat: A Totally Awesome Halloween is another fun new offering for any family this Halloween. That’s especially the case for those families looking for options for their kids’ Halloween parties. It only boasts four episodes. But even with those four episodes, there is plenty to like about it starting with the writing behind each episode. Obviously basic math skills lie at the heart of each episode. But there is far more to each episode’s script than just that such as the writers’ direct tribute to The Twilight Zone in “The Highlight Zone Problem” all the way down to the episode’s twist ending and the not so subtle pro-ecology lesson tied in to “The Parade Problem.” Those are just a couple of examples of how the writing behind each episode makes this collection a joy for every family. The work of the series’ cast is another positive to the set. Voice actors Hayley Faith Negrin and Dwayne Hill (Mean Girls, Jimmy 2 Shoes, Arthur) are just as enjoyable together in these episodes as ever. Last but hardly least worth noting of this set’s positives is its pairing of activities included inside the DVD’s case. While there are only two activities, both are great ways to keep kids and their parents busy together for quite a while. And to quote the one and only Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing. Yes, that bad joke was fully intended. Whether for those activities, for the work of the show’s voice cast, the work of the show’s writers or for all three elements together, viewers of all ages will agree in watching this collection, which is available now on DVD, that it is indeed another great fit for any family’s Halloween party this year and any year. It is also more proof as to why PBS Kids is the last bastion of truly worthwhile children’s programming on television today.

PBS Kids’s new collection of episodes from its math-centered series Peg + Cat is not the first of its kind to be released this year. Even with that being the case it is still its own great addition to any family’s Halloween party this year and any year. The central reason for its enjoyment is the work of the series’ writers. The basic math skills and their ability to reach the show’s target audience are all there as with every other one of the series’ episodes. That goes without saying. What really makes the writing in these episodes so enjoyable is that the writers have incorporated elements that will entertain viewers of all ages. That is made clear right in the collections’ lead episode “The Parade Problem.” This episode is aimed in general at younger viewers with its lessons about organizing things into groups and of recycling. “The Highlighter Zone on the other hand targets audiences of all ages. Younger viewers are targeted through the lesson teaching them about finding things that are different. Grown ups are targeted with the episode’s direct tribute to The Twilight Zone. The writers even pay tribute to series creator Rod Serling as they have Ramone (Thamela Mpumlwana–The Gabby Douglas Story, The Warrior and The Savior, Group Home) open the episode. The writers also go so far as to present the story in black and white (at least until Peg and Cat find things that are different, thus bringing everything back into full color) and tie in a double twist ending to the story. “The Bermuda Triangle” problem is another great example of how the writers target adults and children alike in these episodes. This episode sees Peg and her four-legged friend get caught in the Bermuda Triangle after trying to save Pig (Tommy Wazelle–Noah). Children will appreciate the basic geometry lesson taught as they try to escape. Adults will appreciate the presentation of one of so many theories about the infamous area of the Atlantic. There are those that believe there is actually something inside the Bermuda Triangle, including a whole other dimension of sorts. And that is somewhat presented here, just in its own original manner. In the case of this story, it is hypothesized–playfully–that the Bermuda Triangle is actually a solid, tangible thing and place. That in itself is worth its share of laughs. It is just another example of what makes the writing behind these episodes so great for the whole family. That is not to take away from the set’s fourth episode “The Halloween Problem.” This episode teaches its own equally important lessons about counting, organizing, and even sharing. Altogether, the writing presented in all four of this collection’s episodes shows in whole exactly why it is so important to the whole of the collection’s enjoyment. It is just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable for the whole family, too. The work of the show’s voice cast is just as noteworthy.

The work of the writers behind Peg + Cat is one of the big reasons that this family friendly math-centered series has proven time and again to be such a welcome addition to PBS Kids’ daily lineup. That is evident in all four of the episodes featured in the show’s new Halloween-themed collection A Totally Awesome Halloween. It is just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable. The work of the show’s voice cast is just as impressive as ever, too. Every one of the show’s young female viewers will love Hayley Faith Negrin once again as Peg. There s just something loveable about her that will put as much of a smile on parents’ faces as on those of their children. And Dwayne Hill proves once again to be just as entertaining as ever. Hill makes Cat such a comical character throughout each episode. From those moments in which Cat gets angry to his happier moments, Hill will leave audiences laughing together just as much as in the series’ other episodes. On another level, Thamela Mpumlwana is just as great taking the place of Rod Serling in The “Highlight Zone Problem.” It’s just one more example of how the work of the show’s voice cast adds to the collection’s enjoyment. Even with the enjoyment added to the episodes through the work of the show’s voice cast in each episode, there is still one more element to note to the set’s positive. That final element is the bonus material included inside the DVD’s case.

The work of both Peg + Cat’s writers and voice cast within each of the episodes in the series’ new Halloween-themed collection go a long way toward making it enjoyable for the whole family. While both elements together do plenty to make this collection so enjoyable for viewers of all ages, they are still not all that make it worth the watch. The bonus lessons included inside the DVD’s case round out the presentation. There are only two lessons. but both are Halloween-themed and are sure to have parents and children interacting together for quite a while. The first of the lessons uses pumpkin seeds to drive home those basic counting skills. It requires adults to cut open a pumpkin and get a little messy first and foremost. Of course they can encourage kids to get messy, too. From there, parents and kids can pull out the seeds inside the pumpkin. And kids can estimate just how many seeds they think are there after grouping the seeds. From there, kids can count for themselves just how many seeds were actually pulled from the pumpkin. The lesson is furthered with a push for author Margaret McNamara’s book How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? The second of the bonus lessons advances those sorting skills while also helping drive home the recycling lesson taught in “The Parade Problem.” It does so by showing parents and children how to make their own homemade recycling bins and sorting out anything that can be recycled. There is even a bonus within the bonus encouraging adults to take kids on a trip to a recycling center so that ids can learn even more about the recycling process and those that make the process happen. There is even a suggestion to find out about volunteering as a family at a recycling center. So not only is this a way to encourage recycling but a way for any family to do things together at the same time. It’s a win-win for all involved. And together with the lesson centered on sorting and counting pumpkin seeds, the two lessons together are the finishing touch on a set that every family will enjoy not just this Halloween but every Halloween.

PBS Kids’ new Peg + Cat DVD A Totally Awesome Halloween offers audiences of all ages so much to enjoy even with just four episodes and two bonus lessons. The writing will entertain grown ups just as much as it will their children within each episode. The voice cast’s work is just as entertaining here for viewers of all ages as it is in other episodes of the family favorite series. And the bonus lessons included inside the DVD’s case put the finishing touch on the presentation especially considering that they not only help drive home the episodes’ lessons but also encourage that all-too important family interaction once again. All three of the noted elements by themselves make this collection another great addition to any family’s Halloween party this and every year. Together, they show once again why this series is such a hit in general and why, again, PBS Kids is the last bastion of truly worthwhile children’s programming on television today. Peg + Cat: A Totally Awesome Halloween is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=66322766&cp=&sr=1&kw=peg++cat&origkw=Peg+%2B+Cat&parentPage=search. More information on this and other Peg + Cat collections is available online now along with lots of Peg + Cat games and activities at:

Website: http://pbskids.org/peg

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PegPlusCatTV

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