Shout! Factory Kids’ New ‘LPS’ DVD Is A “Star” In Itself

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids

Shout! Factory Kids’ latest entry in its ongoing series of Littlest Pet Shop DVD, Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars is a star in itself among the bigger picture of the series’ current collections.  The DVD, released Feb. 14, is yet another enjoyable collection of episodes for the whole family.  That is due in part to the collection’s featured episodes and their sequencing.  That will be discussed shortly.  The episodes’ writing is just as important to note in examining this collection if not more than the episodes themselves. While it is a minute detail here, the series’ animation can actually be noted in the case of at least one of the collection’s episodes.  Each element plays its own important part to the collection’s overall presentation.  All things considered, this collection proves in the end to indeed be another enjoyable addition to the series’ current list of entries and another one of this year’s top new children’s DVDs.

Shout! Factory Kids’ latest Littlest Pet Shop DVD Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars is yet another enjoyable addition to the series’ current list of home releases.  It is also an easy, early pick for any critic’s list of the year’s top new children’s DVDs.  That is due in part to the episodes that are featured on the DVD.  As with the series’ previous DVD releases, this collection features five more episodes from the family friendly animated series.  The episodes featured in this collection take families through the series’ second and third season.  What truly stands out here is that the episodes are presented in relative chronological order from start to finish.  This includes both overall and within the seasons themselves.  ‘Heart of Parkness’ and ‘Standup Stinker’ are both lifted from Season Two while ‘The Secret Recipe,’ ‘A Night at the Pawza’ and ‘Sue Syndrome’ are all lifted from Season Three.  On the surface, this seems like an unimportant element to examine.  In the bigger picture though, presenting the episodes in almost the same order as they aired in their original television broadcast shows a dedication to properly transferring the episodes from television to DVD.  Simply put, it’s an aesthetic element, but an important one nonetheless.  To that end, it is still a highly important piece of the DVD’s overall presentation, and not the only important piece either.  The writing behind each episode is just as important to examine as the episodes themselves.

The episodes featured in Shout! Factory Kids’ latest LPS DVD collection are in themselves important to the DVD’s overall presentation.  That is because they are presented in relatively the same order as they were in their original broadcast.  This is not the first time that Shout! Factory Kids has taken such painstaking efforts to properly transfer the series’ episodes from television to DVD.  That being the case, it makes this element well worth noting.  Just as important to note in examining the collection’s overall presentation is the work of the show’s writers within each episode.  The writing is notable first because of the stories that are at the center of each episode.  The writing in the set’s opening episode “Heart of Parkness” shows that the episodes can and do entertain even when only one of the cast is a story’s focus.  In this case, Sunil is the focus as he is separated from his fellow pet pals and is forced to defend a group of “native” raccoons in the park from a King Cobra.  The setup for the story comes from the Biskit twins’ release of the exotic snake from their father’s pet store because of their own selfishness.  Considering the very real issue of people having (many times illegally) exotic pets and the dangers posed therein, suspension of disbelief here becomes relatively easy.

“Standup Stinker” is another key example of why the episodes’ writing is so important to note. The dual-pronged story line presented in “Standup Stinker” sees both Pepper and Minka following their own dreams, connecting both with plenty of humor along the way.  This touches on another element of the writing that is so important to note–its pop culture references.  True lovers of classic sci-fi flicks will enjoy the manner in which the writers spoofed so many classic sci-fi/alien flicks here as the pets try to make Minka believe she has become the first monkey on Mars right down to the poorly designed alien costumes.  On another note, there is also a joke made through a reference to eBay at the episode’s end that only parents will appreciate.  Speaking of jokes that only grown-ups will appreciate, the story at the center of “The Secret Recipe” is one that adults will enjoy just as much as their children if not more so.

The story at the center of “The Secret Recipe” sees Blythe’s friend Youngmee Song pitching her not so tasty pet treats on a show called Bear Cave, which is very similar to ABC’s hit series Shark Tank.  In the case of Bear Cave, the “hosts” are dressed in bear suits (yes, bear suits).  The full-on spoof of Shark Tank highlights the often times silliness despite attempts by its heads to make it come across as something serious.  That is shown through the “hosts’” reactions and their general personas as well as Youngmee’s pitch.  The scenario is set up through a class project in which Blythe, Youngmee and their classmates have to develop their own businesses.  Again, such a setup is believable as there are some schools (and teachers) who do use this teaching method in their classrooms in real life.  It’s just one more way in which the writing proves so important to the DVD’s overall presentation.  Together with so many other examples, it becomes clear why the writing is so important to the collection’s presentation.  It still is not the last element worth noting here.  The animation is, surprisingly, worth noting here, too.

The episodes that make up the body of LPS: Pet Stars and the writing within each episode is important alone and collectively to this collection’s presentation, as has been pointed out already.  While both elements are clearly important in their own right to the DVD’s presentation, they are only two of its most important elements.  The show’s animation is a minute detail to note here, but is in fact worth noting in this case.  That statement is supported partially in the design of the King Cobra in “Heart of Parkness.”  Rather than make the snake a full-on scary character, the show’s animators maintained a King Cobra’s look but also made the snake not look too scary or menacing.  By making sure the snake didn’t look too scary, the animators helped ensure even more engagement by the show’s younger audiences.  The work of the series’ animators also proves important in “Standup Stinker” as they designed a famous comedian as the host of a comedy competition show.  The animators took David Letterman’s tooth gap for the comedian’s design, crossed it with Conan O’Brien’s face and hair, and Jay Leno’s chin for quite the interesting hybrid figure.  Just as with so much of the writing, this design is something that only adults will appreciate.  On another note, the “hosts” of Bear Cave are an impressive likeness of the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank; so much so that the “sharks,” if they see these designs, would be moved to laugh at the similarities between themselves and the “bears.”  It’s just one more ways in which the animation proves so important to this collection of episodes.  When it is set alongside the episodes, their sequencing and the equally impressive writing within each episode, the whole of these elements shows fully why this collection is a star among this year’s current field of new children’s DVDs.

Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars is a star in itself among this year’s current crop of new children’s DVDs.  That is, as already has been explained, due to the episodes featured in this collection and their sequencing, the writing within the episodes and even the animation featured in the series.  Each element shows in its own way to be an important piece of the presentation’s whole.  All things considered, they make Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Stars another enjoyable experience for audiences of all ages and—once again—one of this year’s top new children’s DVDs.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.

More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Shout! Factory Kids is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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Audiences Will “Love” Dreamworks’ New Madagascar Special

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Dreamworks Animations’ Madagascar movies comprise one of the company’s most successful franchises.  It’s so successful in fact that it has even spawned a holiday special titled, Merry Madagascar.  Now the Madagascar gang is back again for yet another holiday special.  This time, love is in the air for the gang as Valentine’s Day nears.  Ironically enough King Julian (once again voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) gets his hands on a perfume called “Love Potion #9” that makes anyone that wears it irresistible.  When the “love potion” is used on Marty, it leads to an unintended effect, which ends up in Marty and the rest of Alex’s friends learning a very valuable lesson about friendship and love.  The moral lesson and the laughs together will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the special’s near half-hour run time.  To be exact, Madly Madagascar’s run time is closer to twenty-five minutes than thirty.  Though chances are if it is ever run on television, it will reach the half-hour mark thanks to commercials. 

The run-time aside, much of the reason for the enjoyment in this special comes from the special’s writing staff and the voice cast’s ability to interpret the script.  The entire cast from the previous Madagascar movies is back once more, with one more addition.  Phil LaMarr (Futurama) joins the cast as the voice of a wildlife official at a Safari camp who has to chase after the infamous penguins of Madagascar.  That’s right, even the penguins are back, creating their own mischief as the love bug has hit their leader, too.  The original voice actors behind the penguins have returned, too.  Keeping all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that interpreting the script for this special was so simple for the cast as it had to have been old hat for everybody. 

The cast’s interpretation of the writers’ script plays its own role (no pun intended) in the success of this latest special.  Audiences will also appreciate that the CG-based “animation” used in all of the previous Madagascar installments was used in this special, too.  That familiarity of sorts—as minor as it may be—will help make this new installment a welcome return for audiences of all ages.  The pop culture references to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Palmer, The Black Eyed Peas, and The Clovers also make for their own laughs.  All of this combined with the script writing and voice acting will make Madly Madagascar a Valentines special that the whole family will enjoy year after year.

The main feature included in this new DVD release is enjoyable enough for the whole family.  It’s only part of the overall enjoyment that families will get from this new release.  Just as enjoyable are the bonus shorts included with it.  Two bonus shorts are included on the disc.  The first of the pair is a touching Pixar style piece titled, “First Flight” in which a rather unhappy man learns the meaning of happiness when a baby bird falls from its nest and he ends up teaching the young avian how to fly.  It truly is a moving story as short as it is.  And it will leave both kids and adults smiling and shedding at least some tears of joy.  Being that the only dialogue here so to speak is the man and bird “talking” to each other through bird song, the music played a big role in the success of the story.  It came through in a big way, too.  It added so much emotion to the entire story.  It goes to prove that Pixar just might have some competition next awards season if Dreamworks continues to try its hand with more animated shorts.  And from the viewpoint of this critic, if this short is any indication, more shorts from Dreamworks would be welcome.

The second short of the pair is far less emotional.  Instead it’s on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s taken from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge movie franchise.  The short, titled, “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” is a laugh-a-minute short that follows Hammy and his friends in their discovery of a video camera.  Hammy’s friends use it to play a prank on Hammy.  The writing for this short harkens back to the days of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts with its physical comedy between Hammy and the Boomerang.  And as with the short’s companion Madagascar feature, the original voice actors from Over The Hedge have returned here adding to the hilarity.  Adding even more enjoyment to the short is a little musical number from pop star Ben Folds.  Folds performs a song titled, ‘Heist’ for the short’s end credits.  It’s not that long, obviously.  But it’s still a catchy little tune that will have viewers tapping their toes.  It might even be enough to get audiences interested in hearing more of his music.  His music combined with the equally enjoyable shorts and main feature from the Madagascar gang come together to make for a DVD that any audience will want to check out when it hits store shelves next Tuesday, January 29th.  It will also be available online.  It can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/madly-madagascar.html.

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Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse Come To Hulu & Hulu Plus

Martha Stewart is now on Hulu.  And she hasn’t come alone.  Stewart has brought friend and chef Emeril Lagasse with her as part of the deal between the Martha Stewart Network, Hulu and Hulu Plus.  Lagasse’s show, “Emeril’s Table” debuted yesterday online along with her shows, “From Martha’s Kitchen” and “DIY Crafts.”  Late night host Conan O’ Brien joined Stewart in the premiere episode of “DIY Crafts” while celebrity chef Mario Batali made a guest appearance on “From Martha’s Kitchen.”

“From Martha’s Kitchen”, “Emeril’s Table” and “DIY Crafts” are just a drop in the bucket with this new deal.  Thanks to this new deal, audiences will also get to check out special Martha Stewart seasonal programming.  This comes just in time for the holidays.  Hulu is also planning on adding even more content during the month of October and into the year’s end, giving audiences a prime location to get all the latest shows from the Martha Stewart Network.

Fans can check out the first batch of episodes from “Emeril’s Table”, “From Martha’s Kitchen” and “DIY Crafts” now via Hulu at http://www.hulu.com/emerils-table, http://www.hulu.com/from-marthas-kitchen, and http://www.hulu.com/diy-crafts

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