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:










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Spock’s Beard’s Eleventh Album One Of Its Best Yet

Courtesy:  InsideOut MUsic

Courtesy: InsideOut MUsic

Spock’s Beard, as a band, has been through so much since the release of its debut record way back in 1995.  Since that time, the band has seen lineup changes.  It has also seen its albums released on a number of different record labels.  Through it all, the members of this prog-rock fan favorite have weathered every storm.  And it’s because the band’s members have kept going that the band has released in its new album, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, some of its best material to date.  The band’s new double-disc album evolving even more from its equally impressive fan-funded tenth album, fitting titled X.

A big part of the reason that the band has evolved sonically on this album is that the band played a little game of musical chairs so to speak.  Nick D’Virgilio, who had previously replaced Neal Morse on vocal duties, left the band after the release of X.  D’Virgilio had originally handled drumming duties for the band while Morse was still the band’s vocalist.  So having D’Virgilio out, the band was joined on this album by a new vocalist and new drummer.  This brought a whole new feel among the band, obviously.  That’s evident from the very beginning of the first disc in ‘Hiding Out.’  The song’s opening strains offer an interesting take on composer Edward Grieg’s ‘Morning’ from the Peer Gynt Suite before going into a full on old school rock vibe complete with guitar and keyboard solos.  This is the kind of song that will make even Dream Theater fans proud as the similarity between the two is there, musically speaking.  The song’s musical side is a good fit with its introspective lyrics, too.  New singer, Ted Leonard soars effortlessly through the song as he sings, “I need you now to come and find me/I’m hiding out in a den of thieves/Be sovereign now, don’t’ crucify me/I’m hiding out!”  In the same vein, he maintains control even in the song’s more intense moments, yet still has his own intensity.  It’s just the start of what’s to come on this standout album among the band’s current catalogue.

The album’s second track keeps the energy flowing with its obvious Rush influences.  Leonard again shows listeners that he was the right choice to take over for Nick D’Virgilio.  And new drummer Jimmy Keegan gets to exhibit his skills behind the kit.  His ability to handle some pretty touch polyrhythmic patterns is impressive to say the least.  Keeping in mind the Rush influence in this song, he definitely holds his own with Neil Peart here.  One could even argue that he shows he’s just as good as fellow prog heavyweight Mike Portnoy.  Lyrically speaking, it would be interesting to find out the story behind the song.  It sounds like a story about someone with quite the storied past.  Leonard sings of his subject, “I know the secret that you keep/I know the demon deep inside/I know the reason you can’t sleep/I know the past you’d like to hide/I know the monster you have made/I know the wars you don’t regret/I know the blood that stains the blade/You know I won’t let you forget.”  Suffice it to say with such lyrical content and such a powerful musical side, this song is certain to be a topic of discussion for fans.  Then again all of this album’s songs are sure to be topics of discussion for both their musical and lyrical side.  Another prime example of this is the closer on the first half of the album, ‘Waiting for Me.’

‘Waiting for Me’ is an epic twelve-minute plus opus that bridges the band’s gap between its past and its future while also incorporating some other influences at the same time.  The guitar and keyboard solos throughout the song’s mid-section will instantly conjure thoughts of Pink Floyd.  The song’s “A” section and “C” section expertly bookend that middle, making for a solid end to the first half of the album.  The song screams to be played live.  The manner in which it ultimately crescendos to its final seconds, is incredible.  One can listen to this song, eyes closed, and almost see a setup like that of Floyd performing The Wall live with this song to equal joy from audiences.  The second half of Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep picks up right where the first half of the album left off.  It has that certain heaviness exhibited throughout the first half of the album in ‘The Man You’re Afraid You Are.’  ‘Down a Burning Road’ exhibits more of that mix of the band’s past and present, musically speaking, while ‘Wish I were Here’ perhaps offers a glimpse of what is to come in the future for this band.  It’s another rather heavy piece that would make any prog-metal fan proud.  This is another one of those songs, judging by its lyrics, about which it would be interesting to learn the story considering it was written by Alan Morse.  On one hand, it could be a commentary, considering how Leonard sings about “Watching TV with Dave (perhaps Letterman?), eating Hot Pockets and drinking PBR.  Again, it is that ability to make audiences think and create discussions that makes this another high point to the album.  That ability to get audiences thinking and talking along with the song’s music makes it so impressive.

By the time that audiences get through ‘Wish I Were Here’ and the remix of Something Very Strange’ (which is strange yet interesting in its own right), they will realize that they have experienced something very special.  This is especially the case for long-time fans of Spock’s Beard.  They will realize that what they have experienced is an album that is one of the best works released by Spock’s Beard to date.  Fans don’t have to wait to check out these and all of the songs on this album.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the Spock’s Beard online store at  After ordering the new album, fans can keep up with the latest news and updates on the band’s tour online at,, and

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