Arthur Stands Up To Bullying Another Impressive Compilation Of Episodes From PBS Kids

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

Everyone’s favorite aardvark, Arthur Read, is back with another set of adventures for audiences of all ages.  PBS’ latest compilation of episodes from the hit children’s TV series is just as important for viewers as it is entertaining.  That’s because it is one more shot in the battle against bullying.  Arthur Stands up to Bullying includes four brand new episodes from the series.  Two of those episodes directly tackle the issue of bullying, while other pair offers its very own lessons that parents, teachers, and children will enjoy and appreciate.  Parents, teachers, and children will enjoy and appreciate each episode first and foremost because of each episode’s script.  The writing that has become standard for the Arthur series is continued here.  While the show’s animation is based more on flash animation than hand drawn animation, it is still more impressive than so many of the CG based shows that dominate commercially run networks.  It all works together to make this compilation one more that will be welcomed in the classroom and the living room.

Arthur Stands up to Bullying is anchored by a pair of important episodes centered on the ongoing problem of bullying that so plagues America’s youth population today.  Both episodes are important in that they examine bullying from two fronts.  The first of the episodes, “The Last Tough Customer”, tackles bullying head on.  It examines bullying from the angle of Molly, a member of the Tough Customers gang.  She knows that she is being a bully and that she always has been.  Through flashbacks, audiences learn how she became a bully. And because of something that he brother James does to someone else, it refreshes her own memory of how she became one, too.  This, in turn leads to an epiphany that leads her to apologize to everyone she has bullied.  She goes on to tell her friends they all need to stop being bullies, too.  This is an important lesson because it could make those that are bullies to perhaps give a second thought to their own actions and make their change.  In making a change, maybe those same individuals will take the time to tell others to stop bullying, too. 

The second of the episodes centered on bullying is taken from the polar opposite angle as that of “The Last Tough Customer.”  “So Funny I Forgot to Laugh” finds Arthur losing his friends because of his own bullying.  The catch here is that Arthur doesn’t even realize that he is being a bully at first.  He was making jokes about his friend Sue Ellen because of a sweater that she wore to school.  He made all kinds of mean comments about her for what she wore.  It led to a lot of hurt feelings all the way around, not just in her.  It’s a very well written secondary lesson about bullying.  It teaches audiences of all ages (yes, even adults do this) that it’s not right to bully someone just because of what they wear or simply for how they look in general.  This secondary storyline is wonderfully interwoven into the primary plot of Arthur not knowing he was being a bully.  Together, the two storylines make this episode as good as the prior episode, if not even better than that episode. 

The interactivity of the dual storylines in “So Funny I Forgot to Laugh” is just one example of the continued solid writing of the episodes in this latest compilation.  It’s a standard that was set from the show’s very first season years ago.  And it is a standard that has continued to this day.  The writing makes the episodes easy for young audiences to understand and appreciate.  There are also subtle jokes from Arthur’s parents and other adults that teachers and parents will enjoy and appreciate.  It all combines to make all four episodes entertaining for the whole family any time.

The writing behind each story’s script is as solid as it has been in the past.  That’s obvious in the episodes in this collection.  The show’s animation is just as good.  There are those that have lambasted the show and those behind the scenes for its animation.  That is because the show’s animation is now based more in flash animation than hand drawn animation.  But by comparison, the animation is still quite impressive.  So many commercial programs that call themselves cartoons are anything but.  They are CG-based shows that completely lack any originality.  Arthur, on the other hand, still at least maintains some sense of the hand-drawn animation for which it was originally known even in flash animation.  It’s one more aspect of the show and these episodes that makes them just as enjoyable as the show’s older episodes.

Parents and teachers can order this DVD on Tuesday, July 16th.  It can be ordered direct from the PBS store online at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20571566&cp=&kw=arthur+stands+up+to+bullying&origkw=Arthur+Stands+Up+To+Bullying&sr=1.  Parents, teachers, and children can watch “So Funny I Forgot To Laugh” and its companion episode, “The Best Day Ever” online now on the PBS Kids Go website at http://pbskids.org/arthur/video/index.html.  New episodes are always being uploaded to the website along with games for kids.  And to keep up with all of the latest news on Arthur and his friends, parents and kids can “Like” the official Arthur Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur

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Arthur’s Perfect Christmas Is A Perfect Family Feature

Courtesy: PBS

Halloween has officially come and gone for another year.  So with one of the holiday season’s biggest days in the rearview mirror, many families are going to begin looking forward to the next two big holidays.  Most may not realize it, but when it comes to holiday films, there are more Christmas themed features and films than there are for any other time of the year.  So the question is what is a family to watch as it gets into the Christmas spirit?  One suggestion is a feature from one of literature’s most beloved characters.  Who might that be?  Arthur Read.

PBS released Arthur’s Perfect Christmas to DVD early last month.  This near hour long animated feature is a perfect fit for any family during the holiday season.  The feature’s run time is one of the key factors to its success.  Its messages of religious diversity and the importance of family are just part of what makes it a fun and family friendly story for this time of year.  Being that it clocks in at just under an hour, this feature’s run time is perfect for younger viewers.  Had it been any longer, it might have begun to lose said viewers’ attention.  Tied in to that run time is the general storyline and animation.  The storyline follows not just Arthur’s hopes for a perfect Christmas but the holiday celebrations of his friends.  As she counts down to Hanukkah, Francine has to deal with her best friend Muffy’s lack of sensitivity towards her faith.  Muffy’s lack of understanding leads to an exchanging of words over the phone between the two.  George and his family celebrate Kwanzaa, and Binky struggles to get his holiday recipes just right.  Arthur’s best friend, Buster, also has his own issues with the holidays as his parents are divorced. So he has to decide if he wants to tell his mom how he really feels about her going over the top every year.

The interweaving storylines in Arthur’s Perfect Christmas will keep the attention of its viewers.  It does a very good job of mixing each story into the bigger picture.  The feature’s animation adds in to the feature’s ability to keep its audiences’ attention.  The bright colors and original hand drawn animation do their own part in making Arthur’s Perfect Christmas great for the entire family.  At a time when so many “animated” features are created via computers, it’s especially nice to see that hand drawn animation is still alive and well.      

The animation and stories come together to make Arthur’s Perfect Christmas an enjoyable holiday feature for the entire family every year.  But there is so much more to this feature that audiences might miss after just one watch.  For instance, the very fact that it promotes a variety of religions shows acceptance of each one.  There are those that would argue that this is little more than a not so hidden political agenda to some.  And maybe it is meant to teach tolerance.  Is that such a bad thing?  It’s especially interesting that the writers added the discussion on the mixing of Christian and Babylonian traditions to make today’s modern Christmas, instead of simply going with just one view of Christmas.  This is subtle, but very important to the overall story.

There is one more subtle moment that offers the chance for a very deep discussion between parents and children.  That moment comes when Arthur and his mom come home from the mall and his mom has to explain to D.W. about the potential of her not getting the doll that she wanted.  D.W. asks is it because she’s been bad?  And it has to be explained that that’s not the reason at all.  Far too often today, children are still taught that Santa keeps lists of naughty and nice kids.  So kids are taught that if they don’t get the toys they want, it’s because of their behavior.  It could easily be argued that this is an argument against that method.  To that point, one could argue that this is an argument against not only that method, but against our country’s culture of consumerism.  Especially considering the number of families that are financially struggling today, it’s a message that’s just as important today as when this special first aired. 

As one can see here, Arthur’s Perfect Christmas is far deeper than some audiences might offer it.  That depth, and the ability of the feature to send important messages without being preachy makes it a feature that audiences of all ages will enjoy watching every holiday season.  It can be ordered online now at PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org

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