Nicktoon’s Latest DVD Release More “Wild” Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have kicked off the New Year in fine fashion.  The two companies already have a somewhat busy slate of releases set in this still very young year.  Next month sees the release of Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series.  Before that though, audiences of the fellow classic Nicktoon, The Wild Thornberrys finally get to see the final piece to the show’s second season.  The Wild Thornberrys: Season 2 Part 3 is available in stores and online now.  The Thornberrys’ “wild” globe hopping, adventures have only just begun with this last portion of Season 2, as there are still three more seasons left to be released.  This time out, viewers finally get to see Eliza’s “origin” story so to speak, as it is finally revealed how she got her secret powers.  Also Debbie inadvertently becomes mother to a baby Panda, only to find herself having become emotionally attached to it just like a real mother.  And also Nigel’s life is in Eliza’s hands after he is stung by a poisonous fish during a search for an Angler Fish. 

The adventures included in the final portion of The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 3 continue to show just how strong the writing was for this classic Nicktoon in its infancy.  As with so many other Nicktoons of its era, the episodes included in this double disc set continue to show just how much heart the show had (and still has today by comparison to other shows out there).  Each episode in its own way continued to highlight the importance of family while balancing that with the show’s educational and even ecological aspects.  Every episode included in this new set emphasizes educational aspects without even trying, by teaching about different animals of different regions of the world.  That’s even the case in the set’s “origin” episode, “Gift of Gab.”  It teaches not only geography but also biology. That lesson on biology is also echoed in the episode, “Black and White and Mom All Over.”  Eliza’s sister Debbie learns a lesson of how wild animals connect to the first thing they see when they’re young after a baby panda mistakes her for its mother.  That biology lesson is directly tied in to the show’s emphasis on another aspect that still makes it so enjoyable to this day.  That aspect is its emphasis on family.

The educational role of The Wild Thornberrys is only part of what continues to make this such a fan favorite to this day.  The show’s emphasis on family plays a role in its heart, too.  As already noted, one of the episodes that shows that emphasis is “Black and White and Mom All Over.”  That theme is also evident in “Bogged Down” in which it’s up to Eliza to save Nigel’s life.  As excited as she is to be out with her father, one little error on her part nearly costs him his life.  So Eliza has to put her squabbles with Debbie on the backburner in order to save her dad’s life.    And in “Gift of Gab”, the family aspect is offered when Eliza tells the story of how she and Darwin first met and he essentially became part of the Thornberry family. 

As much enjoyment as The Wild Thornberrys brings from its writing and its educational emphasis, the show’s animation also plays a role in its enjoyment.  In a time when it would seem that the very art of creating hand drawn art is dying, this latest installment of the classic Nicktoon serves as yet another reminder of how much better hand drawn art is in comparison to the CG crafted material that currently permeates television stations across the spectrum.  Just as with even older cartoons (on both television and in theaters), the animation of The Wild Thornberrys boasts a very specific style.  While the show itself was one more creation from Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo (who also created the ultimate Nicktoon, Rugrats), the animation of this show was entirely different from that of Rugrats and the other cartoons which were created by the pair.  The animation style really served as the most basic identifier of the cartoon.  There was a certain roughness and definition all at once about it.  Set against the likes of Rugrats, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Rocket Power, perhaps the closest that any of these comes to The Wild Thornberrys in terms of its animation style would be Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.  Though, even that similarity is slight at best.  That defining mark, added in to the equally impressive writing and work by a star cast of voice actors has made The Wild Thornberrys one of Nickelodeon’s elite Nicktoons.  And thanks to the latest of the show’s DVD releases, it still holds that title to this day.  The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 3 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216648.

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Shout! Factory, Nickelodeon “scare” up more fun with Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season 2

Nickelodeon was one of the best networks on television during the 1990’s.  The very mention of the network’s name instantly led to discussions of its famed “Nicktoons” programming.  And if ever there was a leading company among the 90’s Nicktoons, it was Klasky Csupo.  The team of Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo were responsible for what was arguably the most legendary of the Nicktoons in Rugrats.  That beloved cartoon ran from 1991 – 2004.  But it was just one of many shows created by the pair.  they were also responsible for fellow Nicktoons, The Wild Thornberrys, Rocket Power, As Told By Ginger, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

While Rocket Power, As Told By Ginger, and The Wild Thornberrys were relatively well received, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters received mixed reviews.  Chances are that’s because it wasn’t the happy, bright colored style cartoon that Klasky Csupo was known for in its other shows.  It could be argued that it appealed mainly to younger audiences in their goth phases.  But even this cartoon had its positives.  And its second season continued to prove that.  In Season Two, Krumm, Ickis, and Oblina learn about the dangers of spreading rumors and telling the truth.  There’s also a wonderful episode that argues how important monsters have been throughout human history.  Add in the classic animation style for which Klasky Csupo became known with its cartoons, and audiences get a great piece of nostalgia in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season 2.

Season Two opens with the episode, “Spontaneously Combustible.”  Young Ickis is having some stomach troubles.  He keeps breathing fire, and he doesn’t know why.  He goes to see the monster academy’s doctor to find out what’s wrong.  It turns out that other monsters have had the same problem, and that he simply has to give it about a week to let it pass.  Unbeknownst to him, Zimbo, the Gromble’s assistant (voiced by Tim Curry) is snooping around and hears the doctor tell Ickis about his problem.  Zimbo flies off and tells someone else, leading to rumors throughout the monster academy.  The Gromble catches wind of the rumors being spread around about Ickis.  So he uses class to reassure everyone that the rumors about Ickis are not true.  He tells the class that there have been some very important monsters who had Ickis’ problem.  After Ickis leaves, everybody feels bad and goes to look for him.  They do finally find him, and apologize for all the rumors, and ask him to forgive them.  He does, and all end up happy.  This one episode continues the tradition of Klasky Csupo’s Nicktoons having heart.  Sure, the show’s about monsters.  But it teaches young audiences about the dangers of spreading rumors, and the impact that spreading them can have.  It’s a wonderful way to kick off this two-disc set.

“Spontaneously Combustible” is a great way to start off Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season Two.  It’s just one of a handful of enjoyable episodes in this season.  Another of that handful of enjoyable episodes is in “Rosh ‘O Monster.”  Krumm, Oblina, and Ickis learn the importance of not telling tall tales in this episode.  The P.O.V. storyline is nothing new to television.  But there’s something about this style of episode that regardless of which show, always makes for great television.  And this episode is no exception to that rule.  When the trio scare an entire opera house of humans, they all want to tell the story.  They all try at the same time, leading the viewfinder to break.  So each one tells the story of what happened from their own vantage point, making themselves out to be the leader.  However, when the viewfinder is fixed, the reality of their scare is much different from what any of the trio has told.  The reality is that the scare was completely by accident.  While they had set out to scare the humans, the original plan was obviously quite different than how everything turned out.  As a result of this relevation, the Gromble punishes all three for their dishonesty.  It’s a lesson that viewers both young and old should take to heart.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters shows that it has heart in Season Two.  And it teaches life lessons.  But that isn’t all it shows.  It shows that it can also entertain while it teaches.  One of the episodes that best epitomizes that ability to entertain and teach is “History of The Monster World.”  Adults and kids alike will love this episode.  Much like Rosh O’ Monster, this episode isn’t the first of its kind.  But it’s always so funny to see history from a totally random and silly vantage point.  In this episode, the Gromble decides to teach his students a lesson on the history of the monster world.  The students all grumble at this.  It’s the same kind of reaction that human students get when they’re told they have to learn history.  And the Gromble’s reaction is similar to that of human teachers.  That’s only part of the joy of this episode.  The real meat and potatoes comes as the Gromble teaches the young monsters about the many contributions of monsters to the human world.  According to monster history, if not for monsters scaring early neanderthal man, the wheel would have never been invented.  Monsters, according to the lesson, were also responsible for the very first message ever transmitted by phone.  And allegedly, if not for monsters, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never have developed one of the most famed quotes of all time.  The quote in question was, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  Who would have thought that a monster would really be to credit for the famed line?  It’s a great joke.  The entire episode offers such outlandish history that it’s one of the season’s best episodes.

The second season of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters boasts so much enjoyment from each episode.  But the episodes aren’t all that make the show such a joy.  The show’s animation is similar to other Klasky Csupo Nicktoons.  But it still stood on its own two feet stylistically speaking.  The animation style is closer to earlier Rugrats episodes than any other KC cartoon.  But it still manages to somehow establish its own identity, even with the similarity in style.  In an era when the majority of “cartoons” are cartoons in name only, seeing this classic hand drawn animation adds a whole extra level of enjoyment to what is already a classic cartoon in itself.  That enjoyment mixed with the enjoyment of the stories makes Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season Two one more wonderful piece of television nostalgia for fans of Nickelodeon’s classic 90’s Nicktoons.

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