It’s hard to believe, but there is officially a little more than a week left in the almost old year. For most of the country, it means winter break is here and kids are out of school, getting excited over Christmas and relaxing. That means lots of parents out there are struggling to find ways to entertain their kids and maybe also keep their brains growing at the same time. Phil’s Picks’ final “best of” list for this year will hopefully help with those efforts.
The last of this year’s “best of” lists focuses on the year’s top new single-disc family friendly DVDs and Blu-rays. It features new releases for families from PBS, Shout! Factory, and Nickelodeon, as well as Turner Broadcasting/Cartoon Network, and even 20th Century Studios. It runs the gamut from the educational to the entertaining, too.
Without any further ado, here is the last of Phil’s Picks’ “best of” lists for 2021, this year’s Top 10 New Family DVDs/BDs.
PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVDs/BDs
Hero Elementary: Sparks’ Crew Animal Rescue
Wild Kratts: Cats and Dogs
Dinosaur Train: Adventure Island
Molly of Denali: Molly & The Great One
Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows
Victor & Valentino: Folk Art Foes
Ron’s Gone Wrong
Paw Patrol: The Movie
PBS Kids Christmas Collection
Thomas & Friends All Engines Go!: Time For Teamwork
Sesame Street: Things Elmo Likes
Sesame Street: Wonderful World of Friends
Baby Shark’s Big Show!
PBS Kids 15 Girl Power Adventures
That’s it for this year, folks. Again though, there are lots of new titles already announced and scheduled for 2022, so Phil’s Picks is already looking forward to next year for all the new family DVDs and BDs and so much other content. Stay tuned!
PBS Kids is doing its part to honor its female viewers with a new DVD. The DVD, 15 Girl Power Adventures, was released Sept. 7 through PBS Distribution. The episodes featured in this collection –15 in all as the DVD’s title notes – are the main strength for the presentation. While the episodes are important in their own right, the very fact that they are centered on just female audiences detracts notably from the DVD’s presentation. It will be discussed a little later. For those audiences willing to overlook this shortcoming, the DVD’s pricing proves to be its own positive. When it is considered along with the episodes featured herein, the DVD proves far from perfect, but still entertaining enough.
PBS Kids’ recently released compilation DVD, 15 Girl Power Adventures is an intriguing offering from the network. The DVD’s primary strength comes in its featured episodes. The episodes lift from the majority of PBS Kids’ series. There are some omissions, though (E.g. Odd Squad, Wild Kratts, Curious George, etc.) but by and large, the episodes pull from a respectable amount of the networks’ shows. Arthur is represented through the episode, “Muffy’s New Best Friend.” The story here finds Muffy and Francine learning a valuable lesson about friendship even when two people have differing opinions on things, and that those differences can actually help friendships grow. It is a familiar topic that will appeal not only to young females, but to audiences in general. This leads to the aforementioned discussion on the DVD’s one main shortcoming, which will be addressed shortly. Molly of Denali’s episode, “Stand Back Up” finds Molly learning a valuable lesson about pushing on through failings in any situation in life when she learns how to ski. Once again, here is a show that yes, is centered on a female character, but with a lesson that applies to girls and boys, men and women alike. Again, it leans toward the DVD’s noted concern. On yet another note, Let Go Luna!’s episode, “Aren’t We A Pair” centers on Carmen and her Egyptian friend Leyla and their search for their pets. The friendship element is there, but as with so many episodes of the family favorite series, the episode is more about promoting multiculturalism, which is wonderful in its own right. The thing is that the series focuses not just on a girl, but a group of friends (two boys and a girl, plus Luna, who is female). The story is a great way to teach and learn about culture in Egypt. Again, it will appeal just as much to boys as it will girls. It is one more way to show the importance of the DVD’s episodes to the disc’s presentation. That is done as it pulls from yet another of so many PBS Kids series. On the other hand it is yet another example of how problematic the DVD is in the bigger picture.
While the episodes featured in this disc make for plenty of appeal, the very fact that they will appeal to boys and girls alike as well as men and women alike, it makes the very presentation format extremely problematic. As noted, the stories and lessons that are presented in the majority of this DVD’s featured episodes will appeal to and connect with boys as well as girls. Add in that the fact that many of the shows from which the episodes are pulled are examples of PBS and PBS Kids’ long-running tradition of trying to normalize equality among genders, sexes, races, and ethnicities and it just makes the whole presentation seem like a knee-jerk reaction from someone or some people at PBS and PBS Kids. Given again, a show, such as Molly of Denali is centered on a young girl, but the stories and lessons involve her as well as her friends, who are male and female. Even a “newer” series, such as Elinor Wonders Why is centered not on just its titular character, but on her and her friends, who are male and female alike. Once again, the diversity is evident in the episodes and their lessons. That has been a trademark of PBS Kids shows for such a long time. It just leads one to wonder why someone would even take the time to try and release a collection of episodes that it claims are “Girl Power” adventures. The very approach is counter to everything for which PBS Kids has come to be known. It is really disconcerting. Even with the concern raised by the DVD’s very presentation, there is at least one more positive to examine, and that is its pricing.
The average price point for 15 Girl Power Adventures is $8.22. That price was obtained by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS. The DVD was not listed through Books-A-Million at the time of the DVD’s review. An average price point of less than $10 for a DVD that for the most part will appeal to boys just as much as girls and that pulls from so many of PBS Kids’ shows new and old alike is not bad at all. Adding to the appeal is that for the most part, the separate listings are below that price point, save for PBS’ own listing of $9.99 and (surprisingly) that of Walmart, at $12.37. Target actually has the least expensive listing this time out at only $4.99. Amazon and Barnes & Noble Booksellers each list the DVD at $6.99 while Best Buy is not the best buy at $7.99. So in looking at these prices, the overall pricing really is not bad. It will not break any viewer’s budget. So taking that into account with the DVD’s content, the whole makes for at least some appeal even despite the incongruous nature of the content with the DVD’s title. Keeping this in mind, the DVD is problematic. There is no denying this matter. At the same time, it is not a complete failure.
PBS Kids/PBS Distribution’s recently released DVD, 15 Girl Power Adventures is hardly the best presentation that the company and its home distribution arm have ever released. At the same time it is not the worst, either. The DVD succeeds largely because of its episodes and their stories. The episodes pull from a healthy cross section of PBS Kids’ shows. The stories and their lessons will connect to boys just as much as girls because despite the DVD’s title, they are not centered just on females and will relate not only to girls, either. This leads to the DVD’s one major shortcoming, its titling. The DVD’s title markets the presentation as being “girl power,” but as noted the episodes are largely a continued display of PBS Kids’ successful efforts to normalize equality among genders, sexes, races, and ethnicities without being preachy. Keeping that in mind, there really was no reason for any branch of PBS to present such a DVD since it has always treated males and females, blacks, whites, and otherwise equally. While this is clearly problematic, it is not enough to make the DVD a total failure. The DVD’s overall pricing proves positive, considering the amount of content presented therein. The pricing will, for the most part, not break any viewer’s budget. That selling point (no pun intended) along with the content is just enough to save the DVD. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD’s presentation. All things considered, they make the DVD problematic but not a total failure.
15 Girl Power Adventures is available now. More information on this and other titles from PBS Kids is available along with all of the network’s latest news at:
Fans of PBS Kids’ animated series Hero Elementary received some welcome news this week. Officials with the broadcasting company announced Wednesday, that the series will air new episodes during the week of March 29. If information researched is to be believed, the upcoming episodes are a continuation of the series’ debut season, which launched almost a year ago. While audiences wait for the premiere of the new episodes, they can enjoy a handful of already premiered episodes in the series’ first-ever DVD, Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! The DVD is a positive home entertainment debut for the series, thanks in part to its featured episodes. This item will be discussed shortly. The lessons that are featured in each episode are important in their own right to the whole of the DVD’s presentation, too. They will be discussed a little later. Keeping all of the noted content in mind, it makes the DVD’s average price point money well-spent. This will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD. All things considered, they make Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! a successful first home release from Hero Elementary.
Hero Elementary’s debut DVD, Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! is a positive first offering from what is one of PBS Kids’ newest programs. It is a presentation that will appeal to audiences of all ages. That is due in no small part to the single-disc presentation’s featured episodes. The collection is composed of approximately 10 episodes, all of which are featured in Hero Elementary’s debut season. The episodes are definitely not featured in chronological order, but that is okay. That is because all 10 episodes actually do follow the central theme of the DVD’s title. Given, not every episode necessarily deals with pets per se, but they do all focus on the central theme of animals. To that end, maybe the DVD’s title should have replaced the word “pet” with the more generic term “animal.” Regardless, that the episodes all follow one overarching theme in their stories is itself laudable.
Staying on the topic of the episodes’ stories, each story gives audiences something different. “Turtle Beach” for instance finds the kids cleaning up a local waterfront where a turtle has laid her eggs. This episode presents a pair of lessons that will be addressed a little later. On another hand, “The Feed for Speed” finds Sparks’ Crew’s “mascot” Fur Blur competing an animal competition with other “mascots” at the young superheroes’ school. It presents its own important lesson that will also be discussed later. “Bugging Out” takes on the familiar science fiction/superhero trope of the protagonist getting shrunken. In this case, it happens accidentally. Audiences will be left to find out for themselves how it happens and how the kids get out of their predicament. Between this episode, the others noted here and the others featured in the DVD, it should be clear by now why the episodes featured in this DVD are so important to its presentation. They form a solid foundation for the DVD in dual fashion. Enhancing that foundation are the lessons that each episode teaches.
The lessons that are taught in the featured episodes are not relegated to just the topic of animal care. “Turtle Beach” for instance presents an ecological lesson when Mr. Sparks’ students clean up the beach. It is not just to look out for the baby turtles who hatch at the story’s end, but to care for the planet. This is done in a non-preachy fashion, too, making it well-placed into the story. The lesson in “Feed For Speed” is one of the importance of proper pet care. Young viewers learn how important it is to make sure our furry, four-legged friends are properly fed and cared for. They learn through this episode, the importance of taking that responsibility seriously when Fur Blur struggles through the school’s animal superhero contest. It is yet another important lesson that bears repeating for any child wanting a pet. Children need to understand that it’s not all just fun and games. “What You Don’t See,” which comes late in the DVD’s presentation, teaches the all-too-familiar lesson about how animals use camouflage for survival. The lesson is learned as the kids have to save a wild horse. It is just one more way in which the various lessons featured in the DVD prove their importance to the collection’s presentation. When they and the rest of the featured lessons are considered along with the episodes and their stories, that depth and breadth of content leaves no doubt that audiences of all ages will remain engaged and entertained throughout this collection’s two-hour-plus run time. Now, keeping all of this in mind, that certainty means the DVD’s average price point is money well-spent.
The average price point of Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! is $8.39. That number was obtained by averaging listings at Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS’ online store. The DVD was not listed through Target and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting. What is interesting here is that save for PBS’ listing of $9.99, $7.99 was the most commonly occurring listing. It showed up at each of the other noted retailers. While PBS’ listing exceeds the average price point, it is still less than $20. The other listings are less than $10. Of course after shipping and handling numbers do go up slightly, but only slightly at best. To that end, whether viewers choose the less expensive listings or that of PBS’ the reality is that this DVD is not going to break anyone’s budget. What’s more, audiences will get more than two hours of engaging and entertaining when they purchase the relatively affordable DVD. Keeping all of this in mind, the whole of Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! proves itself to be a truly successful presentation and deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new family DVDs.
Hero Elementary: Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue is available now. More information on PBS Distribution’s new Hero Elementary DVD is available along with activities, printables, and more at:
PBS Kids’ new animated science-based series Hero Elementary is getting its first DVD release.
Hero Elementary: Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! is scheduled for release Feb. 9. The single-disc collection offers audiences more than two hours of entertainment.
One of the collection’s stories finds Sparks’ Crew working to reunite a newborn bird with its parents. Another of the stories featured in the collection finds the crew learning how animals use their tails to communicate with each other. Yet another episode features Sparks’ crew helping animals who are out of place around the city due to fog.
Hero Elementary: Sparks’ Crew Pet Rescue! will retail for MSRP of $9.99. Pre-orders are open.
More information on PBS Distribution’s new Hero Elementary DVD is available along with activities, printables, and more at: