Life Lessons, Pop Culture Tribute Make Arthur’s Fountain Abbey Another Enjoyable Collection Of Arthur Episodes

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS has brought audiences some of the greatest series on television over the course of its roughly four decades or so that it has been on air. Series the likes of Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood, Antiques Roadshow, Nature, and NOVA have proven time and again over the decades why PBS remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming. British imports such as Inspector Lewis, Endeavour, and Mr. Selfridge have served to solidify that reputation even more. Each of the noted programs has done its own part to solidify PBS’ place in television’s upper echelons. As important as they have proven to be to PBS’ success rate, one other series has proven perhaps even more important than any other in recent years as a cornerstone to PBS’ weekly schedule. The series in question is another British import that goes by the name of Downton Abbey. It has garnered itself numerous awards over the course of its now four years and five seasons on the air. It was also recently renewed for a sixth season, which will likely debut in the U.K. later this year. What’s more it has even been spoofed by PBS’ long-running series Sesame Street with a sketch titled “Upside Downton Abbey.” Much like with NBC’s Saturday Night Live audiences know that when Sesame Street spoofs a pop culture phenomenon, it has really made it big here in the United States. It may sound odd to some. But it is true. The same applies to another of PBS’ family and fan favorite series, Arthur. Fittingly, PBS and PBS Kids will release a brand new collection of episodes later this month (January 27th to be exact) that features its own tribute to Downton Abbey. It will do so in the upcoming release Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. This episode alone is makes the upcoming collection well worth the watch by viewers of any age. Of course the trio of episodes that accompany “Fountain Abbey” make it worth the watch, too. That is thanks in large part to their writing. And for those audiences that perhaps are purchasing an Arthur DVD for the first time ever, the bonus material included on this disc is exactly the same as that included on previous Arthur DVDs. Each of the three elements noted here plays its own important part in the success of Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. Taken collectively into consideration, they make Arthur: Fountain Abbey a great watch for the whole family.

PBS Kids’ upcoming release of Arthur’s Fountain Abbey is a great watch for the whole family. The four-episode DVD is anchored by a tribute to what has become one of PBS’ most surprising series in Downton Abbey. “Fountain Abbey” focuses on one Muffy Crosswire. Muffy makes a surprising discovery about her family’s ancestry in this episode when she discovers that everything she knew about her family’s history isn’t exactly as it seems. The end result is that Muffy learns to better appreciate her family’s roots. Anyone that is familiar with Downton Abbey will appreciate the Arthur’s writers stayed as true as possible to Downton Abbey as possible in writing this episode. From the social stratification that separated those within Highclaire Castle to the castle’s very look inside and out, this episode’s writers made sure to pay proper respect to Downton Abbey and its fans. Not only that but that it stayed so true to its source material makes for wonderful marketing for that series as it is currently airing its fifth season here in the United States. It’s not the first time that those behind Arthur have paid tribute to pop culture. There have also been references to the likes of Batman, Dr. Katz (yes, Dr. Katz), Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Peanuts, and so many others throughout the series’ years on television. Being that it’s not the first time that the series has paid tribute to a pop culture hit, this latest is just one more notch in the series’ proverbial belt showing why Arthur remains today one of the absolute best series on television for the whole family.

Arthur’s full-on tribute to Downton Abbey on this disc is not the first time that the series has ever paid tribute to pop culture. And while it isn’t the first time it’s done so, it is the first time that it has taken on a show that has proven such a surprising hit among American audiences. The end result of that tribute is a presentation that pays full respect to both Downton Abbey and its fans. There is no denying its importance to the overall presentation on the series’ latest upcoming DVD compilation. It isn’t the only episode featured on the DVD, though. Also included on the disc are the episodes “Arthur Calls It,” “Whip. Mix. Blend.,” and “Staycation.” All three episodes provide their own importance and enjoyment to the whole that is Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. Each episode presents its own importance to the whole presentation thanks primarily to its writing. The first of the trio—“Arthur Calls It”—teaches a valuable lesson about acting on what one believes is right in life. The lesson is taught when Arthur’s friends force him to make a call on whether his best friend Buster was called out in a baseball game. If he calls Buster out, it could ruin his friendship with Buster. But if he calls Buster safe, it could put in jeopardy his friendship with his friends on the other side of the call. In essence, it teaches young viewers about the difficulties that come with doing what they personally believe is right, even with the potential consequences of said decisions. It is definitely its own important episode. Considering the story’s outcome, one could even argue that there’s a hint of the message that sometimes doing the right thing means doing nothing at all and letting others work out their disputes on their own. Again, more proof of the episode’s importance to the whole presentation. It makes for a great start to any discussion between parents and their children or even between teachers and students about ethics and doing the right thing.

Considering the lesson taught in “Arthur Calls It,” this episode proves to be as important to the whole of Arthur’s Fountain Abbey as the DVD’s title episode. The lesson in question is a basic lesson that centers on the topic of ethics. It is the most basic lesson possible but is just as solid a starting point for that lesson. It’s just one of the important topics covered in “Fountain Abbey’s” companion episodes that make the DVD worth the watch. “Whip.Mix.Blend.” teaches its own important lesson as it tackles the subject of blended families. In this episode, Arthur’s friend Rattles has to come to terms with potentially becoming part of a blended family when his mother starts dating Archie Vanderloo. Not only does he have to face the potential of his mother having a romantic connection to Archie Vanderloo but having to be around his children, too. Blended families have become increasingly common at least in America in the twenty-first century. And even as common as they have become, the very thought of two families coming together to form a whole new family is still not emotionally and psychologically easy for those involved in said situations. This episode will help any young viewer dealing with such situation deal with the situation in question and understand it when they feel like they have no one to talk to about it. And many times, young people in this situation do feel alone. So this episode makes for a good way to help young people cope with potentially having a whole new family when they otherwise might not have been able to. It’s just as much a good starting point for parents to talk to their children about the changes that come with becoming a blended family. Because it is just as valuable for children as for adults, it proves once again to be another reason that any family will want to add this DVD to their home DVD library when it is released later this month.

Both “Whip.Mix.Blend.” and “Arthur Calls It” present their own importance to the overall presentation that is Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. The lessons that are taught through both of those episodes are just as important for families as that taught in “Fountain Abbey.” The same can be said of the DVD’s closing episode “Staycation.” It is through this episode that Arthur teaches young viewers one of the most important lessons of all of those taught in the disc’s included episodes. It teaches young viewers about taking on too much and about responsibility. The lesson is taught when Arthur offers to babysit for his parents so that they can take a “staycation” in their own backyard. Taking on too much responsibility very rarely ever ends well. And Arthur learns this for himself when he tries to handle his little sister on his own. This is one of those lessons from which viewers of all ages can benefit as even adults have a tendency from time to time to try to take on too much responsibility. To that end, it serves as a good reminder for audiences about knowing their limits. In turn, it proves one more positive part of the whole that is Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. It sill is not all worth noting about the DVD either. The bonus material included with the DVD is the same as that included on previous Arthur compilations. It is a bonus primarily for those that are perhaps just beginning to build their collections of Arthur DVDs. It is the last element of this DVD worth noting. And when set alongside the collection’s episodes, it proves Arthur: Fountain Abbey an early pick for this year’s list of best new DVDs and Blu-rays for children and families.

The episodes that make up Arthur’s Fountain Abbey are on their own plenty of reason for families to add this new DVD to their home collection regardless of the number of Arthur compilations that they already have in said collections. That is not to take away anything from the activities and coloring pages included with the DVD as bonus material. The bonus material in question is the same as that included on previous Arthur DVDs. So those that might be at the beginning of their Arthur DVD collections will appreciate the inclusion of said coloring pages and activities. Parents and teachers alike will appreciate the self-confidence building “Definition of Cool” in which children have to tell things that make others “cool.” There is also a trading card game and even a board game of sorts for younger viewers. All of the activities and coloring pages can be printed out and saved. All audiences need is Adobe Reader in order to access each one. That’s the only catch to the whole thing. Most computers already have Adobe Reader installed on them, though. So it isn’t that much of a catch. Keeping that in mind, it is the last piece of the whole of Arthur: Fountain Abbey that makes the DVD so enjoyable. Together with the DVD’s included episodes, it rounds out the package in whole, proving once and for all why Arthur: Fountain Abbey is another welcome addition to the collection of any educator or family.

Whether it be for the episodes with their in-depth life lessons or the bonus material included on the DVD, Arthur: Fountain Abbey proves in the end to be another welcome addition to the collection of any educator or family. It will be available Tuesday, January 27th and will retail for MSRP of $6.99. It can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=49575116&cp=&kw=arthur+fountain+abbey&origkw=Arthur+Fountain+Abbey&sr=1. More episodes of Arthur and games are available online at http://www.pbskid.org/arthur. Viewers can get more information on this special episode of Arthur and all of the latest news on the series both there and through its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Kids Will Love Going Back To School With Arthur

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids recently released its latest collection of episodes from the family favorite animated series Arthur. Arthur Goes Back To School is an especially fitting addition to any family’s home DVD library now that many children are themselves headed back to school this week. Arthur Goes Back To School boasts plenty of positives. The first of those positives is its writing. The writing behind each of the four episodes is the cornerstone of the overall presentation. The quality animation is another factor to consider in the overall enjoyment of this presentation. Last but not least of all is the bonus material included with this collection of episodes. Each of the factors noted here stand by themselves with their own importance. Altogether, they make Arthur Goes Back To School one more wonderful addition to any family’s home DVD library whether at the start of the school year or any other time of the year.

The writing that went into each of the four episodes featured in Arthur Goes Back To School is the cornerstone of the DVD’s overall presentation. There are many reasons that this sole factor is the cornerstone to this DVD, too.   The primary reason for that is the themes incorporated into each of the episodes. “To Eat Or Not To Eat,” the first of the DVD’s episodes, presents a theme of healthy eating. When a new candy bar catches the attention of all the kids in Elwood City, Buster becomes wary of the candy bar because of its effects. His investigation leads him all the way to the head of the company responsible for making the candy bar. That is because of the chemicals he finds in the candy bar. When he and his mother confront the company’s head representative, Buster’s mother breaks the story in the city’s newspaper. This effectively shuts down the company. In an age when childhood obesity remains such a hot button topic, such an episode becomes increasingly important for children and their parents to watch together. That’s because it could serve as a starting point for a very important discussion about healthy eating. It’s just one of the important themes included in Arthur Goes Back To School.

Being that so many youths are headed back to school this week, the show’s writers tackle the stresses of standardized testing in a way to which the show’s young audiences will be able to relate in “S.W.E.A.T.” The writers also take on the much maligned subject of math education in “Brain’s Biggest Blunder.” Brain has a big chore in getting Binky ready for the school’s annual “Arithmattack” competition in this episode. The writers make the episode relatable to young viewers by showing that math isn’t as bad as they think here. There’s even a nice stand-alone episode in “Baseball Blues” that has come along just in time for the countdown to the MLB postseason. Not only does it promote baseball and athletics, it also teaches young viewers that everybody has a special talent. Even if someone isn’t good at one thing doesn’t mean that a person isn’t good at something else.

On a superficial level, Arthur’s writers are to be commended for crafting four episodes to which young viewers will definitely be able to relate given that so many children are now headed back to school this week. On another, deeper level, anyone familiar with Arthur will appreciate that the writers have actually maintained a certain amount of continuity with the inclusion of Harry Mills in “Baseball Blues.” Harry is a former romantic interest of Buster’s mom, as Buster’s parents are divorced. There’s even a reference to the initial episode in which Harry was introduced here. It’s so subtle. But older audiences will potentially catch this. And those that do catch it will appreciate that inclusion.

The writing that went into each of the episodes on this DVD is the most important factor of all in the overall presentation of Arthur Goes Back To School. Whether it be for its more superficial aspect or the deeper issue of continuity, it should be clear by now why the writing in these episodes is the cornerstone of the entire presentation. Just as important to the DVD’s overall presentation is the animation used in each of the episodes. The episodes included on this disc have been pulled from Arthur’s more recent seasons. That means that the animation used in each episode is actually flash animation instead of the hand-drawn animation used in the series’ early seasons. Despite the use of flash animation, the episodes still maintain the look of the original fully hand-drawn episodes. There are those that have complained about the series’ increased use of flash animation. The reality though, is that it would have been just as easy for the show’s heads to go the full-on CG route. This critic personally is thankful that that didn’t happen. Audiences should be thankful that these episodes still have that classic look. That the show’s animators and heads would go this direction couples with the solid writing to make Arthur Goes Back To School all the more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The writing and animation that went into the episodes included in Arthur Goes Back To School. Are both important elements to the overall presentation on this DVD. The activities and coloring pages included with the DVD round out the whole thing. One of the key activities included on the DVD is the “Definition of Cool” activity. This activity is directly related to the stand-alone episode “Baseball Blues.” Adults can use this activity to build self-esteem among young viewers. They do so by having children come up with a list of talents and attributes that they think are “cool.” After they come up with their lists, children can talk about why they think that the attributes and talents of other children in a group are cool, instead of their own. It is a wonderful activity for children especially with the current climate of bullying in schools today. The standard “Crazy Bus” activity is included here, as on previous Arthur DVDs as are the trading card and “Groove It” activities. If these activities aren’t enough for viewers, the coloring pages featuring Arthur and his friends will also make audiences happy. Whether audiences prefer the included coloring pages or the activities on this DVD, there is plenty of bonus material included on the disc to make any viewer happy here.

The bonus material included on Arthur Goes Back To School is the final touch to a DVD that every family will appreciate both now in the start of a new school year and any time of the year. Together with the writing and animation featured in all four episodes included on this disc, it makes this DVD a solid choice for any fan of Arthur whether they be kids or kids at heart. Arthur Goes Back To School is available now on DVD. It can be ordered directly from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=41615676&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+goes+back+to+school&origkw=Arthur+Goes+Back+to+School&parentPage=search. More information on Arthur is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSARthur. More episodes of Arthur are available online at http://www.pbskids.com/arthur along with more activities and games for the whole family. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Arthur Makes A Movie Another Great Addition To Any Family’s DVD Library

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS

PBS Kids released the latest compilation DVD from its family favorite series Arthur May 13th. The DVD in question, Arthur Makes A Movie, is another wonderful collection of episodes for the whole family. It boasts four more shorts taken from the long-running PBS Kids series that viewers of any age will love to watch again and again. The four total shorts included on this disc are only a collective part of what makes this DVD well worth adding to any family’s home DVD library. The stories written for each of the episodes make for another reason that families will enjoy this latest compilation. And the bonus coloring pages round out the whole package, making it all the more worth adding to any family’s home DVD library.

Arthur Makes A Movie boasts four more fun-filled episodes from the long-running series. At roughly fifteen minutes or so each, that brings the total run time of the DVD to around an hour. That’s an hour of good, whole some programming. There’s so much material out there on the likes of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and the Disney networks that is aimed specifically at one key audience and separates families as a result. So it’s nice to have these episodes available on DVD for those families with younger children to enjoy together. It’s especially good for those families that aren’t perhaps able to catch Arthur when it airs on their specific PBS or PBS Kids affiliate. It allows said families to watch this latest group of episodes at their convenience. And together with PBS Kids’ previously released Arthur DVDs this one makes for even more family friendly entertainment whether waiting for the school bus, relaxing after school or on the weekends. It’s just the start of what makes this DVD well worth adding to a family’s home DVD library.

The episodes included in Arthur’s new DVD are themselves a positive simply in that they give viewers of all ages the chance to watch four more episodes of the family favorite animated series any time they want. The stories written for each of the four episodes make the DVD even more valuable. A prime example of why they do so lies in the episode titled, “Agent of Change.” In this episode, the series’ writers tackle gender inequality in the movie industry. Not too many years ago, this topic was broached when writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow brought audiences the modern war drama The Hurt Locker. The movie went on to garner its share of awards, beating out movies written and helmed by some of Hollywood’s biggest male names. The manner in which Arthur’s writers tackled the subject makes it easily accessible and understandable for young viewers without being preachy. On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, the DVD’s title episode shows that one doesn’t need to be grown up and have a mega-million dollar budget to make a movie. Viewers learn that even in making their own movie, the same creative differences that arise in big budget pictures can and do come up in independently made works. The commentary is there. But it’s more a life lesson through commentary than straight commentary.

Both “Agent of Change” and “Arthur Makes A Movie” are great examples of how the writing behind the episodes on this disc make it all the more worth purchasing. “D.W. Unties The Knot” and “Go To Your Room, D.W.” are less in line with the general theme of this DVD. But that isn’t to say that their writing is any less than those of the disc’s main two episodes. As a matter of fact, audiences will laugh and even be moved watching D.W.’s innocence as she tries to set up a wedding, thinking it’s something that everybody does due to seeing a wedding on television. Odds are there are plenty of parents out there that can relate to this situation at least in part. Just as many parents will be able to relate to having to send their child to his or her room in watching “Go To Your Room, D.W.” Whose child out there hasn’t reacted in a fashion similar to that of D.W.? Again, more proof of how the writing behind these episodes makes this DVD all the more enjoyable for viewers.

The episodes and the writing behind them are of equal importance to the overall success of Arthur Makes A Movie. There is one more factor in examining this DVD that parents and children alike will appreciate. That final factor is the collective bonus material included on the disc. Families are offered lots of activities through this DVD. One of the bonus features, “Definition of Cool,” helps build self confidence in children as well as friendships between them. And then there’s the fun matching game, “Crazy Bus” in which children have to build matches in sets of cards in order to fill their bus. The first person to fill their bus yells Bus-a-looey and wins! There’s also a dance activity that will get children up and moving called “Groove It.” The activity comes complete with printable cards that teach different dance moves that can be mixed together to make original dance moves. And for those that are real fans of Arthur, there are printable trading cards featuring children’s favorite Arthur characters and a little bit of information about each one. These bonus activities and printouts perfectly round out Arthur’s latest DVD compilation. They are the proverbial cherry on top of this video sundae of sorts. Together with the episodes themselves and the stories written for each episode, it all comes together to make Arthur Makes A Movie one more wonderful addition to any family’s home DVD library.

Arthur Makes A Movie is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34129306&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+makes+a+movie&origkw=Arthur+Makes+A+Movie&parentPage=search. More information on Arthur is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur and http://www.pbskids.org/arthur. Parents and kids can also check out more episodes of Arthur, play games and get more ideas for activities online at http://www.pbskids.org/arthur. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Kids Announces Release Date, Info For Latest Arthur DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS

PBS Kids will release the latest Arthur DVD next month.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 13th. The DVD includes four more episodes of the family favorite series based on author Marc Brown’s beloved literary series. Those four episodes are: “Arthur Makes a Movie”, “Go To Your Room, D.W.”, “Agent of Change”, and “D.W. Unties The Knot.” The DVD will retail for an SRP of $9.99.

In the title episode of the new DVD, Arthur and his friends decide to make their very own movie since they’re not old enough to see a real “James Hound” movie. Muffy Crosswire takes the helm and taps Arthur to play the lead role in the kids’ movie. However, things don’t go exactly as planned when the kids try to put their plan in action.

“Go To Your Room D.W.” tackles a very familiar subject for audiences of all ages when four-year old D.W. is sent to her room by her parents. D.W. has to stay in her room for ten whole minutes! That’s a lot for a four-year old. And it’s just enough time for a four-year old to ruminate on his (or in this case her) difficult childhood, and plan a life away from home. D.W. finds out the reality of trying to run away when she tries to put her plan in action and the folly of her decision in this episode sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

“Agents of Change” is another episode that audiences of all ages will enjoy. It tackles the subject of gender inequality in the movie industry. After Francine and Muffy go to see a movie about a boy and his truck, they are left rather disenfranchised. So they set out to make their own movie that focuses on a strong female lead. They are joined by Molly, who helps to handle the movie’s artwork. With Molly on board, the trio set out to make their very own movie with interesting results.

Wedding season is just around the corner. So what better way to close out Arthur Makes A Movie than with an episode titled, “D.W. Unties The Knot?” In this episode, D.W. decides to get married after watching “The Wedding Channel.” There’s just one problem. D.W. being a child, she doesn’t fully graspt everything that goes into a wedding and what exactly a wedding is or what it represents. She ends up realizing she’s gotten herself in much deeper than she ever imagined. So she’s left to figure out how to get everything back to how it was.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be available Tuesday, May 13th. It can be pre-ordered now via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34129306&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+makes+a+movie&origkw=Arthur+Makes+A+Movie&parentPage=search. More information on this and other Arthur DVDs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur and http://www.pbskids.org/arthur. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com

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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