Hero Quest Is A Family Friendly Flick Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/New Video

Courtesy: Cinedigm/New Video

On Tuesday, March 29th Cinedigm will release its new family friendly CG feature Hero Quest in stores and online.  The movie, which clocks in at just under the ninety-minute mark (and is Dove-approved) will be available exclusively on DVD.  The movie’s fantasy/coming-of-age story is hardly anything new to the literary or cinematic world.  But it does not detract from the story.  Co-writers Max Fadeev, Gegory Poirier (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride), and Alexander Krisyakov crafted a story—which is based on Fadeev’s book Savva: Heart of a Warrior—that will entertain the whole family.  The story contained within the movie’s script is the central reason for its success.  It gives its own take on the fantasy/coming-of-age plot used in a number of other similar movies.  The work of the movie’s all-star voice cast is to be noted, too.  While the cast is known for working much bigger pictures, its collective work here is just as professional as in those movies.  Last but hardly least of note is the movie’s CG-based animation.  It rounds out the movie’s presentation.  Each element is important in its own right to Hero Quest’s overall presentation.  Altogether they make Hero Quest a family friendly movie that is worth at least one watch.

Cinedigm’s new family friendly CG-based movie Hero Quest is hardly the first movie of its kind.  Its fantasy/coming-of-age story is one that has been churned out by any number of studios.  This includes Hollywood ’s “Big Six” studios (Disney, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount , and Universal) and the many independent studios out there.  Even with the general plot having been presented in previous movies from said studios, it does not detract (at least too much) from the story presented here. The story in question involves ten-year old Savva’s journey to find a magician who he is told will introduce him to a warrior that will help him free his village from a group of evil coyote-looking creatures. Interestingly enough one of the coyotes looks somewhat like Dennis Hopper in Waterworld. That is just this critic’s own take on its look. Getting back on the topic, the story comes across in an almost Wizard of Oz style format. That can be argued as Savva doesn’t face his journey alone. Along the way, he meets a shape-shifting white wolf, a Baron who has been cursed by a witch and his mosquito “companion”, a cowardly monkey/rabbit looking creature named Puffy—Savva even tries to figure out what exactly Puffy is at one point—and a Creole-speaking native princess that resembles one of the ancient indigenous people of Latin America. It’s quite the interesting group of misfits. And each member of the group is headed to see the magician for its own reason. Again, this is very much like The Wizard of Oz. And where that movie had Dorothy and company face off against an evil witch in route to meeting the wizard, Fadeev and Poirier’s story sees Savva and his friends facing off against a three-headed (yes, three-headed) monkey queen voiced by Whoopi Goldberg that doesn’t want the group to reach its goal. So again, the similarities are there. However, even with the similarities so clear, Hero Quest still stands on its own merits. Those merits include the story’s pacing and its ability to seamlessly tie its secondary story lines into its primary story among others. All things considered the general writing behind Hero Quest’s script proves in its own right to be an important part of the movie’s presentation. This is the case even with the movie’s similarities to The Wizard of Oz and other hybrid fantasy/coming-of-age stories. It’s not even covering the whole of the movie’s writing. There are other aspects such as the subtle Christian message presented in one single scene and the references to other movies within its genre. It is collectively just one part of what makes this indie family flick worth the watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as worth noting as the movie’s writing.

The writing behind Hero Quest is in itself an important part of the movie’s overall presentation. Even with the similarities to The Wizard of Oz and certain other family friendly flicks past and present, the script still stands on its own merits, making it worth at least one watch. As important as the script and its writing is to the movie’s presentation it is just one part of what makes the movie worth at least one watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as notable to its presentation as its writing. It should be known that the cast, which includes the likes of Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall, Basic Instinct), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Goodfellas), Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The View, Captain Planet and the Planeteers), Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Curious George), Milla Jovavich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil 1 – 6, Ultraviolet), and a number of others is just as important to the movie as its writing. It should be noted here that the cast is not the movie’s original voice cast. That is because the movie originally premiered overseas. This is just the movie’s American voice cast. That aside, the American voice cast deserves its due credit. For starters, Goldberg is spot on as the three-headed Mama Zho Zi. Her portrayal of the maniacal monkey is so entertaining because of just how she handled each head’s personality. Between one head’s airheaded personality, another’s vain personality, and the third’s more level-headed yet diabolical personality, Goldberg handled each one with the fullest expertise. Her ability to balance all three polar opposites is impressive to say the least. Never once does she go over the top in her portrayal. What’s more, the fact that she took over the role from another actor and did so as well as she did says even more of her work. She’s just one of the voice actors whose work should be noted here. Lead star Milla Jovavich is just as notable as the voice of Savva. Considering that Savva is only ten years old, it would have been easy to overplay his determination to reach the magician and his reactions to various situations presented to him throughout his journey. But Jovavich is just as impressive in how she handled the role. One example of her ability to handle the role comes as Angee’s (voiced by Will Chase—Nashville, Rescue Me, One Life To Live) real identity is revealed. It would have been so easy to overact in the moment, tears and all flowing as Savva finds out Angee’s secret. But Jovavich handled the moment quite well. She caught Savva’s shock and feeling of betrayal in the moment very well. In the same vein Savva’s eventual feeling toward Angee at the story’s end is just as impressive. Once again she doesn’t ham it up where she easily could have done so. But she gets the moment just right, thus making audiences feel for Savva and feel even happier for him at the outcome. It’s just another way in which the voice cast’s work proves to be so integral to the movie in its presentation to American audiences. Sharon Stone’s take on Puffy the monkey/rabbit hybrid is just as entertaining. Some might even dispute this but hers is a portrayal that stands out among her cast mates. Maybe it’s just because Puffy is for all intents and purposes the story’s comic relief. But even as that comic character, Stone generates her own share of laughs. One of her brightest moments comes as Puffy is mistaken for a god by Shaman Shi-Sha’s people. The rain dance that Puffy does to try to prove his/her (Puffys’ gender is never really revealed in the story) status will put a smile on any viewer’s face and more than just one laugh from every viewer’s lips. Puffy’s constant fainting spells at the first sign of danger are just as funny for viewers. That is because it doesn’t take long for them to become a running gag. The way in which Stone handled those moments is just as entertaining. Yet again it’s one more way in which the work of the movie’s American voice cast proves integral to the movie’s presentation. The rest of the cast can be cited just as easily for its work, too. Regardless of which cast member(s) is/are cited the result proves the same. Each member of the case proves equally entertaining in his or her own fashion. Their work and that of the script’s scribes strengthens the movie even more making for even more reason for families to see the movie at least once. Even with this in mind there is still one more important element to note of this movie. That final element is the movie’s CG-based “animation.”

The work of Hero Quest’s writers and that of its American voice cast collectively give the movie plenty of reason to watch the indie family flick at least once. That is because of the attention paid to each role by the actors and to the script on both a micro and macro scale. While both elements exhibit their own importance to Hero Quest’s overall presentation, they are not the movie’s only notable elements. The movie’s CG-based “animation” is just as important in its own right to the movie’s presentation. The “animation” in question gives the movie in whole the look of something lifted right from a video game. The catch is that it looks like something taken from a modern video game on the PS4, X-box or other system more so than an older PC-style game. In other words even as much as it looks more like a video game than anything churned out by say Pixar, Dreamworks, or other studios, looking like a modern video game could actually be considered a good thing. That is because to a certain extent it could be argued that thanks to having that look it establishes its own stylistic identity separate from the movies turned out by those other, more well-known studios. It also doesn’t look like something that was just tossed together in slapdash fashion. Believe it or not there are CG-based features out there that look that bad. And they don’t come just from indie studios, either. Keeping this in mind Hero Quest’s look may not stand out entirely. But in comparison to other CG-based features it plays its own part in the whole of the movie. Together with the work of the movie’s American voice cast and that of the movie’s writers all three elements come together to make Hero Quest an animated indie family flick that is worth at least one watch.

Indie movie studio Cinedigm’s new CG-based family flick Hero Quest is not the first movie of its kind to be turned out by movie studios at any level. Its fantasy/coming-of-age plot line has been used before in other movies at every level. And there is no denying its similarity to The Wizard of Oz when one closely examines its story line. Even considering all of this it still does not detract from the movie’s script. That is because of the changes made to the script to make it stand out at least somewhat from those movies. The work of the movie’s American voice cast serves as its anchor. Between the expertise of stars Milla Jovavich, Jim Cummings, and Sharon Stone (among others), the movie’s American voice cast will keep audiences of all ages entertained. The movie’s video game style animation plays into its presentation, too. It stands out from the CG-based stories turned out by Pixar and Dreamworks just as much as it stands out from the slapdash pieces released by other studios both big and small. It rounds out the ways in which Hero Quest stands out in this year’s field of family friendly fare. Together with the previously noted elements all three make this presentation one that is worth at least one watch. It will be available next Tuesday, March 29th. More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:



Website: http://www.newvideo.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/cinedigm



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Scholastic’s Latest Storybook Treasures Collection A Great Gift For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo

Scholastic’s new Christmas and Winter-themed collection of stories set to the small screen is another impressive set for the whole family.  Not only does it entertain audiences, but it also educates.  The collection is highlighted by a small screen adaptation of author Rob Scotton’s Merry Christmas, Splat.  This story is a fun piece that is actually much deeper than what some might see on the surface.  It’s just one reason that parents, students, and teachers will appreciate the set as a whole.  Viewers will discover in watching all four of the stories that each one has an important message for everybody.  That’s not the only reason that viewers will enjoy this latest set from Scholastic.  Viewers will also appreciate each story’s animation.  Each story boasts its own animation.  By direct connection, the set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette reveals a little known secret about at least one story’s animation.  And what DVD compilation from Scholastic would be complete without the standard Read-Along option?  Yet again that option has been included for all young audiences.  Together with everything else previously noted, it plays just as important a role in the success of the set.

The lessons taught through this collection are nothing new to Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collections.  That’s not to say that the lessons included her are old.  Rather, the inclusion of stories with valuable lessons is nothing new.  And that Scholastic has continued to include such content is a big reason that its Storybook Treasures collections have been so successful.  It’s a big reason for the success of this latest collection, too.  Viewers are taught through the set’s first story that one’s family will love them even if they haven’t been completely perfect.  In its own way, it also helps to dispel the time honored belief that Santa will only bring gifts if one has been good.  It’s a much better lesson to teach kids instead of telling them that they’ll only get gifs from Santa if they’re good.  That lesson is one that parents should not use on their children, especially in the country’s current economic state.

The lesson taught in Merry Christmas, Splat is just one of the valuable lessons taught in this set of stories.  There is also a lesson of appreciating the little things in life in two of the stories.  Those stories are: Owl Moon and Snowflake BentleyOwl Moon teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life as a young girl goes out into the forest with her father to see a Great Horned Owl.  The way in which the forest and the moon are both described shows how much reverence author Jaqueline Briggs Martin has for something as simple as the way that snow reflects the light of the moon.  It’s truly something beautiful to think about in seeing the illustrations of Mary Azarian.  Snowflake Bentley is made even more interesting in that it does more than just teach a life lesson.  It also teaches a history lesson.  It teaches a lesson about William Bentley, who first used microscopic photography to take pictures of snowflakes.  Bentley’s name is not one that is very well known among most circles.  But his is a life and career that is definitely worth learning about by viewers of every age.  It’s interesting to learn how Bentley became so famous among scientific and academic circles, yet never gained any real major fame or fortune from his work.

The lessons taught through the stories noted here are important parts of Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures collection.  Just as important to note is the artwork in each story.  The artwork used for each story gives each one its own identity.   Again, this is another tradition held by Scholastic with its Storybook Treasures collections.  It’s nice to see the original drawings from each story’s book used in each story, instead of computer generated graphics.  Given, a little bit of computer use is incorporated, as audiences will see in this set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette.  But as audiences will also see, the amount of computer use is minimal at most.  And that is a very good thing.

The bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette included in this latest of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collection is the final piece of the puzzle for viewers.  Anyone that has any experience in the use of Adobe’s Creative Suite or that has any interest in graphics work will appreciate this bonus.  Audiences learn how the artwork of Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas was actually pulled directly from the book and used in the small screen adaptation.  It has already been noted how minimal the use of computers was in each story’s animation.  And this featurette proves that.  It shows how the art from the book was scanned into the computer, and actually brought to life thanks to the use of the Adobe Creative Suite.  It is definitely something that older audiences will appreciate.  And along with the stories themselves, it is a fitting final piece for the overall presentation that is Merry Christmas Splatand more winter stories.  It is available now and can be ordered online from New Kideo’s website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/merry-christmas-splat-and-more-winter-stories/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic is available online at http://www.newkideo.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com 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.

Children Make Terrible Pets…And More Stories About Family Is Anything But Terrible

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video/Cinedigm

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video/Cinedigm

Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family is the second of the latest pair of releases in Scholastic’s ongoing Storybook Treasures series.  This latest collection of stories offers parents, children, and teachers alike four more short pieces that each group will enjoy every time the pop the single-disc compilation into their DVD or Blu-ray payers.  The compilation is anchored by its title tale, which tells the story of a young female bear that takes in a little boy as a pet.  She leans some very valuable lessons as a result of taking him in, too.  It’s a wonderful example of art imitating life.  And because of its ability to so humorously and truthfully reflect real life, parents especially will appreciate this short story.  On the opposite end, families in whole will appreciate author Lois Lowry’s story Crow Call.  This is a touching story about the relationship between a father and his daughter.  Parents will appreciate this story not just for its central plot but also because it does something interesting.  It challenges the gender roles established by Western society in presenting the pair’s relationship.  It’s one more of the four total stories that make this collection one more joy to watch from Scholastic.

The stories culled for Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family work hand-in-hand to make the entire presentation enjoyable for viewers of any age with every watch.  Audiences that are familiar with Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures series will also appreciate this release because as with previous releases in the series, it also boasts the series’ standard Read-Along feature.  Together with the compiled short stories, this compilation is anything but terrible *ba-dump-bump-bump.*

The title story of Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family is the best of the stories culled for the compilation.  It is such an enjoyable reflection on real life.  Every parent was once a child.  As someone once said, adults are just grown up kids.  Keeping this in mind, any parent will watch the young bear as she begs her mother to let her keep the little boy and laugh uproariously as she becomes frustrated at the responsibilities of being a “pet owner.”  Among her most frustrating moments is her inability to potty train the boy.  This and other moments are entirely real.  Parents are sure to laugh out loud at this moment.  And just as the compilation’s title story offers its share of laughs, it also has its own share of heart.  That heart shows when the young bear discovers that the little boy has a family of his own.  She comes to the understanding in her discovery that she needs to let him go.  It’s a touching moment that does a great job of balancing out the story’s funnier moments.  Author Peter Brown doesn’t waste much time with emotional content here.  Right after the young bear’s moment of maturity and emotion, Brown leaves audiences laughing when the bear finds yet another “pet.”  Anyone that is familiar with Steven Spielberg’s Tiny Toon Adventures could so easily compare her to Elmyra at this point, again leading to plenty of laughs.

Brown’s story about responsibility and maturity is a great way to kick off this compilation.  It’s a wonderfully comical story that also boasts enough heart to make it even more enjoyable.  It’s not the set’s only enjoyable story.  Along with this one, author Lois Lowry offers readers a much deeper and more emotional story in the small screen adaptation of her book, Crow Call.  This story sees an unnamed father and daughter going on a hunting trip in the hills of Pennsylvania.  That in itself is a wonderful setup for a family centered story.  But that Lowry would have a father take his daughter hunting is in itself, a break from the social norms established through Western culture.  And it’s just one of a handful of social norms that Lowry challenges in her story.  That Lowry would have the guts to do this (whether intentional or not) is bold.  She’s not even preachy in presenting her message.  That makes the presentation even better.  And it becomes one more reason for parents to want to order this collection of family friendly short stories.

Both of the stories noted here are impressive additions to Scholastic’s latest release in its Storybook Treasures series.  As enjoyable as the stories presented here prove to be, they are just that without one more factor.  That last factor is the inclusion once again of the standard Read-Along feature.  Scholastic has included the option to include captioning of sorts for young viewers to follow along with has long been a standard for the Storybook Treasures series.  So it’s a welcome addition to have it included once more.  It both teaches and entertains the younger viewers in question.  It’s just one more piece of the whole that makes Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family one more must have for any family with young children.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/children-make-terrible-pets-and-more-stories-about-family/.  Parents can get more information on this and other releases from Scholastic online at http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic, http://www.scholastic.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.newkideo.com.

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New Mo Willems Collection Another Fun Addition To Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures Series

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems is one of two new collections of stories from Scholastic’s beloved Storybook Treasures series.  This half of Scholastic’s two new releases is the third collection of stories from the famed children’s author.  Despite the collection’s title, it is in fact anchored not by its title story but by the second of the stories.  The second of the set’s trio of stories is the latest and supposedly last of the Knuffle Bunny stories.  That’s not to say that the trio’s other two stories don’t have value.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  There’s just a certain something about this story that makes it the most memorable of the trio.  The bonus chocolate chip cookie recipe from Edwina the Dinosaur “sweetens” (pun fully intended) the set, as does the bonus interview with Willems.  It all works together to makes this one of two more great sets from Scholastic.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is not the lead story in Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems.  But it is the most memorable and most enjoyable of the trio of stories included in this new set.  That’s not to say that the set’s other pair of stories is any less enjoyable.  It just bears so much heart and is such a wonderful reflection of real life.  According to Willems in his bonus interview, this story is the last in his stories about Knuffle Bunny.  The heart in the story comes as young Trixie finally reaches the point at which she learns that it’s time to let Knuffle Bunny go.  It’s an extremely difficult choice for her, emotionally speaking.  But she knows it’s the right choice.  Much like in the case of Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, this is a touching story about growing up and letting go, but never forgetting.  Any viewer that doesn’t tear up even in the slightest doesn’t have a heart.  Even this critic has to admit that it brought about a little tearing up.  It is that touching of a story.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is a wonderful addition to the latest collection of Mo Willems’ stories.  That’s not to say that the other two stories in the set are any less enjoyable.  They have their own heart and soul.  This one is simply the most memorable of the trio.  If the stories culled for this set aren’t enough for audiences, the bonus recipe for Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies is just as enjoyable of an addition to the collection.  This isn’t the first time that Scholastic has included such a tasty bonus treat for audiences.  Scholastic’s release from earlier this year of The Red Hen included a recipe for the hen’s cake.  There is only one minor problem with the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies.  That one problem is that once the cookie dough is on the baking sheet, there is no mention of how long the cookies should bake or at what temperature they should bake.  Everything else is there, though.  So this could lead to parents having to guess at those last two factors.  For future consideration, this is something important to consider for future recipes.

The recipe for Edwina’s cookies sounds really tasty.  It is a good bonus feature for this latest set.  Parents will enjoy making the cookies.  And trying to guess at the baking temp and time can be fun in its own right despite the potential difficulties associated therewith.  They will enjoy the interview with Mo Willems, too.  Willems shares some interesting insights as well as some funny thoughts throughout the course of his interview.  It only lasts a little over eight minutes.  But in that time, parents and children alike get plenty of entertainment.  He starts off talking to his young audiences, telling them how they had come up with such great ideas for the pigeon’s adventures.  Audiences of all ages will love his anecdote about the pigeon’s thoughts on Willems drawing any book that doesn’t include him in it.  And his revelation that he doesn’t set out to draw books that can be adapted to the small screen is just an interesting to note.  He adds in this discussion that it just so happens that it all worked out that way.  These little nuggets are just part of what audiences will appreciate in Willems’ interview.  There is much more to take away from his interview.  But audiences will just have to find out what other thoughts he shares when they pick up or order this DVD themselves.  Along with those thoughts, audiences will get to enjoy all three of the stories and choose which one is their favorite.  They will also get to try and make Edwina’s chocolate chip cookies with their parents.  It all works together to once again make Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems one more collection from Scholastic that any parent and child will love with every watch.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from the New Kideo web store at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/dont-let-the-pigeon-stay-up-late-and-more-stories-by-mo-willems/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic and New Kideo is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.newkideo.com.

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The Magic School Bus Box Set Will “Rev Up” Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

The history of television is rife with programs that most audiences will agree are timeless.  Among some of the most well known are the likes of: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends, Looney Tunes, and The Flintstones just to name a few.  These classics have transcended generations and gone on to become family favorites decades after they ended their runs.  Now in the twenty-first century, a whole new crop of cartoons has gone on to be added to that list.  Among the newer cartoons deserving of the title of “timeless” are most of Nickelodeon’s modern classic Nicktoons from the 1990s and the focus of today’s review, Scholastic’s The Magic School BusThe Magic School Bus has been broadcast on a number of networks.  It has run on PBS, TLC, and most recently, Qubo.  It would seem that Qubo has dropped the classic cartoon though, sadly.  Thankfully, Scholastic has teamed up with New Video and New Kideo in the past year or so to release this modern classic on DVD for both its original audiences and a whole new generation of young fans.  The companies have already put out a number of compilations containing episodes from the justifiably timeless show including the complete fifty-two episode collection. Most recently, the single-disc compilation, The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle was released alongside another new triple-disc collection, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up.  The prior of the two new compilations is impressive in its own right.  The latter of the pair offers just as much enjoyment as the prior, if not more.

The Magic School Bus: Revving Up takes twelve more of the original series’ fifty-two episodes and compiles them for this collection.  The twelve episodes culled for this set are each spread across three more sing-disc compilations within the larger box.  And just as The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle does, the episodes contained on each disc of The Magic School Bus: Revving Up follow a given theme.  The first of the compilations within the box is The Magic School Bus: Under Construction.  This compilation contains the title episode of the larger box.  The kids have to save the Magic School Bus in this episode as it’s in danger of being condemned by their school district’s Vehicle Maintenance Inspector, Junkett.  Get it?  Junkett? Junk It?  Ba-dump-bump-bump.  The late Sherman Hemsely (The Jeffersons, All in The Family, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) voiced the character of Inspector Junkett.  Junkett wants to condemn the bus because he claims it has so many problems.  So it’s up to the kids to find out what’s making the bus sick and in turn save it from being condemned.  It’s one more fun filled episode that parents and kids alike will love watching again and again.  And as with every episode of this modern classic series, it’s another great tool for kids to learn at home or in the classroom. 

The title episode from the new triple-disc set, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up is a joy for parents, teachers and students.  The same can be said of its companion episodes in this first of the set’s discs.  All four episodes on this disc take a look at the different ways in which technology works.  There’s a lesson on how computers work, and even one on construction technology that is just as relevant today as it was in its original broadcast.  These episodes are just part of the whole that makes this set so enjoyable.  Also included across the three-disc set are episodes that teach about how electricity works, and about animals and their habitats.  Whether one is a parent, teacher, or youth, every one of these episodes will entertain viewers of every age.

All twelve episodes culled for this latest multi-disc set are enjoyable in their own way.  They are so enjoyable thanks to the show’s writing staff.  Each episode contained here maintains the standard established in prior collections of simple writing.  The episodes’ writing is simple, but it doesn’t leave viewers feel like they are being talked down to (including adults).  It makes viewers feel like they’re actually watching Ms. Frizzle’s class learning each lesson rather than themselves.  At the same time, they know that they too are learning a lesson without the educational aspect being too overt.  It’s one more of so many positives that can be discussed.  To point out all the positives would take far too much time and too much time.  So suffice it to say that the writing, along with the animation and lessons in general make this latest compilation of episodes one more must in the living room or the classroom.  It is available now in stores and online.  Parents and teachers can order it online via the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com.  And to keep up with all of the latest releases from Scholastic and New Kideo, parents and teachers can go online to the New Kideo website or the official Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com or each company’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.     

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Scholastic, New Kideo Impress Again With Latest Single-Disc Magic School Bus Collection

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Ms. Frizzle and her students are back yet again for another set of adventures in another new single-disc compilation of episodes.  The new compilation, The Magic School Bus: In a Pickle offers audiences four more episodes that see Ms. Frizzle and her students investigate the process that turns a cucumber into a pickle in the set’s lead episode.  That episode is joined by two more episodes and a bonus fourth episode that investigates another way that something rotting actually benefits other living beings.  The kids also learn how water molecules and how microbes create different scents.  Regardless of which episode viewers choose, each episode offers plenty of family friendly entertainment and equally fun science lessons worth watching again and again.

The lead episode in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle sees Ms. Frizzle out on “trial” by her own students after Keesha’s cucumber has “gone missing.”  Ms. Frizzle is the main suspect since the cucumber was left in the classroom while the kids were on vacation.  This is a great set-up for this episode’s lesson as “The Friz” has to prove her innocence.  And it’s a creative way to let the kids take control before learning that there’s so much more to the world than they realize.  It’s an example of writing done right.  What kid doesn’t like doing adult things such as playing court?  That makes the episode even more relatable and enjoyable for viewers of all ages.  It’s just one of the truly standout episodes included in this compilation.  For that matter, it’s just one example of writing done right.  The writing in all four episodes included in this set provides its own share of entertainment.

The writing behind all four episodes included in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle is impressive first and foremost because of its ability to entertain and inform audiences.  The irony of the writing is that many parents will be amazed at what they have actually forgotten since they themselves were children.  As Jeff Foxworthy proved with his short-lived show, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, we lose a lot as we get older.  So keeping this in mind, the balance of entertainment and educational content in each episode makes for another wonderful starting point for both parents and children alike.  What’s more, when one takes into account the current state of public education in America, a set such as this becomes an increasingly important, not just entertaining, set for any family.  While it may have been off the air for some time, its material is still just as impactful as any classroom if not more so.

The writing behind each episode in this set is just as important as it is educational.  Its animation is just as impressive.  This critic has noted many times before the increasing de-evolution of animation in children’s programming and the connected dangers of that de-evolution.  More and more programs across the board are switching to either flash animation or CG based “animation” in general.  The Magic School Bus was neither of these.  Each episode of this show–including the ones in this set–was hand drawn.  One might ask what makes this difference so important.  This is important as it serves as a starting point for another discussion.  The discussion in question is of the show’s identity.  Anyone that remembers the days of classic hand drawn animation will recall how every cartoon had its own animation style, thus helping to establish its identity.  This cartoon definitely had its own identity thanks to its original hand drawn animation style.  It’s one more aspect of this new release that especially parents and teachers will appreciate.  It isn’t the last of the set’s positives, either.

So much was done right with the episodes included in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle.  The episodes culled for this set are each impressive examples of what still makes it a fan favorite cartoon to this day.  It is a fan favorite among viewers of every age.  There is one more aspect of this compilation that makes it a nice addition to any family’s home library.  That aspect is that all four episodes contained within this set follow one recurring theme so to speak.  Each one sees the class shrinking down to microscopic size as it learns its lessons.  From learning how water and soap react with dirt to how smells form to how microbes turn a cucumber into a pickle, all three of the set’s main episodes follow that same theme of the class learning about the microscopic world.  The bonus fourth episode, The Magic School Bus: Meets the Rot Squad doesn’t take the class into the microscopic world.  But it does see the class shrinking down once again.  This time, the class learns a biology lesson and even an environmental lesson.  So while it may not go directly with the set’s other episodes, it’s still a nice addition and worth the watch every time.  The single-disc compilation is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com.  Parents and teachers can also keep up with the latest releases from New Kideo on the official New Kideo Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  Even more information from Scholastic is available online at http://www.scholastic.com and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.

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 keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.


Scholastic Releasing Two New “Storybook Treasures” Compilations

Scholastic will release two new additions to its highly successful and family favorite Storybook Treasures collection this Summer.

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo










Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems will be released Tuesday, August 27th alongside Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family.  Both DVD sets will include the standard Read-a-long feature, allowing children to read the story while they listen to it at the same time.  They will both also include author interviews.  And as an added bonus Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems will include a recipe for Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies take center stage in the story of Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct.  It’s just one of the stories included in first collection of the pair.  Parents, teachers, and kids will also get to enjoy in this collection, Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion,  and the collection’s lead story.  Mo Willems and Cher Willems both serve as narrators for these stories along with John Sczieska.

Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family is the second release in the pair from Scholastic, New Video and New Kideo.  This compilation’s lead story is a funny but cautionary tale for little ones.  It tells the story of a young female bear that brings home a little boy one day and wants to keep the boy as a pet.  The little bear is warned by her mother that “children make terrible pets.”  But the little bear, named Lucy, sets out to disprove her mother and show that she can be a good “pet” owner to the little boy.  The result will have parents, teachers, and children laughing.  This story is joined by the companion stories, All The World, Crow Call, and Elizabeth’s Doll.  Authors Peter Brown, the man behind Children Make Terrible Pets and Lois Lowry, author of Crow Call, are interviewed in this set’s bonus features as is illustrator Marla Frazee.  Frazee is the illustrator behind the book, All The World.

More information on both of these releases is available online at the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com and the Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com as well as their Facebook pages, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.

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.