Beverly Hills Teens A “Rich” Classic From Mill Creek

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Mill Creek Entertainment’s release of Beverly Hills Teens Volume One is a blast from the past for anyone that grew up during the 1980s.  This classic cartoon is one of a handful that rose to popularity on the original Family Channel.  For those that don’t know, there actually used to be a Family Channel before ABC Family and even Fox Family.  It was just The Family Channel.  Getting back on topic, Beverly Hills Teens was originally aimed at a very niche audience.  Despite that, it was still an important program in its own right.  It was important in that it could be argued that it was one of the influences behind the hit 90s teen-centric drama, Beverly Hills 90210.    This is just one factor to consider in viewing this classic series.  Something else to consider with Beverly Hills Teens is its writing.  And its animation style was one more example of what used to make anime an interesting animation genre to watch.  Now, those audiences that grew up with this “old school” toon can share those positives with their own kids.  And that’s thanks also to the fact that the transfers from VHS to DVD were handled so well.  That factor works with the show’s animation and writing to make Beverly Hills Teens Volume One one more that any classic animation fan will appreciate.

It could very easily be argued that Beverly Hills Teens played at least a partial role in the eventual hit 90s primetime drama that was Beverly Hills 90210.  Yes, there is a vast difference in the storylines in the two shows.  But the fact that only three years separated the two shows’ debuts only serves to cement that argument even more.  Considering how long it would have taken to write the scripts for the latter, shop the show around to networks, cast the show, and record the episodes, it would make sense that the same audiences that watched Beverly Hills Teens would be the same people to watch the more teen-centric Beverly Hills 90210.  That’s because the same audiences that watched the prior would have been old enough to be more interested in the latter of the two by the time it premiered in 1990.  If there is any credence to this possibility, then it would prove without a doubt what makes Beverly Hills Teens at least a slightly important piece of modern television history.

The potential influence that Beverly Hills Teens had on the creation of Beverly Hills 90210 makes the prior important in any discussion of the latter of the pair of TV shows aimed at young viewers.  The writing makes Beverly Hills Teens just as interesting to watch, at least in hindsight.  The adventures that the kids embark on through the show’s first thirty-two episodes are much like that of so many other cartoons at the time.  That familiarity made the show more accessible to its younger audiences.  A prime example would be the episode, “Camp Camping.”  Wilshire ends up becoming “slave” to Pierce after Pierce “saves” him.  This is a story that had been done many times before on other shows, and had been done just as many times after this episode.  There’s also a playful stab at the far more classic cartoon, Woody Woodpecker in this episode.  The short-lived series (it only lasted for one season) even has the standard kid friendly Halloween episode in “Halloween in the Hills.”  While there’s no paranormal activity in this episode, it does teach two lessons.  It teaches the lesson of not letting one’s self be bullied by others and about responsibility when Bianca throws a house party when her parents go out of town.  As with the previous episode, the lessons taught in this episode are both more common fare for children’s programs of that era.  Again, that ability to relate to young audience maintained the show’s importance that much more. 

Beverly Hills Teens’ potential influence on the creation of any later shows and the writing behind this short-lived show both exhibit what made it such a hit in its original run among its key audiences.  Both factors continue to do so today.  There is one more factor to consider in watching this first set of episodes that made the show popular during its run.  That factor is the show’s animation.  Audiences will note that the animation of Beverly Hills Teens was very much like that of The Littles, which also happened at the time, to run on the original Family Channel.  It also bears at least a slight resemblance to the animation used in The Real Ghostbusters.  The similarity isn’t full on.  But it is there.  This form of animation was anime before it became the over the top bizarre art form that it is today.  It serves as an example of anime when it was still respectable.  It’s something that any of today’s anime fans truly need to see in order to see how anime has de-evolved over time.  It’s animation done right.  And it is this factor along with the show’s writing and its potential influence as a TV show that it is a classic worth watching once again for those that were fans of the show in its original run on TV.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Mill Creek Direct store at http://www.millcreekent.com/beverly-hills-teens-volume-1-32-eps.html.  And for all of the latest from Mill Creek Entertainment, audiences can go online to the Mill Creek Entertainment Facebook page and “Like” it at http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt

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The Hunchback Of Notre Dame II One More Enjoyable Stand-Alone Sequel

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

The sequel to Disney’s modern classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame has hardly been one of the most accepted of sequels from Disney’s canon.  While it has been largely rejected by fans and critics alike, perhaps the reason for this is that much like Mulan II, it has been improperly marketed.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is, much like Mulan II, less a sequel than a stand-alone story.  Hunchback of Notre Dame II picks up years after the events of the first movie.  Esmerelda and Phoebus have a young son who it would seem is at least six or seven years old.  And having originally brought the pair together, Quasimodo is now looking for his own special woman.  It just so happens that said woman enters his life when a circus comes to town.  The circus is led by a less than honorable man, thus audiences get the story’s central conflict, thus pushing Quasimodo’s romance plot to a secondary role.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II—as noted–has almost no link to its predecessor.  Its only link to the previous film in this franchise is the inclusion once again of Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends, as well as Esmerelda and Phoebus (both voiced once again by Demi Moore and Kevin Kline).  Jason Alexander also returns as the gargoyle, Hugo.  Other than the return of these characters and a couple other returning cast members, this sequel really is not a sequel at all.  But because it was titled as a sequel, expectations by audiences and critics alike were high to say the least, and thus dashed when it turned out that it was not so much a sequel, but more a stand-alone story.  Here’s where things get interesting.  Should The Hunchback of Notre Dame II been marketed directly as a sequel?  Probably not.  However, that doesn’t mean exactly that it’s a bad story.  When viewed as the stand-alone story that it is, it actually has its merits.  The first of those merits would have to be its animation.  One must absolutely remove this movie from its predecessor in order to fully appreciate this.  Audiences must also keep in mind in watching this movie that a certain amount of time has passed.  So there should be no expectation of this movie having direct relationship to the first of the franchise’s films.  Doing so will make suspension of disbelief easier and thus will make the movie more enjoyable.

One of the biggest qualms that audiences and critics have had with The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is the movie’s animation.  This is a full on hand drawn movie.  Most audiences might compare it to Disney’s most recent anime brand of movies.  However, older audiences will appreciate the animation as it throws back to the hand drawn animation of certain 80s TV shows.  One of the most notable of those shows would be a little animated cartoon called The Littles.  Just knowing this reference and comparing the cartoon in question to this movie will surely generate a certain sense of nostalgia among older audiences.  And it serves as a reminder that cartoons made in the twenty-first century still can be made in the “old school” style.  For that matter, it proves that audiences still need the style of animation in question, considering that so many movie studios and TV companies rely so heavily on digital animation today.  So while many audiences have panned this movie for having used classic hand drawn animation, odds are those people that did so are those who have grown up knowing only digital animation rather than the joy and identity that comes with hand drawn animation.  It proves too, that Disney can and should at least try more often to use hand drawn animation versus digital for its big theatrical animated features.

It was nice to see Disney return to actual animation with The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Being able to enjoy the animation allows one to focus on the story itself.  The story behind this “sequel” is only slightly tied to that of the original movie at best.  It takes place years after the original.  The ability of audiences to keep this in mind helps to separate this movie from the original, in Disney’s defense.  On the other hand, had this movie been given a different title, instead of being simply titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, it might have been better received by viewers.  That aside, the story itself is simple enough for any viewer to follow.  Quasimodo is forced to make a very important choice when the woman for whom he falls turns out to not be entirely everything that she seems.  In the end, audiences get a happy ending that proves love truly does conquer all.  It will leave viewers whose minds are open enough with enough of a warm feeling that they will hopefully be able to overlook their past view of the movie and see it for its value as another enjoyable stand-alone story from Disney.  It’s available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack alongside The Hunchback of Notre Dame in stores and online.  The new combo pack is available in stores and online.  It can be ordered online in the Disney Store at http://www.disneystore.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331583/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-two-movie-collection.html

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Cookie Jar Cartoon Collection A Great “Treat” For Any Kids’ Halloween Party

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Halloween is officially just over a week away.  That means lots of parents and kids are getting geared up to go trick or treating.  Just as many might be looking to host their own kid friendly Halloween parties.  What kid friendly Halloween party is complete without something safe for the kids to watch?  Thanks to Cookie Jar TV and Mill Creek Entertainment, parents have yet another option for their kids.  That option comes in the form of the new Halloween Cartoon Collection courtesy of Cookie Jar and Mill Creek Entertainment.  This single disc compilation of Cookie Jar cartoons offers episodes from some of its most beloved cartoons that are a perfect fit for this time of year.

The compilation kicks off with a trio of episodes from The Busy World of Richard Scarry.  In “The New Neighbors”, the kids meet a pair of new neighbors who happen to be twins.  So the kids think that there’s only one, and she is appearing everyone at once with magic.  And it just so happens that the twins are dressed like witches.  So the kids instantly think that something’s afoot.  But soon they learn a valuable lesson about jumping to conclusions and judging people.  This episode alone is a triple hit for audiences of all ages.  Not only does it boast a Halloween theme, but it’s family friendly, and it teaches some very valuable lessons in the process.

That opening episode of The Busy World of Richard Scarry is great for the whole family.  It’s just one part of what makes this compilation great for everyone.  Older audiences are offered not only entertainment but also education with a Halloween themed episode of the classic 90’s Fox Kids cartoon, Where On Earth is Carmen San Diego?  Audiences learn in the episode, “Trick or Treat” the real origins of Halloween.  According to the mini-history lesson taught here, today’s Halloween traditions go all the way back to the Celtic people.  They would actually wear masks and costumes to scare away evil spirits.  And they actually worshipped a god named Samhain.  There’s even a little tidbit about the origins of the jack-o-lantern.  And as always, Carmen ends up getting away in the end, even playing a trick on Zack and Ivy.

Cookie Jar Halloween Cartoon Collection offers audiences lots of great classic cartoons.  Most come from the 1990’s.  There’s even one from the 80’s in The Littles.  For those who want something a little more modern, young audiences are offered a pair of episodes from Cartoon Network’s hit show, Johnny Test.  In the first of the pair, Johnny and his sisters have to help their agent friends develop a machine so that they can win a trip to Fiji.  His sisters create a helmet that lets the wearer bring inanimate objects to life.  When it turns out that they can’t get the helmet off of Johnny, all kinds of havoc ensues.  Audiences can find out for themselves what happens when they pick up this DVD. 

The second episode from Johnny Test is more of a generic holiday episode.  But it’s still entertaining in its own right.  It’s one more of the enjoyable episodes culled for this compilation for audiences.  There are also episodes of other Cookie Jar Cartoons including: Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Mona The Vampire, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Sabrina The Animated Series, Mummies Alive, and Bump In The Night.  Every one of these shows offers something enjoyable for the whole family for those Halloween parties.  It’s available now in stores and online.

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