Shout! Factory Tops Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Children’s DVD/BD Box Sets List

The world of children’s entertainment is one of the most diverse out there. This applies both to children’s music and movies and television offerings. This has been proven time and again over the years in every respective category. 2015 has proven to be no different. That has already been proven with the Phil’s PIcks 2015 Top 10 New Children’s Albums. Now this critic will set out to solidify that argument even more with the list of the year’s best new box sets for children. This year’s list roves just how diverse the world of children’s entertainment is in the realm of movies and television (especially television) with new box sets from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, Universal, PBS, Disney, and even Warner Home Video. Of course WHV’s offerings are lacking even with their entertainment value. As always, the top 10 titles make up the main body of the list. The bottom five are honorable mention. Without any further ado I offer for your consideration dear readers the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Children’s DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS 2015 TOP 10 NEW CHILDREN’S DVD/BD BOX SETS
1. THE WILD THORNBERRYS: THE COMPLETE SERIES

2. HEY DUDE: THE COMPLETE SERIES

3. BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE ANIMATED SERIES

4. TALESPIN: VOLUME 3

5. MR. ED: THE FINAL SEASON

6. SGT. BILKO/THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW: SEASON 3

7. SGT. BILKO/THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW: SEASON 4

8. PEANUTS: EMMY HONORED COLLECTION

9. CURIOUS GEORGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

10. SCOOBY-DOO & SCRAPPY DOO: THE COMPLETE SEASON 1

11. BATMAN: SEASON 2 VOLUME 1

12. BATMAN: SEASON 2 VOLUME 2

13. BATMAN: SEASON 3

14. PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE: SEASONS 3, 4, & 5

15. DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD: TIGER-TASTIC 3-PACK

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Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy-Doo: The Complete Season 1 Is Far From Complete

Courtesy:  Hanna-Barbera/Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Hanna-Barbera/Warner Home Video

Earlier this year, Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division released another installment from Hanna-Barbera’s beloved Scooby-Doo franchise when it released Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy-Doo: The Complete First Season. It marked the first time ever that what was essentially the fourth season of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? has seen the light of day. Go figure it is also the “series'” only season, too. Considering all of this, Warner Home Video is to be commended for finally getting this collection of episodes out on DVD at long last. While the studio and its home entertainment division are to be commended for finally getting these episodes out to the public, they are also deserving of certain darts as this collection is anything but complete. Considering its pros and cons together, Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo: The Complete Season 1 is one of this year’s best new box sets for children and families. But it is far from being the year’s absolute best.

Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy Doo: The Complete Season 1 is a good new release from the people at Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division. However, despite its title, it is far from being complete. The negatives that keep it from being complete will be discussed shortly. For the moment, though the focus will be on at least one of the set’s positives–the presentation of the “series” full sixteen episode run. Audiences get in this new double-disc presentation all sixteen episodes from Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo’s original run on television in the fall of 1979. And they are presented in their original format, too. The inclusion of all sixteen episodes shows that the people at Warner Home Video (WHV) cared at least about that much in bringing these episodes to fans. This is important to consider because there are companies out there that would look at this and try to capitalize as much as possible by splitting the collection into two separate boxes. That would in turn potentially cost consumers more and take up more space on audiences’ DVD racks. But because WHV didn’t go that route, consumers lucky enough to find the box set in stores only have to pay a one time fee of roughly ten to fifteen dollars for a box set that only takes up as much room on a DVD rack as a single disc DVD box. So not only does its full release benefit consumers financially but ergonomically, too. To that extent, the “series” starts off on the right foot. However, taking a deeper look at the set, it shows to be anything but the complete collection that it is advertised to be by its title.

Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo: The Complete First Season is a good addition to any Scooby-Doo fan’s home DVD library. That is especially thanks to not only the fact that the “series” full-sixteen episode run is included here but it is featured at a relatively reasonable price and takes up minimal room on audiences’ DVD racks. Even as many positives as it boasts on the surface, it proves, with a closer examination, to be anything but the complete series that WHV boasts it to be on the box’s cover. All sixteen episodes are there. There’s no denying that. And while both William Hanna and Joe Barbera have both passed away along with most of the original Scooby-Doo voice cast, Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, Curious George, Aladdin) and Heather North (Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire, Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico, Scooby-Doo Goes Hollywood) are both alive as are likely others associated with the show. It would have been nice to have at least some bonus interviews with Welker, North, and others linked to this “series.” It would have been nice to have at least some form of interviews considering the reason for the re-branding. According to most sources, the whole purpose for Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? being re-branded and expanded in terms of its cast, was to boost sagging ratings. It would have been interesting to learn why viewers’ tastes were changing at the time that the ratings were beginning to fall, and which shows were beginning to grab said viewers’ attention. But none of that history is presented to audiences. And in turn, it takes away quite a bit from the set’s overall viewing experience. It is just one of the cons that weigh down this presentation, too. It would have been nice to get at least some retrospective on the significance of Scooby-Doo to American pop culture both then and now, especially considering that the beloved canine is included seemingly every year in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Again, no insight is offered there or in any other fashion. considering that WHV is trying to market Scooby-Doo not just one target demographic but viewers of all ages, not having any of that background on this latest “series” or the Scooby-Doo franchise in whole takes away so much here especially being that none of the franchise’s previous collections offer any of those bonuses either.

The lack of any background on the significance of the Scooby-Doo franchise in yet another of its installments is a huge con to its presentation. It does nothing but a disservice to the legacy of this beloved franchise. It is just one of the cons that weighs down Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy Doo: The Complete Season One. On another level, the general lack of effort displayed in presenting the set’s discs takes even more away from the set’s overall viewing experience. Those responsible for providing the discs’ artwork just took a couple of images from the show, placed one on one disc and the other on the set’s other disc, and then splashed each in a dark purple covering. WHV has taken much the same approach with other recent releases such as its box sets containing the original Batman TV series episodes. The discs presented in those sets just presents the original series logo splashed with a near neon green covering. It completely smacks of laziness and creativity. And the fact that it has happened yet again with Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy Doo: The Complete Season 1 only leaves one wondering who is in charge even more at WHV. Yes, it is just a cosmetic thing on the surface (no pun intended) but despite the old adage about judging something by its cover, something as simple as a DVD/Blu-ray disc’s artwork can and does play a big part in a company being able to sell its product. So to that extent the artwork (or lack thereof in this case) plays just as much of a role in the overall presentation of Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy Doo: The Complete Season 1. It makes this collection of episodes that much more incomplete than complete.

If the issues noted here are not enough to prove how incomplete Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy-Doo: The Complete Season 1 is, then the issue of its episode listing will surely solidify the argument that this set is anything but complete. to the credit of those at WHV, the “series'” box set does come with an episode listing. However, the listing in question is printed on the back of the case along with the description of the series’ highlights. It even notes clearly which episodes are on which disc. Again, kudos are in order here. However, one cannot ignore the fact that the listing is just that, a listing. There is no companion booklet included in the collection offering even the slightest summary for the presented episodes. Because of this there is also no credit given to the show’s writers. To some this may seem insignificant. But to those people who are interested in such an element it plays just as important a role as knowing which producer(s) manned the boards for a given act’s album. Having such knowledge deepens the understanding and appreciation for an act’s work and for that of its producer(s) throughout their careers. In much the same fashion, knowing who was responsible for a given TV series’ writing plays just as much of a part in appreciating the storylines of said TV series. So on that level, the fact that once again WHV has failed to include a companion booklet with any episode summaries or other important background information takes even more points away from this set and shwos even more just how incomplete this collection proves to be in the end.

While Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy Doo: The Complete Season 1 shows clearly that it is anything but complete through its primary cons, it would be unfair to say that this latest release in Hanna-Barbera’s beloved Scooby-Doo franchise is a complete loss. For all of its negatives (some of which weren’t even touched on here) it isn’t a total loss. It can be said that thanks to the work of the shows writers, fans of all ages will enjoy all sixteen episodes presented here. Those that are true diehard fans will especially enjoy these episodes as they will see their blatant influence on later installments of the Scooby-Doo franchise. That is obvious right from the show’s opening episode “The Scarab Lives.” This episode sees a famous comic book creator “haunted” by his own creation come to life. Of course as everyone knows, there’s no such thing as ghosts, right? RIGHT?! The identity of the Blue Scarab won’t be revealed here. But this episode was obviously a direct influence behind no fewer than two episodes crafted for A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Those episodes are “The Schnook Who Took My Comic Book” and “The Return of Commander Cool.” In the prior of the episodes, Shaggy’s mint condition original copy of “Commander Cool” #1 is stolen by one of Commander Cool’s enemies. Or is it someone else? The latter of the episodes finds an alien slug stealing the plans for Commander Cool’s moon base toy. The reveal in regards to the real thief is a direct throwback to ‘The Scarab Lives.” On another level, “Rocky Mountain yiiiiii!,” which comes from Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy Doo: The Complete Season 1, could be argued to be the influence behind “Snow Place Like Home,” also from A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. The latter of the two sees Scooby and the gang on a skiing vacation in the mountains. While there, they encounter an ice monster bent on getting a kind couple out of its home. The prior episode, “Rocky Mountain yiiiiii!” sees (again) Scooby and company on a skiing vacation to the mountains. In the case of this episode, they come face to face with the ghost of one Jeremiah Pratt. It turns out that Pratt is searching for his pot of gold. Sounds familiar, right? Exactly. To a slightly lesser extent, it can be argued that “The Story Stick” (A Pup Named Scooby-Doo) is a variation on “The Hairy Scare of the Devil Bear” (Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy-Doo). That is because both stories are centered on Native American culture. “The Story Stick” finds the young members of The Scooby-Doo Detective Agency having to figure out who is behind a living totem pole that is scaring everyone away from the sacred land. The earlier series’ episode finds the members of Mystery, Inc. going toe to toe with a demon bear that is haunting caves on a reservation around the Grand Canyon. It’s one more way in which the writing behind Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy-Doo: The Complete Season 1 proves so entertaining and important to consider. Of course that isn’t to say that every episode gave rise to episodes in every “season” of Scooby-Doo to follow. Regardless, the writing behind this series still shows in plenty of ways to be quite entertaining for viewers. And together with the set’s previously noted pros–its cost effectiveness and complete episode presentation–the set in whole proves to be another welcome addition to any Scooby-Doo fan’s home DVD library. But it is far from being complete or the best of the year’s new family friendly box sets.

Scooby-Doo! And Scrappy-Doo: The Complete Season 1 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct via the official WB store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/scooby-doo%21+and+scrappy-doo%21+the+complete+first+season+dvd+1000542731.do or via Amazon at a lower price at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TEYPUIK?keywords=scooby%20doo%20and%20scrappy%20doo%20season%202&qid=1444585474&ref_=sr_1_4&s=movies-tv&sr=1-4.

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WHV Finally Gets One Right With Its New Peanuts Collection

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

This Thanksgiving, Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox will team up to bring audiences the first-ever big screen Peanuts adventure that (go figure) is simply titled The Peanuts Movie. Personal opinions aside, it is interesting to note that as the movie’s debut nears, so is Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division–Warner Home Video (WHV)–stepping up its re-issues of the classic Peanuts TV specials. Already released this year WHV has re-issued Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Officials with WHV have also announced that the organization will also release Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) and He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown along with the company’s new compilation set Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. The latter of the trio is currently planne for a nationwide release on Tuesday, September 15th. Though, interestingly enough it has already been released through Target likely via a special deal between the retailer and the people at WHV. For those that were not lucky enough to pick up the dual-disc collection in its original release via Target will be pleased to add it to their personal collections. The main reason that audiences will be pleased to add it to their collections is its featured specials. It features eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that while previously released on one platform or another are now collected into this much more ergonomic collection. This will be discussed at more length shortly. Another reason that the collection proves so interesting and worth the purchase is the material presented within each special. Audiences actually get to hear an adult talk for the first time ever in one special (She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown). And while most audiences are familiar with the classic Peanuts holiday specials, some will be surprised that there is another holiday special of sorts that is just as deserving of attention in the form of What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? This special is a deeply moving Memorial Day special that will impact viewers of all ages. Last of note in regards to this collection’s positives is that classic hand-drawn animation style. The old school style of artwork is yet another example of what once made animated features truly animated and in turn truly entertaining. Each noted element shows in its own way that Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a surprising new release from WHV. It would be nice to think that maybe it marks the beginning of WHV finally moving in the right direction after having slid in the wrong direction for the past couple of years or so. One can only hope. Even if it is just a random diamond in the rough from the once powerhouse studio, it proves through all three noted elements together, to be one that any Peanuts fan will happily welcome into his or her home DVD library.

Warner Home Video has been noticeably declining over the course of the past two years or more. That is evident through every one of its releases both for families and for select audiences. Said releases have shown that someone(s) at WHV apparently did not and does not care about providing audiences with quality home releases. For all of the problematic releases that WHV has put out in stores over the past couple of years or so, finally a random diamond in the rough from WHV will be released very soon in the form of the new Peanuts collection Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. This collection of TV specials includes eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that some of which were nominated for Emmy Awards while certain others actually received the coveted trophy. It should be noted that all eleven of the specials featured in this new double-disc collection have each previously been released via one platform or another. Some have been released on VHS while others have previously been released on DVD. Others have even been issued and re-issued on one platform then another. Despite this, some viewers out there might not have been lucky enough to add one, another or more of the featured specials up until this point. That being the case, all eleven specials show collectively to be of the utmost importance for all viewers. That is because more than likely among the legions of Peanuts fans around the world few to any likely have all of the included specials.

The inclusion of each of its specials in one collection is good for Peanuts fans everywhere in large part because having them all in one place means just that. It means that for the first time ever each one of the specials has been finally released on one platform on which all audiences can watch them. No one is left behind. On another level, for those that had one or more of the specials in question from their previous releases can finally eliminate those platforms (or at least most of them if they own the original VHS copies of said specials). That will ultimately lead to saved space for many fans on their respective DVD racks. Again, this might not apply for every Peanuts fan. But it will definitely apply to many fans. And that being the case, it makes the collection’s ergonomic factor that much more important to the whole of its success and enjoyment.

The episodes presented in Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection show clearly why they are within themselves quite important to the whole of the collection. Examining the episodes on a closer level, ther writing shows to be just as important to the collection as the episodes themselves. In examining the specials’ writing it becomes clear why they were either nominated or in some cases even won an Emmy. That is most evident through the surprisingly moving special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown. This sequel of sorts to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) follows Charlie Brown and company on their departure from France. Along the way, the Peanuts gang happens to arrive at Normandy and the site of the Allied landing on D-Day. The history lesson provided by Linus upon their arrival is unbiased and moving all at the same time. The writers don’t pull any punches here, revealing that the Allied attack on Normandy was in fact anything but perfect. Linus notes in his lesson that weather conditions had ruined the mission so much that Allied commanders even considered pulling back. That is a lesson that sadly very few history teachers and professors alike will teach in the classroom. So it is nice to have that historical truth noted in a special that is aimed at younger viewers.

In another of the collection’s episodes, She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown, audiences actually get to hear an adult speak for the first (and probably only)time in the history of the Peanuts TV specials. The adult in question is Peppermint Patty’s teacher. She continuously calls on Patty as Patty continues falling asleep in class thanks to her early morning skating practice. Yes, skating. That is another reason that the writing in this special proves so notable. Anyone that knows their Peanuts history knows that Peppermint Patty is more of a tomboy than a girly girl. Heck, she was even voiced by males in a number of the specials. So having Patty taking part in a sport that is traditionally more aimed at females than males shows a completely opposite side of Patty and to the Peanuts universe in whole.  It is a change that all audiences will agree now in the 21st century is a welcome change.  It shows that it’s okay for a girl to be girly and one of the boys.  Simply put, it really serves to defy those strict, standard gender roles established by society.  Whether or not that is the reason that it at least received an Emmy nomination, it is one more reason that the writing behind this special stands out so strongly as one more part of the whole of the collection’s writing.

Why, Charlie Brown, Why? is perhaps the strongest evidence of the importance of the writing behind the collection’s featured episodes. This episode tackles the issue of cancer. On a more specific level, it tackles the issue of childhood cancer and the impact of cancer on both the victim and his or her friends and family. Its story centers on a young girl named Janet who is diagnosed with leukemia. It just so happens that she is friends with Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Though, Linus is the main character of this story. That side element of the story’s writing will be discussed shortly. Sticking on the main topic, the manner in which the writers tackled the subject is hugely worthy of applause. It was handled with the utmost gentility and in a fashion that also made the topic accessible even for much younger viewers. That in itself makes this special more than just a special. It is special in every sense of the word. It’s just one aspect of the special’s writing that makes it so notable among the others included in this set. The fact that Linus was made the story’s central character makes it even more worth the watch. It’s not the first time that Charlie Brown took a back seat to his Peanuts pals. But it is one of the most successful episodes that featured someone other than Charlie Brown at the center of the story. That is especially the case as audiences see Linus actually lose his cool in a very rare instance. He loses it when another child makes fun of Janet for having lost her hair right in front of him. Audiences will find themselves cheering Linus on and even doing so with the slightest tear in their eyes. That rare moment really exemplifies the pent-up feelings that not only children feel in a situation such as that presented here, but grown-ups, too. So for that reason too, the writing behind Why, Charlie Brown, Why? shows even more the importance of the episodes’ writing in whole in examining the set in whole. It is just one more example of the importance of the writing within each of the set’s episodes. The writing within each of the remaining eight specials shows in its own way why the writing in whole is so important to the episodes’ enjoyment and the success of the set in whole. And together with the episodes themselves, both elements together make a strong argument why every Peanuts fan should have this new collection in his or her own home DVD library. They still are just part of the whole of the collection’s positives. Last of note is the animation style within each episode.

Both the episodes featured throughout the body of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection and the writing within each special makes for plenty of reason for Peanuts fans to appreciate this latest collection of Peanuts classics. Of course what examination of such a classic collection would be complete without mention of the specials’ animation style. Every one of the specials featured as part of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection was drawn by hand. That means that endless hours were spent bringing to leave each and every second of each special. Now being that each special runs roughly in the range of about twenty minutes (or just a little more in some cases), the math adds up to quite a bit of time spent on bringing each special to life for broadcast. That says a lot when these specials are compared to the largely CG presentations out there today that try to claim themselves as being animated. They are animated in name only. These specials show everything that was once great about true, animated features. Each one of the specials boasts a similar look. But there are also minute details within each special that set them apart. Audiences that have eagle eyes will catch that minutia. The same can’t be said of today’s CG creations. It really gives these classic specials a real soul and heart. Together with the episodes’ impressive writing and the episodes themselves all three elements come together to make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a clear must have for any real devoted Peanuts fan.

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a must have for any real Peanuts fan. That is the case whether or not said fan already owns any of the specials presented here on their original release platforms. The collective writing presented within each of the collection’s makes the episodes and the collection in whole even more enjoyable. The standout animation style presented across each of the collection’s specials rounds out the presentation. It reminds audiences by comparison of what once made animation so great. The animation is original. Even the upcoming Peanuts Movie that is due out this Thanksgiving doesn’t entirely hold up to that style of animation despite the efforts of those behind the movie to make it look like the classics on which it is based. Each element in itself proves to be an important part of the collections’ whole. Altogether they make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a collection that any true-blooded Peanuts fan would himself or herself be honored to have in his or her home DVD library. Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is available now exclusively in Target stores nationwide. It will allegedly be available nationwide in other stores beginning Tuesday, September 15th. More information on this and other upcoming Peanuts releases is available online now along with the latest Peanuts news at:

Website: http://www.peanuts.com

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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.

Paramount Comes Up Short With Its New Peanuts Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

This past February, Paramount released to DVD for the first time the 1977 Peanuts “movie” Race For You Life, Charlie Brown. Its recent release marks the first time ever that it has seen the light of day on DVD. It wasn’t even included on either of the Peanuts 1970s Collections released by Warner Home Video in 2009 and 2010 respectively. As long as audiences have waited for this movie to finally be released, its release back in February of this year proved to be anything but outstanding. Interestingly enough, WHV didn’t handle Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. It was actually handled solely by Paramount, one of Hollywood’s Big 5 Studios. Considering this one would have thought that Paramount would have taken more pride in its product than WHV. Alas, that wasn’t the case with this release. It is a bare bones presentation lacking any bonus material for audiences. That will be discussed later. The movie itself presents an enjoyable story. And the overall presentation looks and sounds great. But that glaring lack of ANY bonus material hurts the overall product in a big way. The end result is a DVD that any Peanuts fans will welcome in their home library, but will do so very begrudgingly. It proves to be a DVD that Paramount should have handled far better than it did especially after making audiences wait nearly four decades for it to receive a DVD release albeit a DVD release that could have been far better.

Audiences have waited nearly forty-years for Paramount’s recent release of Race For You Life, Charlie Brown on DVD. Considering the wait, it goes without saying that the wait was not entirely worth it, going through this DVD. That will be discussed shortly. It isn’t all bad, though. The movie itself presents a fun story that takes both the Peanuts gang and audiences out of the typical world created by the Peanuts TV specials. Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz’s story takes Charlie Brown and company out of the comfort of their own neighborhood and puts them into the wilderness racing for not just camp pride but in fact for their own lives. Because it is such a foreign setting for the Peanuts gang, it also forces Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang to band together in order to survive. As ominous as it sounds, it is all entirely family friendly. Even more interesting to note is that the adventure forces Charlie Brown to show a side that was otherwise very rarely put on display in any of the Peanuts special before or after. Schultz even allowed Charlie Brown to end up on top for once. While there were some instances in which he came out on top in other Peanuts specials, those moments are rare. This being one of those rare instances, it makes the story all the more special. And together with the rest of the story, it makes the whole of the script behind Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown the key element that makes this DVD worth the purchase by any Peanuts fan.

Charlies Schulz’s script for Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown is one of the key elements that makes this movie worth the purchase by any Peanuts fan. It is not the only reason that audiences will enjoy it, either in its new DVD release. The movie’s overall look and sound is just as worth noting. And it will be discussed shortly. For now the focus will turn to the movie’s one glaring negative.That negative is the fac that the movie’s presentation is a bare bones presentation. There is no bonus TV special. There is no feature offering any background on what led to the story’s creation or any other bonuses. All audiences get aside from the movie is the movie’s original trailer. Had this piece been released like this from say Warner Home Video, that would have been expected. That’s because of WHV’s track record in recent years with both releases for families and grown-ups alike. But having been released by Paramount, one of “Hollywood’s Power 5 Studios,”it comes as something as a disappointing surprise. The movie comes in at a little more than an hour. So that had to have left some room for some extras. For whatever reason though, someone at Paramount decided not to include anything extra with the movie other than its trailer. One can only hope that when and if Paramount releases another Peanuts movie or TV special on stand-alone Peanuts movie and/or feature it will include at least a little more than what this one has offered audiences.

The fact that Paramount has offered audiences very little other than the original trailer for Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown as a bonus to the presentation is somewhat disheartening. It is disheartening considering the fact that every previously released Peanuts feature has included at the very least a bonus TV special and a little bonus featurette offering insight into the given presentations. As much as the overall lack of any bonus material hurts Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown’s overall presentation, at least audiences can look to the overall look and sound of the movie in its first-ever DVD presentation. It is presented in full 16:9 format instead of the standard 4:3 with the black bars on either side. What’s more it looks and sounds just as good as it did in its debut roughly thirty-eight years ago. This is something especially important to note. It is important to note because in comparison to some re-issues out there, said re-issues show that very little effort was taken to properly restore them. They look scratchy and sound just as bad. But as in the case with every previously released Peanuts feature, this one looks and sounds just as great as it did in its debut. Nothing was lost along the way in terms of updating the soundtrack and footage. That continued dedication to properly presenting Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts features coupled with the “movie’s” original script makes Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown well worth the purchase even despite its glaring lack of any extras. This being noted, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown may not be the year’s best new DVD for children and families. But it is at least one of the year’s best.

Looking at Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown in whole, it offers audiences its own share of positives. Its script presents a wholly original story in comparison to the other features that make up the Peanuts universe. It also looks and sounds just as good as in its original debut some thirty-eight years ago. That is thanks to the efforts of those charged with resurrecting the movie. For all of its positives, it suffers just as greatly from its overall lack of extras. The only extra–if one wants to call it an extra–that the DVD boasts is the movie’s original trailer. That’s all. There is no bonus TV special. There is no extra feature offering any insight on the movie’s creation, etc. Because of this, major points are taken away. As troublesome as that lack of extras proves itself to be to the overall presentation of Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, it still doesn’t hurt it enough to keep it from being added to any family’s home movie collection. It is available now in stores and online. All of the latest information on this movie and all of the latest Peanuts news is available online now at:

Website: http://www.peanuts.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/snoopy

Twitter: http://twitter.com/snoopy

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.

Batman: The Complete First Season Is A Good, Not Great Debut For Fans Of ABC’s Classic Series

Courtesy:  Warner Home Video/FOX

Courtesy: Warner Home Video/FOX

ABC’s live action series Batman was anything but a hit when it originally aired on CBS from 1966 to 1968.  The series, which starred Adam West in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman lasted all of three seasons in its original run. Since its cancellation, it has become a cult hit with audiences of all ages.  It has run on syndication on a number of networks and is currently running on Me-TV every Saturday night at 7pm ET.  Throughout all the years that it has been on television since its cancellation, it has not received a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  That is until this year.  Warner Home Video and FOX released the first season of the cult favorite last month alongside the show’s full series box set.  The complete box set is rather pricy both on DVD and Blu-ray.  That means that most fans of this hit series will be more interested in picking up the complete first season box set.  Batman: The Complete First Season boasts plenty of positives.  But it also has its own hare of negatives that can’t be ignored, either.  On the positive end, audiences will appreciate the fact that every Season One episode is presented here.  So audiences weren’t short-changed there.  What’s more, every one of the episodes is presented exactly as they originally aired on ABC so many years ago.  And rather than make each half of each episode a separate episode, they are each presented as one full episode.  Of course for every positive, there is a negative.  This recent release is no exception to that rule.  The people at WHV got the issue of the episodes one hundred percent right.  In terms of the bonus material though, both companies struck out swinging.  Batman: The Complete First Season comes with no bonus material to compliment the episodes.  The bonus material has all been saved for the full-series box sets.  WHV and FOX try to entice audiences into buying one of the two boxes by including a coupon for ten dollars off of either the Blu-ray or DVD series set.  That is not a positive by any means and will be discussed at more length later.  As glaring as the noted negative in question proves to be, audiences can at least be happy about the presentation of the episodes.  The footage looks wonderful in its transfer to DVD.  And each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 in which most classic series were presented.  It is one more way in which Batman: The Complete First Season impresses with this its debut DVD release.  It’s just too bad that it wasn’t released on Blu-ray.   Maybe audiences would have had the option of at least some bonuses in a Blu-ray box set. A fan can dream, right?  Right.  That aside, the end result of these positives and negatives is a box set that while anything but perfect, is still a good addition to any Batman fan’s home library.

There is a lot to like and just as much to not like in the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season as should be clear by now.  Luckily for fans, the positives far outweigh the negatives, beginning with the episodes themselves.  Audiences that are familiar with Batman will recall that within the context of this series, each episode was split into two parts.  While the series only ran for three seasons, this made the show really last.  It was a formula that made audiences want to tune in from week to week.  The people at WHV and FOX have paid proper tribute to that formula–and the fans of the show that lived week to week by the formula–by combining both halves of every Season One episode into one complete episode.  It would have been just as easy to spread out each half of each episode and call them “episodes.”  That would have been purely deceptive marketing as it would have meant both companies trying to fool audiences into thinking there was more than really was there.  Luckily they didn’t go that route.  And for that reason alone, WHV and FOX are deserving of at least some credit.  It’s at least one reason to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.

The presentation of Season One’s episodes is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.  But as anyone knows, for every positive there is a negative; a yang for every yin so to speak.  And this box set is no exception.  Audiences will be displeased to discover that while WHV and FOX have included every episode from Batman’s first season in this box, they have clearly omitted any bonus material at all.  All of the bonus material has been saved for both the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of the show’s complete series boxes.  In turn, WHV and FOX have included in Batman: The Complete First Season a coupon for ten dollars off the purchase of either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set.  This is hardly a positive.  And here is the reason why:  Audiences that actually would use the coupon would still pay nearly $150 for the DVD box set.  They would still be paying well over $200 for the Blu-ray set.  Keep in mind that 20th Century Fox was able to release its complete series run of Futurama in a single box for under $100 on DVD.  There is no Blu-ray option there.  That is about seven or eight seasons.  So how can 20th Century Fox do that, yet WHV and FOX expect people to shell out exorbitant amounts of money for a three-season box set by comparison?  This is a losing situation for fans who have waited decades for Batman to finally receive a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  It is an insult to those same fans.  WHV and FOX should be ashamed of themselves for this.  Keeping that in mind, it knocks off major points for Batman: The Complete First Season and for both of the full series sets.

Still not enough to consider?  How about the fact that WHV is looking to split up the second season of Batman into two separate volumes beginning in February 2015?  That’s right.  What this means is the possibility of WHV doing the same thing with Season 3.  That means that Season One could be the only one that audiences and long-time fans see in a single set. It’s probably the only factor that would even begin to make purchasing either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set more worth the purchase than Season One.  It doesn’t make such practice any more ethical, regardless. Obviously, WHV isn’t the only company guilty of this practice.  20th Century Fox has done this with its home releases of Family Guy’s various seasons over the years.  It’s a way to stretch things out and for WHV to make more money from audiences.  That goes without saying.  But the people at WHV know that people such as this critic will still shell out the money for it.  It’s just a shameful practice regardless of the company releasing the box set.  And it is something that had to be noted here if only or context.

Now, having finished on the soap box, it’s time to turn back to the positive side of Batman: The Complete First Season.  There is at least one more positive worth noting about this box set for fansto consider.  That factor is the look of the episodes themselves.  The footage looks surprisingly clean even on DVD.  It shows that those charged with transferring the masters from tape to DVD and Blu-ray went to painstaking measures to insure the footage looked its best for fans.  For that alone, WHV and FOX are to be applauded.  Even more interesting about the episodes’ presentation is that each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 format in which so many shows of its era were presented.  In sizing the resolution up to 16:9 none of the episodes’ quality was sacrificed.  So it looks just as good as it did in its original broadcast format.  Together with the fact that every one of Season One’s episodes are presented here in their entirety, it is one more positive that helps to perhaps not outweigh the negatives of the set but at least equal their weight.  And in equalling the weight of the set’s negatives, it serves to make Batman: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to the library of of long-time Batman fan.  It is hardly the best that WHV and FOX could have offered fans.  But for those that can’t afford the unethically exorbitant cost of the full series sets, it is still a good piece to have.

Batman: The Complete First Season is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Warner Home Video is available online at:

Website: http://www.wbshop.com

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WHV, Hanna-Barbera Off To A “Rocky” Start in 2014 With New Flintstone Kids Compilation Set

Courtesy:  Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers Home Video

Warner Home Video had a tough time through much of 2013 thanks to issues with a number of its new releases. It did manage to get itself at least somewhat righted by year’s end. But if the release of The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is any sign, it looks like that ship is starting to list yet again. The release of the new double-disc DVD set marks the first time that this “kiddie-fied” version–as many media critics called it in its original airing in the 80s–of The Flintstones has ever received even a semi-proper home release. Previous compilation sets from Warner Home Video that also included other well-known cartoons of the era included episodes of The Flintstone Kids. But until now, it had never received any solo release. And while this release isn’t terrible, it also doesn’t do full justice to what was just one of a handful of spinoffs from The Flintstones.
The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is not the best way to re-introduce this short-lived Flintstones spinoff. But it is also not the worst way to reintroduce the series to the generation that grew up watching the series, either. To the set’s credit, the episodes contained in this set look just as good today as they did when they originally aired nearly thirty years ago on ABC. That being noted, those charged with transferring the original content from tape to disc are to be applauded for their efforts. The colors are especially rich and vibrant when the set’s episodes are viewed via a Blu-ray player and HDTV. On an even deeper level, the very fact that these episodes have been resurrected for a whole new generation is a positive in itself. In an era when it seems that children’s programs are increasingly created through computers, this blast from the past is a welcome return. It serves as one more example of the creativity that once existed among animators. There is still some creativity among animators today. But sadly, it is far less as is evidenced by all of the computer generated programs that now fill the TV spectrum. So again, to the credit of Warner Home Video, Hanna-Barbera, and those charged with transferring these episodes from tape to disc, there is at least one positive to The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock.
That the episodes included in The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock look as good as they do in their transfer is definitely a positive. The quality of the footage will help bring back a certain sense of nostalgia for those that grew up with this short-lived series. And for those that are seeing it for the first time, it serves as another example of what once made children’s programming on the “Big 4” so great. This aside, The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is not without its faults. The most glaring of those faults is the obvious omission of the companion shorts that were included in the series’ original airing. The shorts in question were: Captain Caveman and Son, Dino’s Dilemmas, and Flintstone Funnies. Given, all ten of the central episodes in the set were the full length episodes, rather than the shorter episodes. But considering that there’s no telling how long it might be before (or if) audiences get another collection of episodes, it would have been nice to have those companion shorts included as perhaps bonus material. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead what audiences get is a bare bones compilation that boasts only ten of the series’ original episodes. That leaves the series’ now grown up fans wondering when or if the remaining fourteen episodes will see the light of day.
The omission of the series’ original companion shorts is just one of the problems plaguing The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. One more problem about this set is its lackluster disc art. Fred and Barney are presented in the disc art for the set’s lead disc, while Rocky and Dino are splashed across the set’s second disc. It was nice to see them exactly as they were presented in the included episodes. However, they are all presented in a single, flat color. In this case, that flat color was a flat red. Some might ask why this has any significance to the set. The answer is that it shows a continued lack of effort on the part of Warner Home Video to present a physical product that is appealing to the eye at least on an extrinsic level. WHV followed this same formula in 2013 with the releases of Animaniacs: Volume Four and Tiny Toon Adventures: Volume Four. The latter of the two had another even worse issue. But that’s a story for another time. The fact that WHV would continue to use a bare bones approach with its disc art as well as with its content hurts the set even more.
The disc art and bare bones presentation of the set collectively do their own share of damage to the overall presentation that is The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. While they do their share of a disservice to the overall presentation, there is at least one more saving grace that makes up for these issues. The saving grace in question is the set’s packaging. Both of the set’s discs are presented on their own insert in the standard single-disc case. The separate inserts protect the discs from scratching one another. The end result here is increased life of each disc. That both discs are placed wisely into a single disc case saves space on audiences’ DVD racks. That smart packaging and the high quality of the video in its transfer that make up for the set’s poor disc art and bare bones presentation. It makes up for those negatives just enough to make The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock at least somewhat worth purchasing or ordering. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from WHV’s online store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/the+flintstone+kids-+rockin%27+in+bedrock+dvd+1000406690.do?sortby=bestSellers&refType=&from=Search.
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New Beetlejuice Box Set Makes Its Case To Be Another Of 2014’s Best Box Sets For Family And Children

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Shout! Factory landed no fewer than four of its releases on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for families in 2013. 2014 is still very much in its infancy. And already Shout! Factory has landed one of its new releases as a definite on this critic’s list in the recently released The Red Skelton Show:The Lost Episodes. Now this critic can say that Shout! Factory has landed another potential on that list for this year in the form of Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three. Shout! Factory will release this two season set in partnership with Warner Brothers Home Video on March 18th, 2014. Whether one recalls this standout toon from their own childhood or is brand new to the series, Beetlejuice: Seasons Two& Three will impress any viewer. It will impress any viewer first and foremost because of its writing. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this season is its animation. And lastly, one must make note of the set’s packaging. All of these factors together make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three another must see both for kids and kids at heart.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice is central to the success of this new box set.  The series’ writers maintained the same writing style established in its first season throughout every episode of Seasons Two and Three.  The pop culture spoofs are there.  So are the moments in which the writers break down the fourth wall.  Even more impressive is that despite the fact that while the episodes take place in the Netherworld, the writers continued to make each episode kid friendly rather straight up spooky.  Audiences will love the spoof of Sherlock Holmes in ‘A-Ha.’  And those that are old enough to remember the show will love just as much the spoof of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in ‘Uncle B.J.’s Roadhouse.’  In this same episode, the writers incorporate that breaking down of the fourth wall.  This is a comic element that far too few animation studios use in today’s “cartoons.”  Its use in this episode is a prime example of how much hilarity it can add to a cartoon, especially when done right.  So while it is wonderfully entertaining on the surface, it serves an even deeper purpose in comparison to the “cartoons” that populate the television spectrum today.  It serves as a lesson on how much writing has changed in children’s programming from the 80s and 90s up to where it is today.  If anything, one could argue that such an example shows how much writing for today’s mainstream children’s programming has de-evolved.  That being the case, it makes this collection of episodes all the more enjoyable.

The pop culture spoofs and breaking down of the fourth wall are both integral parts of the writing in Beetlejuice: Seasons 2 & 3 that are rarely used in today’s mainstream children’s programming.  Just as integral to the show’s success in its second and third seasons is the fact that the show’s writers could take a spooky world and craft kid friendly adventures centered in that world.  Those adventures made the Netherworld not seem as spooky as it did in the movie on which the animated series is based.  The adventures are so kid friendly that they almost make the Netherworld feel like the human world for lack of better wording.  One can’t help but wonder if perhaps that approach to writing Lydia and Beetlejuice’s adventures was an inspiration behind the world of Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. at least to some point.  That writing works with the show’s animation to make these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice goes a long way toward making these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.  In direct relation, the animation (especially that of the Netherworld) makes Seasons Two & Three even more enjoyable.  It serves as a companion to the writing and makes the Netherworld that much less spooky for even today’s younger viewers.  The colors used in the Netherworld scenes are actually relatively bright.  This creates more of a welcoming and upbeat feel to that world.  On an even deeper level,  so much of today’s children’s programming is crafted by either flash animation or by full on computer generated graphics.  Beetlejuice by comparison was, like most real cartoons of its era, created entirely by hand.  For those that grew up with this modern hand-drawn classic, seeing that hand-drawn animation is a breath of fresh air among the stale, cookie cutter style excuses for cartoons that are out there today.  It’s just one more reason that any true cartoon lover and any original fan of this series will want to pick up this dual-disc set when it hits store shelves next month.

Both the writing and animation in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice are important to the success of each season.  Just as important as the writing and animation in the box set’s upcoming release is its packaging.  Because both the second and third seasons were so short, each one received its own disc inside a single standard-sized case.  It would have been so easy for Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video to split up the seasons regardless.  That seems to be the trend among so many studios today with home releases of their programs.  So it’s nice to see that Shout!  Factory and WHV didn’t take that route with this release.  It presents a certain level of ethics between the two companies.  The episode listing for each season is also provided as part of the set’s packaging.  Each season’s episode list is included inside the case on one side.  There is little left to note of this set, if anything, after noting all of the positives of the packaging.  The packaging, together with the animation and writing, combine to make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two and Three yet another certifiable candidate for a spot on this critic’s annual list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for kids and families.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, March 18th and can be pre-ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/beetlejuice-seasons-two-three.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.