The Backyardigans – We Arrrr Pirates (Nickelodeon DVD) + Carnival Magic (1981/Cultura/Film Vault/Virgil Blu-ray + DVD) + Dungeons & Dragons Double Feature
(2000/2005/Warner Blu-rays) + Dora The
Explorer – Dora’s Ballet Adventure (Nickelodeon DVD) + Miracle Maker (Jesus/1999/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD) + Scooby Doo! Mystery Inc. – Season One, V.1
(Warner DVD) + Tom & Jerry: Fur
Flying Adventures V.1 (Warner DVD) + Walking
On Water (2008/Affirm/Sony DVD)
C+ (Maker Blu: C+/Magic & Maker DVDs: C) Sound: C+
(Magic: B- & C/Maker Blu: B- & C+) Extras: D (C on Magic, Dragons, and Miracle) Main Programs: C/C-/C/C+/C/C/C+*/D
second guess children’s or family entertainment is always a bad thing and has
resulted in some of the dumbest, oddest productions of all time. It can also affect established properties in
ways it should not. Eight new releases
will show you what I mean.
knows how to keep it simple and be child friendly. The
Backyardigans – We Arrrr Pirates and Dora
The Explorer – Dora’s Ballet Adventure are the latest single DVDs based on
the hit TV shows. As you can see from
these links, they are of a quality that is just consistent enough to work:
The Backyardigans – High Flying
Dora The Explorer – Dora’s Slumber
they may follow a 1980s formula of happy family happenings, that has not hurt
these too much. Each has four episodes
and no extras in keeping with such basic releases, but they keep on coming
because this seems to be enough for fans.
The Dora disc is even a tie-in at a discount chain selling ballet
accessories. That is the state of commercial
children’s TV still.
live action Disney feature films that ran up to the late 1970s became the model
for more imitators than you might think.
This includes many lost, orphan films made by wanna be companies, some
sincerely interested in family entertainment.
This included some oddball productions into the 1980s (before the
Lucas/Spielberg effect took hold), so it may seem hiring genre B-movie director
Al Adamson (Dracula vs. Billy The Kid)
to helm Carnival Magic (1981) set at
a circus with a magician who has telekinesis, ESP and a talking chimpanzee (I
am not making this up) who quickly become the top attraction until kids are
drawn into a revenge melodrama where an animal trainer finds out the chimp
really can talk and wants to kidnap him to be sold for experimentation!
Not to be
confused with the NBC-TV megabomb of the time Mr. Smith (a comedy about a talking genius chimp who tells very,
very, very bad jokes), this is so odd and bad that it is not good, yet
fascinating in just how bad this is.
Adamson was a master of really bad directing and getting the worst possible
performances out of his unknown actors.
This is one of his latter films (this man actually had a career!) and it
is more a product of the 1970s than anything else, warmed over, belated and
oddly awful. Still, it is a time capsule
curio from a director who is still celebrated for being so bad and deserves to
be in print. Oh, and they thought they
were going to make a sequel.
include Restoration Demonstration, Original Theatrical Trailer and TV ad,
Outtakes (without audio), Slide Show that includes text from the original press
kit and mostly full color stills, Interview with Producer Elvin Feltner (on
cameras for about 12 minutes) and a feature length audio commentary by Feltner
and cult film historian Joe Rubin.
as that is, the 1980s revived fascination with the fantasy genre (including
role playing games and movies) eventually collided very belatedly in two would
be narrative features based on the most successful of all role playing
games. Warner has collected both duds in
a new Dungeons & Dragons Double
Feature Blu-ray set with the inept 2000 theatrical release that manages to
pair Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans (imagine that!), Thora Birch and very bad,
dated visual effects in a useless cash-in on the game that goes on and on and
on and that was not that big a hit. Yet
in 2005, New Line threw together a video sequel subtitles Wrath Of The Dragon God which brings back some of the lesser known
actors and no improvement in effects or writing. This pair of cynical train wrecks are the epitome
of how not to adapt a franchise property to the screen and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy (overrated as
it is) has made these look so very dated.
These are curios at best.
for both include audio commentaries, making of featurettes, interviews, games
and the first film adds a trailer, Additional Scenes, an Alternate Ending and
visual effects demo.
releases are not partly animated, they are fully animated. The surprise of the Mel Gibson-produced The Miracle Maker – The Story Of Jesus
is that it is in the old stop-motion animation of Rankin Bass and Davey &
Goliath shows. Ralph Fiennes (as
Jesus), Julie Christie, Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina, Ian Holm, David
Thewlis, William Hurt and Richard E. Grant voice the various characters and
this is watchable, yet it is everything we have seen before, so only expect so
the Blu-ray include trailers, storyboards, Producer/Director Audio Commentary
and a Making Of featurette, while the DVD has some interactive games.
continues their more mainstream 2D animated DVD with Scooby Doo! Mystery Inc. – Season One, V.1 coming from the latest
formula revival of the once great Hanna Barbera franchise that has not
recovered from its live action disasters worse than the Dungeons & Dragons Double Feature. It is child-safe enough, but boring and no
match for the early series. Four
episodes are included here, but there are no extras. Tom
& Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures V.1 is a strange mix of their MGM theatrical
shorts Warner has decided to issue that can only be described as a hodge podge
of 14 various shorts, all of which have turned up before. Some are classic 1.33 X 1 Technicolor
classics by Hanna & Barbera, some are from the Chuck Jones era (better
represented by the Jones collection of these shorts reviewed elsewhere on this
site) and the rest are CinemaScope shorts, which offers the biggest problem.
of offering all of them at anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 as would be proper,
only some are. A couple are letterboxed
and one starts out letterboxed, then is pan & scan! That is sloppy and this is not a collector’s
disc. There are no extras.
we have a drama about surfing that is another dud from Affirm films that, no
matter what you do, just find faith and do nothing else with your life. Must retire your brain and follow dogma. This time, it is the world of surfing that is
ruined in Walking On Water (2008)
that cannot decide if it is a drama or docudrama or whatever, but it is
scripted and could be subtitled ‘the endless sermon’ it is so dull.
men go traveling and surfing around the world, following their drams, but they
should just give them up in the end. How
annoying and offensive. Even the visuals
are not that good, so you can tell the point of this project has nothing to do
with surfing or the freedom thereof. It
also has some bad shots, bad editing and slick shots that further denature
it. Worst than Carnival Magic, this is condescending and borderline sinister in
being a family/child-aimed project. No
matter what the trends above represent, this is the bottom of the barrel and at
least Miracle Maker is not phony
about its agenda, no matter what has happened with Gibson. Plus, is this title not sacrilege, or do they
get a Far Right Wing pass for what they are really up to? What a bigoted double standard that is.
include two featurettes and a clip from a follow-up project to beware of in the
worst way. Could it be worse than this
1.78 X 1 image on the Blu-rays are all underperformers with Dragons especially soft, dated and
there was no way Warner was going to go back and redo those dated effects, but
both features have dated HD masters. Magic may be digitally restored form a
35mm film print with its share of damage (and maybe Fujirot from an original
35mm internegative?), but it looks better than both of them throughout despite
fleshtones being more pale than they should be and other flaws surfacing that
could not be corrected. Color is better
here at times than on the anamorphically enhanced DVD, but both can be pale
overall, a problem with the similar DVD on Maker,
whose Blu-ray does a much better job of reproducing the color and detail of the
stop-motion, which is the default highlight of this release.
X 1 image on Backyardigans, Dora and Fur are just fine, with Fur
having the best color (save that pan & scan and letterboxed footage). The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on
the CinemaScope Fur shorts look good, but can also have softness and detail
issues. That leaves the anamorphically
enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Scooby
and Water being oddly softer than
new productions should be, with Scooby
having color issues and the mix of hand-drawn & computer animation not
working out so well. Water has some awful shots waved into
some good ones that get overwhelmed by the former. Color can be really bad here, even worse than
the bad shots on either Magic disc.
sound, all the Blu-rays (save Magic)
have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 remixes and again are all underwhelming. Dragons
have dated mixes that simply are not that good and have soundfields that do not
impress much. Maker has the best soundfield overall, but is still limited. Magic
remixes the original theatrical mono to Dolby Digital 5.1 and just manages to
be clearer than I expected, though it shows its age and the same sound appears
in both formats. The rest of the DVDs
have simple Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (including those included with Blu-rays),
though the DVD version of Maker has
a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is weaker than it should be for a recent
- Nicholas Sheffo