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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Children > Toys > TV Situation Comedy > Animals > Educational > Videogames > Shorts > Bratz: Desert Jewelz (Lionsgate DVD)/Dennis The Menace: The Final Season (1962 – 1963/Season Four/Shout! Factory DVD Set)/Garfield: Dinosaurs & More Animal Adventures (Vivendi DVD)/Leap Frog: Number L

Bratz: Desert Jewelz (Lionsgate DVD)/Dennis The Menace: The Final Season (1962 – 1963/Season Four/Shout! Factory DVD Set)/Garfield: Dinosaurs & More Animal Adventures (Vivendi DVD)/Leap Frog: Number Land/Scout & Friends (Lionsgate DVD)/Mill Creek Animated Bundle Cycle (5 DVD sets including Pole Position & A Bunch Of Munsch)/The Valentines Collection + Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People’s Ears (Scholastic DVDs)


Picture: C+ (Mill Creek discs: C)     Sound: C+ (Mill Creek discs: C)     Extras: C/D/C/C-/D/D     Main Programs: C/B-/C+/C+/C/C+



A new year of children’s DVD releases simply continue many series we have been covering for many years now, but some are still good.



The near-feature-length Bratz: Desert Jewelz feels more like a long toy advertisement than anything else, but it is not totally awful, which is the best I can say for it being so obvious throughout.  Young fans might enjoy it, but unless it is the first DVD for fans of the toys, there is not much here to recommend otherwise, though they have added a piece on animation, episode of their show (admittedly) two commercials as extras.



Next is Dennis The Menace: The Final Season, which also happens to be its Fourth Season and ran during the 1962 – 1963 period.  All 38 half-hours are here uncut and the show ended on a high note.  Though some fans might not have been happy Joseph Kearns was gone as Mr. Wilson, but the show landed a coup when they signed Gale Gordon (The Lucy Show) in the role.  He makes a perfect Mr. Wilson and that really helps these last shows.  Jay North was starting to show his age, but not quite yet and I am happy they quit while they were all ahead.  These shows are as fun as any of the previous seasons (we covered the Season Two and Season Three DVD sets elsewhere on this site) and save some of the innocence having faded as expected, it remains the best version of Dennis outside of the comic strip despite some nicer attempts.  There are unfortunately no extras, but maybe the owners should consider such when they get around to putting the show on Blu-ray.



The computer animated Garfield: Dinosaurs & More Animal Adventures is also more of the same with the also-popular comic strip character and we get six episodes and some bonus shorts, all of which make for an acceptably good single DVD.  I like the character, though I like the original hand-drawn version, yet the older TV shows show their age.  After this and the live action/CG animated mixes in the franchise, maybe it is time to put out some serious money for a 2D mostly hand-drawn feature.  I believe this would go over better than some may think.



The very child-friendly and educational Leap Frog: Number Land/Scout & Friends is the latest in the charming series for young children, but this only runs 36 minutes and I wish there was more here, though two sing-alongs, a Music Video and a curriculum commentary for educators are included.  This can also be unintentionally amusing, so you can watch with your children and not be bored.


Now for five 3-DVDs sets we are dubbing the Mill Creek Animated Bundle Cycle which repeats some animation from that company and others we have covered over the years.  Newest to us are the animated Pole Position TV show based on the huge hit Namco videogame from 1983 in the 80s Cartoon Bundle set with episodes of C.O.P.S. and Jaycee & The Wheeled Warriors we have previously reviewed in various configurations.  Pole Position wants to combine James Bond, Speed Racer, maybe Batman and Transformers into the trick cars presented here.  That is sure to be a curio for pop culture fans.  A Bunch Of Munsch is the other odd show (who is that bearded live action guy who does not belong in the credits?) in the Edutainment Bundle (what a name) that includes Postcards From Buster and The Busy World Of Richard Scarry which we have also previously reviewed in various configurations.


The remaining three sets are more familiar including the Animal Cartoon Bundle set that has The Littles, The Get Along Gang and to my surprise, Heathcliff who we previously covered in a DVD single of somewhat better quality.  The Animated Action Bundle set offers World Of Quest, Johnny Test (but no Johnny Quest) and Adventures Of Nanoboy, while the Girls Animation Bundle set has Horseland, Mona The Vampire and Sabrina: The Animated Series (not the better Filmation version).  At best, these are good, cheap samplers, but you could do better.  There are no extras per se, though you sometimes get a bonus show from another show to make you get other sets, but we will not count that.


Last but not least are The Valentines Collection and Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People’s Ears the latest Scholastic shorts collections on DVD.  Valentines includes One Zillion Valentines, A Letter To Amy, Goggles! (narrated by Geoffrey Holder), Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and Will I Have A Friend? while Buzz is based on African Folk Tales and include the title short, Who’s In Rabbit’s House (both narrated by James Earl Jones), Hot Hippo, Not So Fast Songololo and The Village Of Round & Square Holes.  There are no extras, but these are nice sets that keep this exceptional line interesting.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Bratz, Frog and Garfield should be easily the best performers here, but they all have some soft moments that I thought they should not have and though color could be good, this is older CG work and the results show.  The black and white 1.33 X 1 on Menace is as good, with all episodes shot on 35mm film and they hold up well despite the age of the prints and the variances of quality throughout.  That leaves the 1.33 X 1 color images over all the Mill Creek Bundle DVD sets which are the poorest here since they are budget releases trying to fit too many shows on single discs throughout, have varying degrees of softness and aliasing errors and are not the best I have seen some of these shows look.  Interesting to imagine most of the shows here were produced on film and save whatever happened to the film vaults of the DIC Company, Blu-ray HD discs of some of these shows might possibly happen.


All have lossy Dolby Digital soundtracks, with the Mill Creek Bundle DVD sets having mono or very simple stereo in a few cases sound a few generations down, yet the Dolby 2.0 Mono on Dennis sounds better and was well recorded.  Dolby 2.0 Stereo is on Bratz and Frog and they are just fine, but Garfield actually attempts a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but it has a very weak soundfield.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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