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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Family > Crisis > Illness > Health > Animals > Musical > Telefilms > Animation > Comedy > Education > Ex > Adventures Of The Wilderness Family (1975/Lionsgate DVD)/Big Time Movie (with Rags/Nickelodeon DVD)/The Garfield Show Holiday Extravaganza (Gaiam Vivendi DVD)/The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series

Adventures Of The Wilderness Family (1975/Lionsgate DVD)/Big Time Movie (with Rags/Nickelodeon DVD)/The Garfield Show Holiday Extravaganza (Gaiam Vivendi DVD)/The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series (1994 – 1998/New Video/Scholastic DVD Box Set)/Planet Dinosaur (BBC DVD)/SpongeBob Squarepants: Ghouls Fools (Nickelodeon DVD)


Picture: C+ (Planet: C)     Sound: C+ (Family: C)     Extras: C-/D/C/C+/B-/D     Main Programs: C-/C-/C/B+/C+/C+



Going into Fall, here are some new titles aimed at younger audiences.



It has been eons since I saw Stewart Raffill’s Adventures Of The Wilderness Family (1975) was an independent theatrical release at a time when you would get child0freindly films here and there before Hollywood when toy bonkers with tie-in films and TV shows.  A family of four (mother father, son, daughter) decide to move to the Rocky Mountains and live there when the young lady turns out to be sick with a serious disease.  They ride out there (see the gas station with 51-cents-a-gallon gas!) and are determined to stay there.


Suddenly, animals show up and they are rarely attacked.  They get along with just about all of them, including wild animals who just like the family so much, they will not hurt them.  Scenery is not bad, but the acting is problematic (typical of such productions of the time) and the script is weak, down to the fatal disease not being discussed (getting out the city made it go away?) and the result is a weak film that has not aged well, but does have a few amusing moments.  Just not enough to sit through all of it.  A theatrical trailer and four TV spots are the extras.



In speaking of hyper commercial works, Nickelodeon has stuck two telefilms together about (bad) music and the teens who (try and) sing.  Big Time Movie continues their attempt to give us a boy band, this one suddenly in England (sure…) but I have never seen any such attempt turn out to be so boring.  In case we nearly fall asleep, we also get Rags, where a female pop star singer (also unconvincing) meets a guy who comes from “another world”, but this too is extremely convoluted (esp. in the Internet era) as they really have more in common: predictability and boredom.  There are no extras; see it at your own risk.



The latest of the computer animated series of The Garfield Show gives us the Holiday Extravaganza single DVD.  This includes six such themed episodes: Haunted House, Which Witch, Turkey Trouble, Caroling Capers and (in 2 parts) Home For The Holidays.  Heir Apparent is the bonus episode and this is a nice set in keeping with these releases, which are amusing, though some might not like a CG Garfield.  SpongeBob Squarepants: Ghouls Fools is almost the same release, but sticks with Halloween and offers six episodes including The Curse Of Bikini Bottom, Ghost Host, Born Again Krabs, Arrgh!, You’re Shoes United and Money Talks.  This one has no extras, but is as entertaining as the other release.



The big surprise is the big (and somewhat heavy, being 8 DVDs in slender-cases,

The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series ran for four seasons and is a surprisingly fun, educational, energetic, sometimes charming and definitely child-friendly series with the great, legendary Lily Tomlin voicing the role of a great teacher who wants to stir her student’s imaginations and takes them on many field trips to do just that.


Reminding me of a more educational variation of the amusing 1970s animated series Mission Magic (reviewed elsewhere on this site, a young Rick Springfield voiced one of the characters) I was surprised how well this held up and was made to begin with, but it is yet another winner for Scholastic and this is as strong as any of their great educational DVD box sets to date with all 52 episodes here.


In addition, it includes a nicely illustrated 24-page activity book and though the discs themselves have no other extras, this is a extremely rewatchable treasury and if it was not enough that the whole show is nicely produced, Tomlin is great and puts this one over the top making it one of the best children’s market box sets if the whole year.  I wish we saw more of this quality!



Finally we have another educational DVD release, the BBC has Planet Dinosaur (2011) which is the latest of a still-overcrowded market of discs and programs on the subject, with the idea here being that we really do not 100% know what dinos really looked like.  This is as good as most of what we have seen over the years, though it is a little soft and digital animation is on the weak side.  Still, it is one of the smarter ones and if you still have an interest in the subject, it is worth a look.  The only extra is the How To Build A Dinosaur featurette.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Dinosaur is the weakest of all the releases here, while the same aspect ratio on Family, Time and Garfield look better and are about as good as can be expected, despite being a little soft throughout in each case.  Bus and SpongeBob are here in colorful and usually solid 1.33 X 1 presentations with limited aliasing errors.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Family just boosts the theatrical mono sound as best as it can, but you can hear the age and limits making it the poorest-sounding release here (at least it is cleaned up somewhat), while the same mix on Garfield sounds narrowly better, it is a quiet show with a limited soundfield.  The rest of the programs are in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that can more than compete with the other titles.  None of these have any major audio issues.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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