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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Science > Satire > CGI > Martial Arts > TV Situation Comedy > Dexter's Laboratory (1995 - 2003*)/Kung-Fu Panda 4 4K (2023/DreamWorks Animation/Universal 4K Ultra Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Welcome Back, Kotter (1975 - 1979/*both Complete Series Warner DVD Sets)

Dexter's Laboratory (1995 - 2003*)/Kung-Fu Panda 4 4K (2023/DreamWorks Animation/Universal 4K Ultra Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Welcome Back, Kotter (1975 - 1979/*both Complete Series Warner DVD Sets)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C/B-/C+ Sound: C+/B+/C Extras: C-**/C+/D Main Programs: B-/C+/B-

Here we revisit some old comedy favorites, including the latest sequel in a series we were not for certain was even continuing...

Dexter's Laboratory: The Complete Series (1995 - 2003) helped put Warner's Cartoon Network on the map, Genndy Tartakovsky created one of the first major cable TV-only hit animated series that also established him as one of the most important creative forces in animation itself. The title character (actually voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) has a secret lab in the basement of his home, but his parents are unaware, yet his sister knows and lands up annoying him as much as joining him on various adventures.

Its a high concept that allows the show to do some funny and wild things, though some work better than others, they never shy away from all kinds of satire, commentary and the show never seems to run out of energy. This is somehow the first time we are getting to look at the series on disc, though I had seen it elsewhere, here and there. The show holds up and has aged well, so anyone wanting to revisit it will not be disappointed.

**There are sadly no extras except a mini-episode guide listing, though the hour-long so TV special Ego Trip is included on the last DVD, listed as an extra on that list, but no anywhere on the packaging or box. You can read more about his pulled Star Wars: Clone Wars series at this link:


Mike Mitchell's Kung-Fu Panda 4 4K (2024) follows three hit feature films and a sometimes forgotten TV series. We covered some of that series and two of the three films as follows in Blu-ray/DVD sets:

Kung-Fu Panda (2008, plus sequel short)


Kung-Fu Panda 3 (2016)


This time, Po (still voiced well by Jack Black) has to find a successor so he can go to the next spiritual level, but an evil sorceress (Viola Davis) who is out to stop him. It is more of the same, but the makers were smart enough to wait a while before returning to this world, so it was a hit and its nostalgia timing after what has happened the last few years played in its favor.

The supporting voice cast is also solid including Awkwafina, James Hong, Dustin Hofmann, Ian McShane, Bryan Cranston, Seth Rogen, Ronny Chieng and Phil LaMarr is pretty good and the film is consistent with previous entries, but I think this is for fans and children only. I get quickly 'panda-ed out' at this point.

Extras include Digital Code, while (per the press release) the disc adds:

  • Dueling Dumplings: In this original short introduced by Jack Black and Awkwafina, Po and Zhen battle over whose dumplings reign supreme.

  • Mastering the Dumpling: Jack Black learns how to make dumplings with influencers Phil and Helen of WongFu Productions.

  • Bad Bunny Review: The Bad Bunnies give their unedited opinion on some scenes from the film. Set up as a ''Screening Room'' style piece, the Bad Bunnies add their own commentary.

  • Deleted Scenes

    • Dads on the Trail

    • Mahjong

  • Kung Fu Talking: Voicing an animated movie takes time, time spent in a small booth being spoken to through headphones as you try to inhibit a character that might not actually exist beyond a few simple sketches and under that pressure, crazy things often happen! And we've captured them, put them to music and serves them up for your pleasure in this hilarious montage of off mic moments!

  • Meet the Cast: From the Dragon Warrior himself to newcomer, Zhen, and a full cast of amazing characters in between, we get to know the voices behind some of our favorite roles in this series of short featurettes. Discover what attracted them to the role, what their motivation was and what parts of the character they took away with them after recording had finished.

    • Po

    • Zhen

    • The Chameleon

    • The Dads

  • Kung Fu Panda 4 All!!: Join us as we go behind the scenes to see how the fourth installment in the franchise was brought to life, what makes it different from the previous films and where we find Po and the gang in this new escapade. Featuring interviews with the filmmakers and cast as well as a plethora of concept art, storyboards, animation tests and ADR footage.

  • How to Draw: Enter our virtual dojo and join one of DreamWorks Animation's talented artists as they show fans of the film ''How to Draw'' some of the characters in the film, and then watch in amazement as they come to life before your very eyes in a Shadow Puppet Theater.

    • Po

    • Zhen

    • The Chameleon

    • The Bad Bunnies

  • Shadow Puppet Theater: Using the amazing illustrations from the ''How to Draw,'' we will teach fans of the film how to create their very own Shadow Puppet Theater so they can bring Po and the gang to life and continue their many adventures.

  • And a Feature Length Audio Commentary with Director Mike Mitchell, Co-Director Stephanie Ma Stine, Production Designer Paul Duncan, Head of Story Calvin Tsang, and Head of Character Animation Sean Sexton.

Last but not least, one of the most iconic sitcoms of the 1970s and all of TV history. Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Series (1975 - 1979) became an instant hit for Warner Bros. Television and ABC, co-produced by the same team that made Chico & The Man a hit on NBC and had its ups and downs. Gabe Kaplan, who co-created the show, is the title character, a new educator who lands up getting a job at his old high school where he was not exactly in scholars classes. Instead, he was part of the underachievers group self-dubbed 'The Sweathogs' and lands up being their teacher.

The only remaining person he knows at the school is the stuffy, bitter Mr. Woodman (John Sylvester white) who renews his rivalry with Kotter. The new generation of Sweathogs includes Barbarino (John Travolta, who was on the rise as a star; this show made him a bigger one and he was soon having hit movies,) Horshack (Ron Palillo as a nerdy, eccentric member,) Epstein (Robert Hegyes, always trying to pull a fast one) and 'Boom Boom' Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, always trying to charm everyone to get his way) resulting in instant chemistry that led to the show helping ABC become the #1 network for the first time ever.

Marcia Strassman (a one time pop singer) is perfect as Kotter's wife, the terrific Debralee Scott and underrated Helaine Lembeck as the loudest of the female classmates always make the show better and Ellen Travolta also shows up in a few episodes. Things were moving along well when Kaplan, who was helping make it a huge hit, wanted a raise. Instead, he was written out of his own show (a surprisingly common thing in some hit shows of the time) and gone for most of the rest of the series. Strassman's Julie suddenly took over as a teacher (!?!) and Stephen Shortridge showed up as a new lead student when Travolta was too busy to even make cameos.

These severe changes make watch the show odd and the choices did not help. I give credit to the cast and the writers for trying to make up for all this, but it helped kill the show long before it would have been cancelled. Still, it brought a humorous new realism to TV shows about schools the way
Room 222 brought a new naturalism and realism to school dramas. But in the beginning, it hit the mark and is at least a minor comedy classic. Cheers to to all the name actors and character actors who turned up over the life of the series. Too bad it did not go as well as fans and the audience would have liked it too. Now, it is also quite the time capsule, which is why it is good to revisit it again.

There are sadly no extras again, but considering it was a popular hit and we know of some items that could have been here, it is strange this is so basic. What about TV promos, screen tests, a section on memorabilia on the show (action figures, the hit single version of the theme song, a featurette on the song, magazines, the comic book series, the board game, the TV commercial for the board game and so much more) and new interviews or featurettes are not here. Travolta would not participate we gather and most of the cast is no longer with us, so that is a missed opportunity. Otherwise, you cam get the whole show again.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Panda 4 4K has some good moments, but I was a little disappointed with it here and there. Color and definition sometimes seems behind the best CGI features we have seen recently, while the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the regular blu-ray is weaker still.

The lossless Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) on both versions fares better with a decent mix throughout, though nothing that stood out for me. The combination is good enough, professional and at least keep fans happy.

As for the 1.33 X 1 image on both DVD sets, they can bot be a little soft and offer transfers that were done a good while ago, but Dexter's has fine color even as it stays soft. Wonder if this could even be issued in HD. Kotter can have good analog videotape color, but also looked strained here and there, plus you get professional analog videotape flaws like video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage. The shows could use some more work, as could its lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound, which is a little lower in volume than usual. Be careful of volume switching and high levels of playback. Hope they can go back and redo the series at some point and that the master tapes have survived well enough.

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Dexter's has some Pro Logic surrounds, but is a little on the lite side.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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