DVD Review: The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss – There is Nothing to Fear in Here!

Hey there…

Stumbling upon fun shows I never knew existed is one of the fun things I get to do as a reviewer. And who doesn’t like to review anything related to Dr. Seuss? Ever since I was able to read, I’ve loved the tongue-twisting, rhyming stories of author Theodor Geisel (aka “Dr. Seuss”). Geisel managed to write more than 60 books in his career – starting with And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street in 1937 and ending with Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in 1990.

Some of his classics include How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham. There are too many of his stories to count that have twisted my own tongue – such as trying to clearly enunciate Fox in Socks… “When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle…”

But somehow I managed not to ever hear about a series on Nickelodeon (Nick Jr.) that was produced by Jim Henson Productions for a couple of seasons in the mid-1990s. The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss missed my radar entirely. So when it popped up from Lionsgate recently with a Halloween-themed collection of three episodes, I knew I had to see The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss – There is Nothing to Fear in Here!

This DVD gathers three episodes – “There’s Nothing to Fear in Here,” “The Blag-Bludder Beast,” and “Norval the Great.” Each is presented with Seussian rhyme and Henson Muppetry, making each episode seem almost surreal at times – though each was a lot of fun to watch with my two daughters. In each episode, we see the Cat in the Hat introduce a story to three Little Cats and provide a little narration or context now and then.

“There’s Nothing to Fear in Here,” the lights go out in a thunderstorm and the Cat in the Hat has to calm down everyone under the roof of the Cat’s Playhouse. The Little Cats and Terrance McBird (who lives in a tree in the middle of the house) are all afraid that the storm might get in and don’t know what to do while they’re stuck inside. The Cat invents games to play in the dark and tells stories to pass the time. The first story was about Sarah Hall-Small, who is scared by the noises in her closet – and she has to find a way to deal with whatever horrible monster might be lurking there (it turns out to be a couple of mice who are afraid of her). And the second story is about the Grinch who gets a taste of his own medicine after he scares everybody in Seussville and they decide to turn the tables on him.

In “The Blag-Bludder Beast,” we get to see the famous Yertle the Turtle get into trouble. Yertle is running from the last place he decided to “help” when he stumbles into a swampy pond filled with garbage. It turns out to be the site where the people of Troomph have been dumping trash to appease the scary but never-seen Blag-Bludder Beast. Well, when Yertle appears from the pond covered in garbage, he scares the Troomphians who were dumping garbage and hide their eyes to avoid being attacked. When Yertle turns around and knocks off the trash, the Troomphian thinks Yertle managed to vanquish the wicked creature, he becomes a hero in Troomph! However, as Yertle often does, he takes advantage of the situation and eventually gets the Troomphians angry at him even as they learn the Blag-Bludder Beast isn’t scary at all!

And finally, in “Norval the Great” we meet Binkham Tamino McDoyal the Third, who everyone calls Binky. He tells his friends that Norval is a talking goldfish and that they’ve gone on great adventures together. Though his friends don’t believe him at first, Binky tells a heck of a story that takes them to a tropical island, into space, and home again. Could the fish really talk? Did Norval and Binky really have the adventures? You’ll have to watch to find out!

Now, beyond the three episodes on the DVD there are a few trailers for other Lionsgate releases, but that’s it. I would have liked to have seen another episode or two at the least, or perhaps some extras of some kind on the disc. That said, the three episodes we watched were a lot of fun, mixing Muppets and Dr. Seuss to great effect for kids and parents alike.

If you’re a fan of Dr. Seuss and the Muppets and want to see this interesting combination, I’d definitely recommend you check out The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss – There is Nothing to Fear in Here! at your local rental or retail counter. I’m hoping the entire series is released on DVD so we can see more of the “Wubbulous World” in the near future. For more about this and other Henson-produced shows, be sure to check out Henson.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this DVD and others today!

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DVD Review: Jim Henson’s The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories

Hello all…

Just in time for Earth Day 2010, Lionsgate is releasing some environmentally-conscious blasts from the past in Jim Henson’s The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories. The DVD features four unique programs produced by the Jim Henson Company all centered on the interconnected nature of animals and the environment from the late 1980s and mid-1990s.

“The Song of the Cloud Forest” originally aired in 1989 as part of The Jim Henson Hour on NBC and focuses on Milton, a golden toad in the rain forest, who can’t find a date. Using a variety of very colorful Muppets and backgrounds, Milton discovers from two humans (called “uprights” by the animals) that he’s an endangered species and worries that he’ll never find his mate. When he and his friends discover that the uprights have a female golden toad in a cage they’re using to lure Milton out, he has to figure out what to do… Will he try to free her or will he run away to avoid capture himself?

The whole premise of this segment is that we (humans) don’t understand that everything is interconnected and the animals must somehow express this sentiment to save the rain forest. Though the uprights in this instance see the light in the end, I’m not convinced that the rest of the world understands this simple idea even after 20 years. We can only hope that the growing awareness of concerned people around the world will eventually find ways to get the message across that we must stop destroying our planet or we will be killing more than a few trees or frogs – we’ll be committing species suicide.

The only negative comment I have about “The Song of the Rain Forest” is that it looks like someone designed it while on an acid trip. The colors are far too bright in just about every scene, which distracts the viewer from the message and enjoying the story and songs. But if you wear sunglasses during those “too bright” bits, you’ll probably be just fine.

Next on the DVD are two episodes of Jim Henson’s Animal Show with Stinky and Jake – “Owl & Frog” and “Kangaroo & Frog”. “Owl & Frog” originally aired in 1996 on Animal Planet during season 3 of the series and “Kangaroo & Frog” aired on Fox Kids in 1994. The Animal Show is set up in a talk-show format with Stinky the skunk and Jake the polar bear interviewing different animals and sharing fun facts.

And lastly is an episode of Fraggle Rock – “River of Life”, from season five of the show that aired on HBO the mid-1980s. Something has gone terribly wrong with the Fraggle’s water supply and contaminated it, making the Fraggles who drank it very sick and killing the vegetable garden of the Gorgs. What they don’t know is that Doc, a human inventor living outside the Fraggle’s cave with his dog Sprocket, is making a deal to test a waste disposal technique in the caves. The waste is polluting the water and once Doc figures that out, he pulls the plug on the experiment and flushes the system with fresh spring water, which makes everything better.

All in all, this is a fun collection of Jim Henson classics that directly relate to the world we live in. Even now, these shows are relevant and provide a good message to the youth of today. So if you’re looking for some environmentally-related, but fun programs for your kids, be sure to check out Jim Henson’s The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories on DVD today!

For more information about this and other Jim Henson productions, check out their website at Henson.com.

This message originally appeared here at BlogCritics.org.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great Jim Henson DVDs at Barnes & Noble below!

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DVD Review: Jim Henson’s Animal Show with Stinky and Jake: Lions, Tigers, and Bears

Hey all…

Evidently I was too focused on being an adult in the mid-1990s because I missed a number of fun kid’s shows. I’d never heard of Jim Henson’s Animal Show before, but evidently it aired Seasons 1 and 2 on Fox Kids from 1994-1996 and had a third season on Animal Planet in 1997. I suppose I shouldn’t be too shocked, considering that my eldest daughter wasn’t born until 2001, so I really didn’t have a reason to watch fuzzy Muppets talk about animals!

The Animal Show, hosted by Stinky the skunk and Jake the polar bear, focused on one or two animals per episode in a talk-show format. Stinky and Jake would interview their Muppet-ized guests and then show video clips of the actual animals in the wild. The hosts were assisted by co-hosts Armstrong the chicken hawk and Ollie the tapir (later replaced by Bunnie Bear, a distant cousin to Jake), who had their own segments of the show – “That’s Amazing,” “Animal Awards,” and “Habitat Time.” And then Tizzy the bee for the episode’s quiz and Yves St. La Roache the cockroach who hosted a cooking-show segment.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears includes five different episodes of the series – “Zebra & Lion,” “Tiger & Tiger Beetle,” “Raccoon & Polar Bear,” “Grizzly Bear & Hedgehog,” and “Chimpanzee & Hyena.” All but “Chimpanzee & Hyena” were from the first season of the show.

Watching with my family, we were entertained by every episode. Each episode was structured in roughly the same way, providing a consistent pattern for learning by the kids watching. And sometimes we even learned something! The silly songs, fun characters, and important lessons about animals, their habitats, and the environment is timeless.

As parents, my wife and I were most entertained by Armstrong and Yves St. La Roache. Armstrong’s dry wit and reluctance to try new things really resonated with me, as I tend to be the same way. And La Roache reminded us fondly of the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show. It seems it’s tough to be a cockroach and get taken seriously as a chef. But somehow La Roache manages to pull it off with humor. We were both wondering if they ran out of budget for cute and cuddly animals for the “Chimpanzee & Hyena” episode because both Muppets were so ugly. But overall each episode achieved a good balance between humor and education without going overboard on either.

When it was airing, the TV series received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Children’s Series/Children’s Programming and received a “Parent’s Choice National Television Award,” as well as receiving an endorsement from the National Education Association (NEA). Though the video clips are a bit outdated as far as quality goes, the show footage with the Muppets is crisp and clear. And the content is just as relevant now for kids as it was 15 years ago.

If you’re looking for a fun and educational way to spend a couple of hours with your kids, look for Jim Henson’s Animal Show with Stinky and Jake: Lions, Tigers, and Bears on DVD at your favorite retailer online or off. Hopefully they will be releasing all three seasons of Jim Henson’s Animal Show with Stinky and Jake on DVD soon!

For more information about this and other Jim Henson productions, check out their website at Henson.com.

This article originally appeared here at BlogCritics.org.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great DVDs from Barnes & Noble below!

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