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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Halloween Giveaway: Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly DVD

Yes, that’s right – the gang from Fraggle Rock is back in time for Halloween with some great episodes full of mystery and magic! On behalf of our friends at Lionsgate, we have the Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly DVD for one lucky winner!

Unfortunately, because of my limited shipping budget, I can only offer this to United States residents… But all you have to do is leave a comment below and I’ll contact the winner via e-mail on October 22, 2010.

Good luck!

From the press release:

Join the Fraggle gang in three frightfully delightful episodes full of mystery and magic! From Wembley accidentally wandering into the cursed “Terrible Tunnel,” Boober discovering what makes Fraggle tails flare when they get startled, and Ma and Pa Gorg leaving Junior alone in the castle on a dark and stormy night, Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly is bursting with Halloween fun! This new DVD includes three ghostly episodes: Terrible Tunnel, Scared Silly, and A Dark & Stormy Night.

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DVD Review: Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting

Hi there!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, Sesame Street was a good friend on the television. My parents knew it was safe to leave me in front of the TV for an hour. And when the Electric Company was on, it was a two hour event. Now as a parent, I know the content has changed but the quality remains high and I trust Sesame Street to educate and entertain this new generation just as well as educated me.

The Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting documentary was produced in 1989, covering the first 20 years of its continuing run on PBS. The series has continued to have another 20 years of success since then, so I can hardly wait to see what the show looks like in another 20! The documentary, hosted by Bill Cosby, provides a look back at the beginnings of the series, from its humble beginnings in 1969 to the worldwide acclaim and adoption it’s seen since then.

Watching with my two daughters, the video looks out of date but offers a great historical perspective on the series’ amazing legacy. Not only do you get some wonderful musical performances from Ray Charles and Plácido Domingo, but you get to hear from some of the actors who have called Sesame Street their home forever. What was more interesting to me was that Jim Henson appears to introduce the show, only a year before his untimely death. Neither of my girls knew him on sight, but when I mentioned the name they knew immediately who he was.

Seeing a much younger Luis (Emilio Delgado), Maria (Sonia Manzano), and Bob (Bob McGrath) really took me back to my childhood. It was quite obvious that the trio believed in the series from the beginning – not only as an integrated cast, but the first educational show to focus on using a curriculum to teach kids the alphabet, their numbers, language skills, shapes, colors, science, and much much more. Though the series went through occasional cast changes, such as when Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) passed away in 1983, that core trio has remained in place for more than 40 years now.

Add to that the many characters who call Sesame Street home – Bert and Ernie, Grover and the Grouch, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Kermit, and the whole gang – and you end up with a snapshot of that wonderful world. Cosby, with his usual humor and style, manages to interact with them all and give us a walking tour of the street most kids across America (and around the world) know and love.

It was very interesting to listen to the Sesame Street theme in different languages and see how different countries and cultures had adapted the show for their own children. Big Bird as a parrot instead of an eight foot yellow bird was fun to see, and listening to the theme song in Spanish, French, and Hebrew was intriguing. It’s amazing to think that kids in Germany, Israel, the West Bank, the Netherlands, and elsewhere are all benefiting from the pioneering work done by the show creators Jim Henson and Joan Cooney.

I have to admit that it’s a bit odd to me that Lionsgate chose now to release this special on DVD, but I think it proves the staying power of one of the tent poles of public television. Today, just like every day for the last 40+ years, children around the world have tuned in to learn and have fun at home.

Though I think this documentary will appeal more to parents than to kids, Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting provides a historical record of the great work Sesame Street has done for four decades and will hopefully do for my grandkids over the next 20. Hopefully we will see more of these “messages in a bottle” from the past to inform the viewers of tomorrow about the enduring legacy of this series.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great Sesame Street DVDs below!

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