Disney Educational Productions // 2008 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 15th, 2009
A timeless story of innocence lost and humanity found.
When it was released to theaters in November 2008, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was criticized by many for trivializing the Holocaust or capitalizing on a tragic time in history to play on the emotions of audiences. Attacking a film that deals with World War II history and especially the Holocaust for playing on viewer's emotions is pretty ludicrous. Even though I've read several historical accounts and seen documentaries on the Nazi régime and Jewish oppression during the war, I still find myself overcome with grief and anger over what one human being can do to another in the name of national pride or cultural preservation.
Both the video presentation and the cover art include a warning to educators that they should preview the contents before showing them to students as both the film and bonus material contain scenes that "depict human suffering and loss of life." While it's unlikely that students younger that 15 years old would be viewing this material, it's still very responsible of Disney to consider this up front.
A division of The Walt Disney Company, Disney Educational Productions delivers high-quality productions in an interactive DVD format that is ideal for educators at all levels from kindergarten through high school. The series offers programming in the following subject areas: Disney Nature, social studies, language and arts, math and science, and health and safety. Within those subject groupings, educators can find programming from series such as "The Science of Disney Imagineering," "ABC News Classroom," "Based on Books," "Bill Nye The Science Guy," "Disney's Animal World," "New True Life Adventures," "Schoolhouse Rock," "The Eyes of Nye" and "Safety Smart." One of three titles in the "Holocaust Studies" series from Disney Educational Productions, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Classroom Edition offers another perspective on Nazi Germany and concentration camps.
The video and audio presentation on this release is excellent, offering both a clear picture and crisp audio throughout. One caveat educators or other people who may be interested in purchasing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Classroom Edition should keep in mind is that none of the extra features that were included on the original DVD release have been included here. That said, this edition offers a PDF educator's guide as well as three short features entitled "The Last Outrage: The Dina Babbitt Story," "The Power of Propaganda," and "The Facts Behind the Fiction."
The educator's guide sets the stage nicely for teachers to generate in-depth discussions in their classrooms by offering a synopsis of the film, suggested classroom activities that connect the film to existing curriculum content, and pre- and post-viewing questions to encourage discussion and reflection. The guide also includes an exhaustive list of additional resources on the topic, from other DVD materials to books and websites.
"The Last Outrage" is introduced by comic legend Stan Lee and is presented in a combination of motion comic and archival footage. The featurette tells the story of a former Auschwitz inmate named Dina Babbitt who was commissioned by none other than Josef Mengele to paint portraits of Gypsy concentration camp inmates. Once the war ended, the majority of the portraits disappeared, but some ended up in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Despite trying to get her portraits back, Ms. Babbitt has been denied any rights of ownership, so this featurette is largely designed to increase support for her case.
"The Power of Propaganda" deals with Hitler and the Nazi's skilful manipulation of public perception, especially among German children and youth, to hide the reality of the genocide that was underway during World War II. This featurette makes it clear to viewers that propaganda can lead to prejudice and hatred and that by teaching children tolerance and understanding, we may be able to keep the atrocities of World War II from ever happening again. "The Facts Behind the Fiction" deals with the transition of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas from an historical fiction novel by author John Boyne to a theatrical release. Boyne is clear that while the story is fictional, he was very careful not to trivialize the events surrounding the Holocaust and treat the material with the appropriate sensitivity and respect it deserved.
It would have rounded out the educational appeal of this release nicely to have included more extensive interviews with Holocaust survivors and their families and a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, but the material and resources that have been included are solid.
Not guilty. Disney Educational Productions are to be commended for offering a high quality educational resource that addresses a painful time in human history.
Review content copyright © 2009 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Disney Educational Productions
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Educator's Guide
* Official Site