Sony // 1999 // 64 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // June 30th, 2005
Considering the feelings of others.
Okay. So these two kids, Emmy and Max, have possession of a "magic dragon scale" that takes them to Dragon Land whenever they recite an incantation. From the way the images bleed off the wallpaper and the colors swirl around them, I'd take a guess that the "magic dragon scale" was actually a hit of PCP, maybe acid. Either way, that would be enough to make me turn the TV to real educational programming, television that could give my kids the tools they need to survive in the real world, like Fox's Beauty and the Geek.
Anyway, so once they get to Dragon Land, they get to interact with a variety of strange and wacky creatures and learn valuable lessons about sharing and caring and feeling and touching and generally being a class-A git. Also, the show is set up so that kids can learn a smattering of Spanish, which I don't really have a problem with -- it's probably essential nowadays in some parts of the country -- but I would point out that the evidence suggests that we're having enough trouble pounding the native language into the heads of our youngsters; a second one is probably being a little ambitious at this point. Still, you gotta respect ambition (heck, it made Howard Hughes the man he eventually became), and at least these folks are making an effort to turn the future of America into something other than the drooling mass of Strange Love–watching illiterate Paris Hilton wannabes. I mean, if these videos are effective, they'll wind up being extremely polite, Spanish-speaking Strange Love–watching illiterate Paris Hilton wannabes.
For example, in the first selection, "No Hitter," Emmy and Max travel to Dragon Land to play a round of Dragonball, which doesn't involve cosmic-scale martial-arts battles punctuated by endless pontification, as I had expected, but instead seems to be a variation on classic kickball. All well and good, but it seems that little Max has a Russell Crowe–sized temper: When he doesn't get his way, he hits those around him. The wise old dragon Quetzal explains to Max that "the first rule of Dragon Land is 'never hit anyone.'" I thought that the first rule of Dragon Land was 'do not talk about Dragon Land,' but maybe I was mistaken. Anyway, Quetzal advises Max to "never, ever hit anyone":
Quetzal: The next time you feel angry, Max, use your words -- not your fists.
Max: But how do I do that, Quetzal?
Quetzal: Just say how you feel.
Now, I don't know about you, but the last time I used my words and said how I felt while I was angry, I wound up having to use my fists shortly thereafter. But Max takes Quetzal's words to heart, until he loses his temper again and kicks one of the dragons, a big blue oaf named Ord. Rather than immediately incinerating the little fellow, Ord bursts into tears, completely destroying my illusions about dragons. Quetzal pulls Max out of the game again:
Quetzal: Did you see how sad Ord was when you hit him, Max?
Which has a tremendous potential for backfiring, if you ask me. I mean, what's to stop Max from going, "Hey, yeah! If I threaten to make him that sad all the time, I can always get my way!" Quetzal could have created a monster, but Max complains: "I used my words...but he didn't listen!"
Welcome to the real world, kiddo.
Quetzal: The next time you feel like hitting someone, find something to hit instead.
Sound advice. Burt Reynolds likes puppets, I understand, or I suppose that Max could always look for the nearest telephone. Instead, Max channels his seething rage into a game-winning kickball kick. Hey, pass me a hit of that "magic dragon scale," will you? So by the end of the episode, we learn the radical concept that hitting people isn't nice, and you should never, ever do it. Fair enough.
I know that it seems like I'm mocking these cartoons (mostly because I am), but I think that they serve a distinct purpose. It's not bad stuff. In "Teasing Is Not Pleasing," for instance, Emmy is being teased relentlessly by members of the opposing team during a basketball game (yes, she did get served). The episode deals with the issue frankly and honestly (pointing out, for instance, that there's really no way to make others stop teasing you), and gives practical tools for dealing with being teased that don't include returning to the basketball court with a couple of homemade pipe bombs and a Glock 357 SIG. I mean, it says right on the cover that this DVD is all about "considering the feelings of others." How could I argue with that? Which is, I suppose, why people put stuff like that on the covers of their DVDs. Because it's stuff you can't possibly be opposed to, unless you're some sort of freak: "Ah, forget that crap, Susan. I don't want my kid to be well-mannered or considerate. Let's buy him this boxed set of Jackass instead." There are countless pre-schooler cartoons out there trading on that assumption, and this just happens to be geared toward the pre-schoolers who like dragons. And this is pretty harmless stuff, as far as it goes; at least it doesn't advocate pumping poor little Max full of Ritalin just because he's acting like, you know, a normal kid. Although from the way things are going, we'll have to start supplying teachers with tranquilizer guns full of the stuff just so they can make it through the day.
Anyway, the rest of the episodes are pretty much along the same lines: The characters have to learn to take turns in order to banish the Mefirst Wizard, the Numbers Gnome helps the gang learn their numbers in Spanish, and like that. Although I find it rather ironic that there is no Spanish language track or subtitles, the episodes are mercifully limited to about ten to fifteen minutes apiece, and they're never too drippy, so you won't have to shoot up with insulin just to make it through the disc or anything like that. Plus, you can learn a fun game in every episode, and there's a pretty booty-shakin' theme song that's stuck in my head right now and will probably stay embedded there until I take a power drill and bore it out.
Hey, there's worse things on TV.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 64 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site