Scholastic Video // 1997 // 58 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // January 14th, 2004
Beloved stories come alive in a celebration of friendship, learning, and growing up.
Over the years, a treasure trove of famed children's stories have been brought to film in animated or live action form. While most of the attention has been focused on big budget adaptations like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets or The Cat in the Hat, these smaller short films have languished in relative obscurity. New Video has collected many of these wonderful shorts and released them on 11 DVDs under the umbrella of the Scholastic Video Collection.
Harry the Dirty Dog and More Terrific Tails is a trifecta of favorite childhood puppy stories. Adapted from their respective source material in very different styles, each illustrates the sense of joy and wonder these canine companions bring to our lives.
Harry the Dirty Dog (9 min, 1997)
Written by Gene Zion. Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham.
Narrated by Bruce Johnson.
Harry is one dingy doggie in desperate need of a bath. However, before the kids can get him clean, this little troublemaker steals the scrub brush, buries it in the backyard, and takes off in search of greener pastures. His adventures in town wind up leaving this white dog with black spots looking more like a black dog with white spots. Tired and hungry, Harry returns home only to find his family no longer recognizes him. However, a quick bath reveals the truth and this relieved puppy has learned his lesson.
Thoughts: An old favorite, this simplistic yet sweet animated short recaptures both the look and feel of Ms. Graham's original illustrations.
Officer Buckle and Gloria (12 min, 1997)
Written and Illustrated by Peggy Rathmann.
Narrated by John Lithgow.
Officer Buckle is renowned for his thoughtful but sleep inducing safety speeches. However, when the department adopts a new police dog named Gloria, Buckle's speech becomes an instant hit. You see, Gloria acts out each and every safety tip for the schoolchildren, behind the back and out of view from Officer Buckle. Poor Buckle has no clue what's happening until a local news story shows video from a recent speech with Gloria in action. A frustrated Buckle resigns from the safety program, until the requests from children all over the state makes this dynamic duo a permanent fixture for school assemblies.
Thoughts: A beautifully executed tale for kids of all ages!
Angus and the Ducks (11 min, 1997)
Written and Illustrated by Marjorie Flack.
Narrated by Debby Boone.
Angus, a Scottish Terrier, is the most curious pup in the litter. When an afternoon walk reveals a strange sound coming from a neighbor's backyard, Angus wants to investigate. Unfortunately, his short leash allows little room for independent discovery. One day, his fortune turns, when the front door is left open. An energized Angus makes a beeline for the neighbor's yard only to find a trio of angry ducks who chase him out of the yard. A frightened Angus darts back home and hides under the table, having learned curiosity can be dangerous.
Thoughts: This live action short filmed from a dog's perspective in 1940s style, complete with period costumes, sets, and clips from the Jack Benny Radio Show, is the must-see highlight of this release. Interestingly enough, it was produced by Wheel of Fortune's very own Pat Sajak.
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame format, the transfers here are far from pristine. While Angus is cleanest print in the bunch, the remaining stories, especially those found in the bonus features, suffer greatly from dirt, grain, and color fade. New Video must have found these masters sitting open in someone's basement or attic. The Dolby 2.0 audio is satisfactory, although less so on the bonus stories, as one might expect. However, the music of Ernest Troost (Harry, Buckle) and Harry Manfredini (Angus) is the perfect complement to these engaging little films.
The bonus materials included here feature three additional stories, all from the late 1970s and early '80s...
The Beast of Monsieur Racine (9 min, 1974)
A French tale of an anal-retentive fruit farmer who discovers a rare and unusual beast in his backyard, capturing the attention of Paris. Cute, but falls well short of the three featured tales.
14 Rats and a Rat-Catcher (10 min, 1982)
Another European adaptation, this one focusing on an old woman whose home is overrun with mutant sized rats. Little redeeming value here.
John Brown, Rose, and the Midnight Cat (7 min, 1984)
An elderly, woman falls into a deep depression and her faithful sheepdog calls on the help of a mysterious cat to raise her spirits. Non-animated and not very engaging.
The remaining bonus materials include a read-along feature (nothing more than English subtitles) and a studio trailer.
Credit New Video for bringing something more than trite eye candy to the children's video market. If your kids are dog lovers or fans of the original books, they will get a kick out of the animated adaptations on this disc. For $14.95, it's a fair investment, especially if the wind up watching it as often as Finding Nemo. This court is adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2004 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Scholastic Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 58 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Bonus Stories: "The Beast of Monsieur Racine," "14 Rats and a Rat Catcher," "John Brown, Rose, and the Midnight Cat"
* Read-Along Option
* Studio Trailer