Scholastic Video // 2005 // 58 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 7th, 2005
Note to self: Don't ever wish to be a rock.
Ah, another fine storybook entry from the good folks at Scholastic. These discs may not be the hyper-kinetic Yoohoo-snorting ilk of the current crop of kiddie animation, but what they lack in explosions and spaceships they more than make up for in quality. These are old-school stories, taken directly from their source books, complete with the original illustrations. So it's just like reading these stories to your kids, except there's no cumbersome page turning and you don't sound like John Lithgow.
This DVD sports four stories in all -- three in the main program, and a special bonus story. And here they are:
* "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble," by William Steig
A true classic. Sylvester is a young donkey loved deeply by his parents. One day he happens upon a red pebble that, as luck would have it, grants wishes. Sylvester is thrilled with the prospect. But when a lion suddenly approaches, Sylvester rashly wishes to become a rock. D'oh!
Sure, this is a much-loved story, but I dare you to think about it and not be horrified. Sylvester must endure life as motionless rock, unable to call for help or move. Yikes! Imagine being a conscious rock! Well, of course there's a happy ending, and family love triumphs, and all that, but for a while there this could have been a Tales from the Crypt episode. Lithgow narrates.
* "Possum Magic," by Mem Fox
Grandma Poss loves her kids and making magic potions. Her favorite combination of the two is mixing up something special for young Hush that turns him invisible. Hush enjoys the fun and mischief associated with being invisible (yanking on others' tails, for example), but when he finds he is unable to revert back to opaque form, he and Grandma Poss must develop a new formula.
This is one of those nutty little stories that points to a possible drug addiction for the author. A magic-casting possum that deliberately turns little kids invisible? Can you imagine a bunch of invisible five-year-olds running amok?
* "Princess Furball," by Charlotte Huck
Has your dad ever betrothed you to an ogre in exchange for wagonloads of silver? For Princess Furball (so called for her affinity for cloaking herself in fur-heavy clothing), that was her life -- until she escaped her kingdom and settled elsewhere, living a life of servitude. But she soon strikes up a relationship with the young, comely king, and...well you know the rest. Fairy tale ending and so forth.
This is a gimmicky little fable that drags its feet towards the end story-wise, but kids should like it. But where have I seen this rags-to-princess idea before?
* "The Wizard," by Jack Kent
Yes, there's a wizard in the story, but this mostly about a mouse. The wizard's specialty is whipping up batches of shape-changing potions. One day, a mouse visits and begs for a potion; life is hard being a mouse. The wizard has only a nameless potion with an unknown effect to give the rodent. The mouse accepts it, but he is so uncertain of what he can possibly turn into that he rethinks his whole identity crisis.
The most animated of all the stories, "The Wizard" is more a cartoon than any of the stories that precede it. There are some amusing scenes of the mouse conjecturing about what his life would be like as a different animal. Self-esteem morals abound.
The programs are presented in a rich, colorful fullscreen format. Sound is 2.0 stereo, but since everything is so dialogue-centric, audio output is mainly limited to the center channel. A Spanish version of "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" and a "read-along" option, which simply turns on the English subtitles, represent the bonus materials.
This is another charming little set Scholastic has put together for parents of small children. While the older kids may be apt to lose interest in the pan-and-scan still image style of the stories (there is some limited animation in "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" and "Possum Magic"), the rugrats should lap it up.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Scholastic Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 58 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Wizard" Bonus Story
* Spanish Version of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble