Judge Erich Asperschlager is gonna send his vote to community college.
Our review of Schoolhouse Rock! 30th Anniversary Edition, published September 24th, 2002, is also available.
"Hey, do you know about the U.S.A.?
-- from "The Preamble"
It's almost October, folks. Time to get ready for Election Day! That means buying your Election Day cards and your Election Day gifts, decorating the Election Day tree, thawing the Election Day turkey, and sewing your Election Day costume. Right now, throngs of shoppers are packing Walmart's seasonal Election Day aisle, filling their carts with all the trinkets and trimmings necessary to make this Election Day the best one ev…wait, what? There's no such thing as an Election Day tree? You mean all those cards and elaborate calligraphy were for nothing? Well someone had better tell Disney, because Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection seems like it would have been the perfect Election Sock stuffer.
In 2002, Disney released the Schoolhouse Rock! 30th Anniversary Edition—a series-spanning two-disc collection that includes every musical short produced during the Gen-X classic's 12-year stranglehold on TV edutainment. Before that release, episodes were available only in smaller sets like "Grammar Rock," "Science Rock," and "Money Rock," though Disney must not think anyone watched that last one. Why else would they try to re-sell fewer episodes than they sold us six years ago for the same amount of money?
Election Collection includes 14 Schoolhouse Rock! shorts, grouped into three sections: "The Campaign," "Our History," and "How Government Works." Here's what made the cut (for short-specific info, read Chief Justice Stailey's excellent 30th Anniversary Edition review):
How Government Works
There's also a bonus section with two versions of a brand-new short called "Presidential Minute."
Here's what's great about Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection: It's Schoolhouse Rock!, and Schoolhouse Rock!, well, rocks! Here's what's bad: for pretty much the same money, you can get all but one of these episodes, plus 30-some more and a ballot-box-load of extras, in the 30th Anniversary Edition set.
Don't get me wrong. There's not a stinker on this disc. Although the earlier episodes ("No More Kings" and "Three-Ring Government," for example) are arguably better than some of the later ones ("Tyrannosaurus Debt" and "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote To College"), they all exude the series' distinctive mix of coolness, catchiness, and hardcore education. I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but even I learned things I didn't know before—though I may just have forgotten them. I am getting old.
And I'm not the only one who's getting old. Election Collection might look like it's for kids, but it's really aimed at parents who grew up with this stuff and can't wait to foist it on their unwary offspring. Get ready, kids. It's family education night! That's right. Forget about your text messaging and your Disney-branded tween pop. We're going back to a time before 5.1 audio (the opening menus might have surround sound, but the episodes are presented in stereo) and fancy widescreen TVs (the shorts are presented in crisp, clean 4:3) were invented.
Maybe it isn't fair to compare this release to the 30th Anniversary set. For all I know, you don't care about not having all the episodes, or mind Disney's oppressive FastPlay set-up, or having to skip past endless trailers, or even the grating voice that encourages you to make a menu selection. If that's the case, Election Collection is worth picking up, especially if you want to get your kids excited about the upcoming election, and the idea that one day their vote will count, too, unless you live in Ohio.
It's easy to get lost in the deafening din of pundits and smear tactics. Election Collection goes back to the basics: life, liberty, freedom, the victories of the American Revolution and of the suffragettes. Whatever your cynical take on the economy, our country's place in the world, or sleazy political maneuvering, it's hard to hold onto the hate when you're watching these animated tributes to American ingenuity and the hard-won rights we take for granted. If this set came with a flag, I'd have happily waved it from beginning to end.
But this set doesn't come with a flag. In fact, the only extras are the aforementioned two versions of the new "Presidential Minute" short—though you'll probably have to watch them several times to find the differences—and an "election tracking kit." That "kit" consists of a folded map of the 50 states and their delegate counts, and two sheets of colored stickers. The idea is that on election night, parents and kids can sit down together and watch the results, placing a red sticker on a state if the Republicans win, or a blue one if the Democrats do. It's a nice idea—the kind of thing a motivated parent could easily put together themselves, without having to buy this DVD.
Though its audience is probably limited thanks to the existence of the exhaustive and affordable 30th Anniversary set, Election Collection is a great way to introduce your kids to a classic series at just the right time. However they do it, parents need to get their kids interested and involved in the election. We don't need another generation of cynics.
Its time to Rock! the vote.
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Scales of Justice
• Election Tracking Kit
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