Judge Dawn Hunt laments the removal of humans from the time-honored practice of reading to those who cannot themselves read.
"Is there anything worse than a sad pastry?"
Scholastic was founded in 1920 and has published some of the world's most loved stories like "The 39 Clues" and "The Babysitters Club" series.
They haven't been in the book-to-dvd game for too long and one of the company's latest chapters (hee hee!) is a multi-disc set they market under the banner of "Scholastic Storybook Treasures."
I'm Dirty! & I Stink! is a box set which contains two separate releases: I'm Dirty!…and more stories of adventure and science and I Stink!…and more stories on wheels.
"Burt Dow: Deep-Water Man" (9 min)—An old sailor in a leaky boat has an unexpected encounter with a whale.
"The Paperboy" (8 min)—Forest Whitaker narrates the solitary journey of a paperboy on an early morning delivery route.
"Stars! Stars! Stars!" (10 min)—A young boy and his dog take us on a journey to the stars, the planets, the galaxy, and the universe; while explaining what different aspects of the night sky are.
"Fletcher and the Falling Leaves" (11 min)—Young Fletcher Fox is distressed to learn his favorite tree's leaves are turning brown. And when he loses the battle to keep all the leaves on the tree it leads him to the discovery of winter.
"Johnny Appleseed" (10 min)—A poem about early frontiersman Johnny Appleseed and his legendary travels across the continental United States.
"Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" (15 min)—Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, proudly help build canals, roads, and buildings. But when the diesel, gas, and electric shovels come along they find themselves unwanted. So they travel out of the city and into the country in hopes of finding a way to make themselves useful again.
"Trashy Town" (7 min)—Two rodents narrate the journey of their town garbage man as he rides in his truck.
"The Remarkable Riderless Runaway Tricycle" (11 Min)—This is the only live-action piece on the disc and it tells the story of a tricycle which is mistakenly picked up with the trash and must find a way back to his little boy.
As far as the selection of stories go, I believe little boys especially will love "I Stink!" as the garbage truck belches and makes lots of noises. Plus there's a whole alphabetized list of gross garbage detailed with pretty disgusting pictures. One thing adults will get a kick out of is listening for the celebrity voices which occasionally pop up to narrate the stories. My favorite was Michael McKeon on "Arnie the Doughnut."
"The Remarkable Riderless Runaway Tricycle" cracked me the hell up. From the little boy's Dorothy Hamill haircut, to the plot which could've been pulled directly from an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, I really enjoyed the slapstick goofiness of this. On the other hand "Arnie the Doughnut" is a great thing to show kids if you're trying to get them to stop eating sweets. If the idea of a doughnut that is willing to let you eat him creeps me out as an adult, I can only imagine the horror this would inflict upon a child. I also didn't really care for "The Beast of Monsieur Racine." To me it came across less as a delightful children's story and more a tale of some guy who gets taken advantage of and decides he's cool with it. Plus it had one of the grossest sound effects I've ever heard.
And while I Stink! did a fairly decent job of assembling the stories, I can't say the same thing for I'm Dirty! In truth "I'm Dirty!" is noticeably out of place on its disc. The rest of the stories are by far a more cohesive offering without its inclusion, both in terms of animation and compatibility of subjects. I understand the whole idea is to sell it as a related set ("I'm Dirty!" and "I Stink!" not only sound good together they're written by the same people as part of a trilogy.) However, it's deceptive. These aren't all stories about getting messy and smelly, so if you want stories about these subjects just know they aren't all fitting the bill.
On a technical note, I had to turn the read-along feature off, and not only because I didn't need them (thankfully I can already read.) The subtitles simply are up and gone too quickly to really be effective for more advanced readers, who are the only ones who might be able to read them.
The special features on Disc One include two interviews and a trailer. The first is "An Interview with Kate & Jim McMullan" (7 min), where the duo discusses the trilogy of books they've written, including "I'm Dirty!" and "I Stink!" The second is "An Interview with Julia Rawlinson" (6 min) and she details where the idea for "Fletcher and the Falling Leaves" came from as well as her writing process.
Aside from two bonus stories, the only true special feature on Disc Two is the trailer. The first bonus story is "The Beast of Monsieur Racine" (9 min.) This is the story of a retired tax collector who believes he has found a previously undocumented type of animal.
The second bonus story is "Arnie the Doughnut" (18 min.) Arnie the doughnut comes into the world and is bought by Mr. Bing. His delight in being chosen quickly turns to horror when he learns just what doughnuts are made for. An unexpected way to the happy ending ensues.
The video is a nice rendering and there isn't any static or dust or scratches to be found. The sound is subdued but this isn't a set to excite kids to run around and act crazy, rather the opposite is true. The extras are a bit skimpy but kids won't care.
As an adult, I found there are definitely some things to like about I'm Dirty! & I Stink!. For one, there are many different types of pictures. The animation is rough by anyone's standards but the simplicity works. They try to keep the balance between making the stories out-and-out cartoons and reminding us these are actual books, too. For another, they do a nice job of selecting stories from different decades; not everything was made in the last ten years, which will be a nice re-visitation for some who have read the older stories before.
I'm a firm believer in reading the book before seeing the adaptation. So I'd encourage you to get a hold of the books too, not just the box set.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scholastic Video
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