Back in the day, Judge Paul Corupe recalls, you could get away with an non-ironic tale about a girl ragdoll and a boy ragdoll living together.
Straight outta Raggedyland
Shaggy, patchwork Raggedy Ann began life as a turn-of-the-Century character by newspaper cartoonist Johnny Gruelle, who originally brought his creation to life as a mop-haired doll that would accompany a children's book of her adventures. The scarecrow-like stuffed toy and her printed page counterpart proved to be wildly popular with both kids and adults on their release, and since then, Raggedy Ann has become an enduringly squishy icon for cranky preschoolers all over the world. Though her design may seem decidedly old-fashioned since the introduction of fashion-forward dolls like Barbie, Raggedy Ann continues to be a hot property. She was teamed up with her platonic rag doll boyfriend Andy for The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy, a 1988 cartoon series on CBS. That cutesy series makes its debut on DVD with a pair of releases from New Video, starting with The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Mabbit Adventure and Other Exciting Tales.
So what's a Mabbit, and why would it entail an adventure? Why it's a magic-casting race of bunny rabbits, of course! The Mabbits are just some of the creatures that Raggedy Ann and Andy meet when they awaken after their owner, a young girl named Marcella, falls asleep or leaves the room. Together with a trunkful of other toys, including Grouchy Bear, Sunny Bunny, Raggedy Dog, Raggedy Cat, and the delightful Camel with the Wrinkled Knees (no, seriously), the dolls help keep Raggedyland safe from dangerous foes, especially the evil wizard Cracklin. Each DVD volume presents three original episodes of the show, and this one includes:
• "The Mabbit Adventure"
• "The Perriwonk Adventure"
• "The Pirate Adventure"
The plots in The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Mabbit Adventure and Other Exciting Tales may be appropriately simplistic for their young audience, but you can see some of the writers trying to have a little fun with the dialogue, especially with the brilliant character of Grouchy Bear, a panda in an ultra-conservative striped tie who spends most of his time complaining. Though he doesn't appear in every adventure, adults will probably be surprised at how humorously cynical Grouchy Bear can be as he complains and gripes his way through Raggedyland like Dr. Smith on Lost in Space. The rest of the hero characters are also well-developed-if slightly more "traditionally" charming-and they're easy to sympathize with. It's only the villains they meet on their adventures that end up being incredibly forgettable, annoying wood sprites and blandly evil wizards who haven't thought their plan of conquering Raggedyland through very well.
With simple character drawings and even simpler backgrounds, the animation is distinctly average, but it does feature some pretty good voice work that helps overcome the limited animation techniques and give the show a little personality. The only real problem with the quality of the show is the terrible synthesizer soundtrack, an annoying twinkling that the show's producers felt had to run in the background of pretty much every scene.
Like its simultaneously-released counterpart, The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Pixling Adventure and Other Exciting Tales, the quality of the transfer on this New Video release is not very good, especially considering the fact that this show is not even twenty years old. Source and digital artifacts frequently mar the picture, and everything seems a little softer than it should probably be. The Dolby 2.0 stereo track is pretty standard for a cartoon of this vintage, a little flat, but perfectly adequate for the material at hand. The sole extra is pretty pathetic: "The History of Raggedy Ann & Andy" is a screen with three or four sentences of text detailing the origins of the iconic dolls.
The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Mabit Adventure and Other Exciting Tales, is perfectly appropriate for kids, but I'm not sure what the hook is for a modern audience. I can't imagine that anyone would feel nostalgic enough about the show to want to buy it and share it with their children, and Raggedy Ann is not exactly in the public eye at the moment. It's doubtful any young viewer would pick this over anything else currently available. Still, you could do worse.
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