Celebrate America with these grand patriotic stories!
The growing Scholastic Video Collection has been notable for bringing classic children's literature to the screen. With the release of The Scrambled States Of America and More Stories To Celebrate Our Country, another winning disc has been added to the series.
The main program is comprised of three shorts, all animated in different styles and methods. On a scale of zero to five stars:
The Scrambled States of America
This Land is My Land
The Star Spangled Banner
Of the three Scholastic DVDs I have reviewed to date, this one is my favorite. As a whole, it is wonderfully entertaining. The Scrambled States of America may be the funniest children's book since those Sesame Street Bert and Ernie books I adored as a child. Kids will love the overall goofiness of the piece while their parents will love the sly in-jokes and satire. This Land is My Land is a great introduction to the magic of Woody Guthrie and his wonderful music. The real treat is the Arlo Guthrie performance, one of the best folk singers of all time. (I'm listening to The Best of Arlo Guthrie as I write these words. No kidding.) The only disappointment is The Star Spangled Banner, in which Aretha Franklin turns in the worst performance of our national anthem since Roseanne and Macy Gray massacred it in 1990 and 2000, respectively. She sings with passion, but unfortunately, your children will need the subtitles to understand what she's singing. I think for a short subject aimed primarily at children, it is important that the song is sung with clarity rather than style.
The animation is good for what it is. Only The Star Spangled Banner receives the full hand-drawn animation treatment. This Land is My Land and The Star Spangled Banner are straightforward simulations of the printed pages, with a few Lumage animated spots here and there. The technique is appropriate, since the songs should take top priority over flashy visuals.
The full frame transfers are all terrific. Great care has been taken to present these shorts in the best shape possible. Children will be thrilled with the bright colors and sharp visuals. There are a few specks in The Scrambled States of America, but they aren't a bother.
Audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix. It's serviceable and more than respectable for a children's disc, especially in the days that most studios don't give a damn about quality in children's discs.
Among the extra content this disc has to offer are two additional stories, both narrated by Academy Award nominees. First is John Henry with Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) narrating an adaptation of the award-winning Julius Lester book. The second is Johnny Appleseed, narrated by Mary McDonnell (Dances With Wolves, Passion Fish). Both are animated in a style that pretty much consists of photographing the pages and animating select objects. It's quite effective and worthy of four stars each. A brief documentary short subject titled The Star Spangled Banner shows us how this short was put together. It's quite informative, but most will skip this.
With a retail price of $14.95, The Scrambled States of America will make the perfect addition to your child's DVD collection.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scholastic Video
• Two Bonus Stories: John Henry and Johnny Appleseed
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