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Kevin Krock, editor
MousePlanet at VSDA 2001 in Las Vegas! - Part II

VSDA

So far…

In Part I, I covered some of the larger studios, like Buena Vista, Paramount, Fox, MGM, and Universal, but there were a lot of other studios or video distributors present at the convention. While several did not have "children" or "family" oriented releases, there were others that had what I was looking for. So, here's what I found from some of the other studios at VSDA 2001...

VSDA
The VSDA exhibition floor.

The Other Studios

New Line Home Video

VSDA
The New Line booth banner.

New Line is not really known as a family/children home video distributor. Over the last couple of years they have released titles such as Se7en, Dark City, Blade, Boogie Nights, The Cell, etc. Not really kids movies...

However, at VSDA, New Line was announcing their first "real" family title, The Little Vampire. This movie, starring Jonathan Lipnicki, was released in the theaters a while ago, and on March 6, it will hit the store shelves on VHS and DVD.

The DVD will feature both widescreen and full screen versions of the film, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround sound, animated menus, and the theatrical trailer. It will also have DVD-ROM content like the original website, cast and crew filmographies, and the "script to screen" screenplay feature, which allows the users to watch the film and read the script at the same time.

Image Entertainment

I've mentioned Image Entertainment before, and they have a pretty broad spectrum of DVD releases. They have several DVDs for the family, including the Beany and Cecil collection, a couple of collections of award winning animation shorts, the 1964 Worlds Fair documentary (which I hope to review soon), and others. The releases that I have seen have been quite good, and they always seem to have something for everyone.

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The Image Entertainment booth.

The only thing that I was able to track down about Image's 2001 release plans was their March release booklet. Based on that alone, it looks like there may be more for teens and parents than for the kids or the entire family in the near future.

However, one DVD title of note for the kids was the classic children's TV show Davey and Goliath (which was a total flashback for me)! Many of these short stop-motion animated shows about a boy and his dog have already been released on VHS, but now you can get 8 episodes (about 111 minutes) on a disc and relive and share your childhood memories. The Volume 1 disc is already available, and Volume 2 will be released on March 6th. Extra features are minimal, but it does include a still gallery and an interactive game. Audio is mono, and it will retail for $24.99.

Hopefully I'll have more on the rest of Image's 2001 releases in the near future.

Anchor Bay

The first time I learned about Anchor Bay was when Disney's The Black Hole was released on DVD by a distributor other than Buena Vista Home Video. I was a bit surprised, but it was encouraging that some of the older, live-action Disney movies were making their way to DVD. Then, I was watching a Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends video with my son and found out that Anchor Bay also distributes all of the Thomas videos (as well as a lot of other titles in other genres).

I had several questions for the folks at Anchor Bay, and I was fortunate enough to chat with their representatives at their hospitality suite. My first question was with regards to Disney live-action properties that Anchor Bay licensed for future DVD releases. Unfortunately, they didn't have any specific information that they could provide, but they did mention that they hold several licenses that are currently under production. They released Disney's The Devil and Max Devlin late last year, and I'm sure there's more to come - hey, how about some of those Don Knotts and Tim Conway buddy classics, like the Apple Dumpling Gang? Just a thought!

The other obvious question was about whether or not Thomas The Tank Engine would appear on DVD in the near future. It appears that some time around Fall, Anchor Bay will release a Thomas title with some sort of interactive feature. The specifications and features have not been finalized, but it sounded like it will make for an interesting release. However, there are no plans to issue a Thomas anthology or to reissue the VHS versions on DVD at this time.

However, on February 16th, a new Thomas video will be released, called Thomas' Trackside Tunes & Other Thomas Adventures. It is mostly Thomas-related songs sung by children with accompanying Thomas visuals. For those of you that collect the wooden Thomas push-trains, a "Limited Edition" VHS edition will be available with a Toby toy train attached. The toy-less version will retail for $12.98, and the edition with the toy will retail for $14.98.

Finally, Anchor Bay is releasing a series of three VHS tapes called Mighty Machines. The three live-action videos will cover the huge machines that people use at the train yard, the airport, and the demolition site. They sound interesting, and if I get more information, I'll pass it along.

Digital Leisure

I remember walking into an video game arcade in the 1980s and seeing a game that was unlike any other game of the time. Dragon's Lair was essentially a cartoon (animated by Don Bluth) on laserdisc that you played using simple joystick moves. If you memorized all the moves and timing, you could watch/play the cartoon all the way through. Dragon's Lair was a big success, and it was followed up by two other games: Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II.

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Seeing as the original games were stored on laserdisc, a transfer to DVD was a logical step, and, indeed, Dragon's Lair was an early entry into the DVD market. The other two titles have also been released over the last couple of years. All three games are fully interactive and use your DVD player remote control. They also include all of the scenes from the original games, and you have the option watching a "walk-through" of the game without having to play the game. Finally, they also have bonus material that ranges from pre-production and animation pencil tests to historical video footage.

One other game in the same genre of laserdisc arcade games was also released in late 2000: Hologram Time Traveler. I remember seeing this game for the first time in the Disneyland Hotel arcade (which used to be where the Neverland pool currently is...), and it was pretty cool. It reminds me of the 3D hologram chess scene in Star Wars. To help maintain that 3D look, Digital Leisure has included 3D glasses and a 3D version of the game! Also, a 2D version has been included so you can play without the glasses - I also imagine the on-screen colors are more accurate relative to the original game.

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Overall, I've heard pretty good things about these classic game transfers, so hopefully we'll be able to review them in detail for you soon. I'm particularly interested in the DVD player response time, the "smoothness" of the  transitions from scene to scene, and the quality of the animation.

WGBH Television

My wife will tell you that I'm addicted to science TV shows, like those on PBS, The Learning Channel, and The Discovery Channel, and I admit that I am. Ever since I was a kid, my family watched PBS shows like Nova, and I think that every Nova I've seen has fascinated me. So, when I saw the WGBH Television booth (which produces Nova), I just had to stop by to see what they had available.

I knew that many of the Public Television shows were available on VHS, but I wanted to see if they were beginning to release shows on DVD. While most of their programming will continue to be on VHS to reduce costs, they do have a few titles on DVD with more to come as DVD mastering costs continue to drop. Many of their multi-tape collections are perfect for the high capacity of DVD, but it'll be a while before we see a large number of the Public TV shows on DVD.

For now, there are three great Nova episodes on DVD. The first is "Everest: the Death Zone," the second is "The Miracle of Life," and the third is "To the Moon." They are all $19.99, but they don't appear to have any significant extra material on them. However, it is encouraging that they are starting to release titles on this new format.

One series I'd love to see WGBH put on DVD is Building Big with David Macaulay. If you've ever seen or read Macaulay's book The Way Things Work, you'll have some idea of what the series is like. The five VHS tapes cover building things like domes, dams, bridges, skyscrapers, and tunnels. I've seen Macaulay's series on castles, and I was very impressed with how they blended a story with live-action video, computer imaging, and Macaulay's unique illustrations. I was tempted to by the tapes, but I decided to wait for the DVDs. I hope I don't have to wait too long...

One other quick item for parents - Between the Lions, a children's educational show focusing on early reading, will be coming to video on VHS in the spring of 2001. The first five videos will focus on "the pesky vowels," and each 30 minute video will retail for $12.95. The clip that WGBH had playing at the booth reminded me of The Electric Company. The representative that I was talking to informed me that WGBH produced The Electric Company, and Between the Lions takes the same concepts and puts them into a more contemporary style.

Pioneer

I'm most familiar with Pioneer as a audio/visual hardware manufacturer, since they made my DVD player and A/V receiver, but I didn't know much about their home video division. This was my first real opportunity to get an idea of what kind of family titles they produce. The two family-oriented announcements that Pioneer was making at VSDA were the February 27th release of Speed Racer - The Movie on DVD and the January 23rd release of two new volumes of Pokémon on DVD and VHS.

The Speed Racer animated movie was actually created back in 1967, and the DVD looks to be pretty loaded for such an old property. The disc will include an audio commentary with Peter Fernandez (voice of Speed Racer) and Corinne Orr (voice of Trixie), a trivia game, a music video, features of Speed's car the Mach 5, and a hidden bonus featurette The Treacherous Pirate. The retail price is $19.98, and it runs about 70 minutes plus the extras.

I'll have to admit that I've never really understood the whole Pokémon thing. Of course, my son is a bit young to be a fan. However, with over 25 million units sold last year alone, it is hard to argue with its world-wide success. The two new volumes will be Volume 25: Round One! and Volume 26: Friends & Rivals. The VHS tapes will retail for $14.98 and the DVD will retail for $24.98. As far as I could tell, the content on both the VHS and DVD releases are identical, and there is no bonus material.

Lyric Studios

I had never heard of Lyric before visiting their hospitality suite, but it's probably because we don't own any of their main properties The VeggieTales and Barney. As it turns out, Lyric distributes several audio and video products from Barney, VeggieTales, Wishbone, The Wiggles, Suzy's Zoo, and others. The majority of their products are VHS tapes, but they are beginning to explore DVD releases.

One of their first big DVD titles that they were publicizing was the March 27th release of the 15th VeggieTales title called Lyle the Kindly Viking, which will also be released on VHS. The DVD will feature interviews with the creator and a special wide-screen version of Silly Songs with Larry. The DVD will have a retail price of $14.99 and the VHS will retail for $12.99.

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The next thing the Lyric representative and I talked about was Barney. In 2001, they have several Barney releases planned, and two of them will be released on both VHS and DVD. The first is Let's Go to the Zoo, and it will be released on August 28th. The VHS tape will retail for $14.95, and the DVD will retail for $24.99. The second title will be the re-release of Barney's Night Before Christmas on VHS and DVD on October 16th. Details on both of these releases will be available closer to the release date.

Another property that Lyric mentioned was Australia's top kids' entertainment group, The Wiggles. From what they said, they are kind of like the Monkees for kids. Their early 2001 releases will only be available on VHS, like Dance Party and Wake Up Jeff!, but on August 14th, a compilation DVD will be released for $24.99. Finally, another Wiggles DVD will be released on October 16th called Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas for $24.99.

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Lyric was also announcing their recent agreement with HIT Home Entertainment to distribute a trio of children's shows: Bob the Builder, Kipper, and Angelina Ballerina. The first two shows will begin to appear in May, and episodes of Angelina will start to be released in the Fall. A total of four Bob the Builder tapes will be released this year (2 in May, 2 in August), and each tape will retail for $14.99. There will also be four Kipper tapes (2 in June, 2 in August), and each tape will retail for $9.99. The details about Angelina have not yet been finalized.

They certainly have a great selection of children's and family home entertainment, and I'll keep you updated on their future releases as information becomes available.


As I mentioned in Part I, I was glad that I had an opportunity to attend VSDA this year, and I hope that the contacts that I made will help me provide you with the latest news, reviews and previews about family home entertainment. Until next year, stay tuned!

 
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