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Kevin Krock, editor

September DVD Reviews

September has been a big month for family-oriented Disney DVD releases. On September 2nd alone, there were no less than 8 of them released! One week later was the release of the Sleeping Beauty Special Edition DVD set, and then, in the two subsequent weeks, Holes and Bionicle: Mask of Light were released. Disney has certainly made up for their rather slow summer.

In order to cover all these new discs, the reviews will be broken up over the next couple of weeks. Today I will be focusing on titles targeted more for young children, like the Brave Little Toaster series, and then tomorrow, Lisa Perkis and I will cover the new Bionicle DVD. Next week, I will follow up with a few family live-action titiles, including Holes and The Apple Dumpling Gang Special Edition. So, sit back, relax, and start making your DVD wish lists, and be sure to check back tomorrow for more!

Click on the following links to go to a specific review or scroll down:

Playhouse Disney Halloween
(2003) | Approx. 104 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 2 stars Video 2 stars
Goodies 2 stars Interface 3 stars
Value 2 stars

The Disc

Playhouse Disney has become one of the staples of my children's morning television viewing, as it has for many families with young children. This Disney Channel time block offers several shows that are distinct, fun, educational, and entertaining for preschoolers and elementary school age children. For a long time, many of the Playhouse Disney shows have been released on videotape, but it has only been in the last year or so that we have seen more and more of these shows make their way to DVD. One of the big advantages of having these shows on DVD is that several shows can be placed on a single disc with the flexibility of letting you easily choose the order with which you watch them. There is no more fast-forwarding through a videotape to find a particular episode or segment!


Promotional image © Disney.

This Halloween-themed disc features a compilation of three Playhouse Disney shows:

  • Rolie Polie Olie (“A Spookie Ookie Halloween,” 29 minutes) – It is Zowie's first Spookie Ookie day, and everybody wants to make sure that it goes off without a hitch. Olie and his buddy Billie take it upon themselves to spook the little bots, but things start to backfire on the boys.
  • The Book of Pooh (“Just Say Boo,” 46 minutes) – Kanga is throwing a Halloween party and Pooh and the rest of the gang are invited.
  • Out of the Box (“Trick or Treat,” 32 minutes) – Tony, Vivian, and their young friends get into the Halloween spirit with their usual assembly of games, crafts, stories, and songs.

All of these segments are perfectly suited for young children and toddlers, and they will definitely get you and your children in the mood for Halloween.

The Goodies

There are not a lot of bonus items on this disc, but the couple that are on the disc are well done. The first is a jack-o-lantern creation activity, which provides up to 90 variations of pumpkins, eyes, noses, and mouths. Both of my boys enjoyed playing with this and making several different jack-o-lanterns. The other goodie is a 10-minute craft activity segment featuring Tony and Vivian from Out of the Box. They show you how to make about 6 simple crafts that can be made with materials around your house. At the end of the segment, there is a convenient materials list for each of the crafts. Both goodies are perfect for the theme, and they compliment the rest of the disc material well.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

Quite simply, the video and audio on this disc is nothing more that what you get on satellite or cable, which is not surprising or unexpected for the target audience or material. The interface, however, is perfectly suited for young viewers. Each of the menu selections is described by a spooky yet friendly sounding narrator, and the highly themed menus feature animation and background audio. It is very nicely done and really shows off the advantages of the DVD interface.

The Final Evaluation

If you have young children that enjoy Halloween and Playhouse Disney, this disc is definitely worth taking a look at, but everyone else will probably find little to interest them.

The Brave Little Toaster
(1987) | Approx. 90 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 2 stars Video 1 star
Goodies 2 stars Interface 2 stars
Value 2 stars
The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars
(1998) | Approx. 73 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 2 stars Video 1 star
Goodies 1 star Interface 2 stars
Value 2 stars
The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue
(1999) | Approx. 74 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 2 stars Video 1 star
Goodies 1 star Interface 2 stars
Value 2 stars

The Movies

Fifteen years after its initial release, The Brave Little Toaster finally makes its way to DVD. This cute and somewhat odd story follows a toaster (Toaster), vacuum cleaner (Kirby), electric blanket (Blanky), bedside lamp (Lampy), and radio (Radio) as they search the big city for their young owner, Rob. Through the story, the appliances demonstrate their friendship as they face a number of challenges together. The movie features a number of songs as well as the voices of Jon Lovitz (Rat Race) and Phil Hartman (TV's News Radio).


Promotional image © Disney.

Along with the original movie, the two subsequent TV movies, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, have also been transferred to DVD. The first movie reunites Toaster, Blanky, Lampy, Radio, and Kirby as they set out with some new friends, a fan, microwave, calculator, bag of cheddar-flavored popcorn, and “the contraption in the junk drawer,” to rescue Rob's baby, who has been mysteriously taken to Mars. This one features the voices of Farrah Fawcett, Carol Channing, Wayne Knight, and Alan King.

The second follow-up also reunites Toaster and the gang as they befriend a group of animals at a veterinary hospital. The appliances soon learn that the animals are about to be sent to a testing laboratory, and they all band together to save the animals. As with the original, both of these follow-up movies reinforce the importance of friendship, loyalty, and courage in both action and song, and both of my young boys enjoyed all three of the movies.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Goodies

There is only one bonus item on each of the discs. On The Brave Little Toaster, the goodie is a 10 minute making-of documentary. It comes across as more of a promotional overview of all of the Brave Little Toaster movies, but it does have a couple of brief interviews with some of the production team and voice actors, including Alan King, Eddie Bracken, and Fyvush Finkel. The other two discs contain storyboard-to-scene comparisons, but each one is only a little over one minute long. Of the three discs, the documentary is the only remotely compelling goodie for parents, but then again, these discs really are not meant for parents.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

From a parent's perspective, the DVD transfers on all three of these discs are in pretty bad shape. All three movies are very grainy and look quite worn out. However, while I was cringing at the picture, neither of my boys seemed bothered. It reminded me a lot of the Charlotte's Web DVD transfer, in that the stories, characters, and visuals are generally strong enough to keep children interested but parents may be less forgiving. As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfers, they sound clean and free of any major issues, but do not expect them to be very dynamic or impressive, since the movies were originally produced for television and not the theater. Finally, the user interface is simple, and features audio cues and an animated main menu with animated transitions. It is not much, but it is on par with other Disney movie-only DVDs.

The Final Evaluation

With a trio of cute stories that reinforce the healthy importance of loyal friends and courage in the face of challenge, these three discs are well worth renting for your children. However, because of the poor video transfer and meager bonus material, it is difficult to fully recommend purchasing the DVD.

Kim Possible: The Secret Files
(2003) | Approx. 71 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 3 stars Video 2 stars
Goodies 2 stars Interface 2 stars
Value 2 stars

The Disc

Moving on from discs targeted at young children to one aimed at the pre-teen set, Kim Possible: The Secret Files brings one of Disney's newest and most popular TV heroines to your home theater. This Disney Channel's original animated series stars Kim Possible, an average but very hip teenage girl who goes to high school, participates in cheerleading, and saves the world from villainous plots — all before dinnertime. Not to be forgotten, though, is Kim's bumbling, naked mole rat-loving, genius friend and science-fair partner, Ron Stoppable. Together they work to foil the attempts of Dr. Drakken and his stable of baddies to take over the world.


Promotional image © Disney.

The series is pretty well animated for a TV cartoon series, and the stories are generally fun and well suited for the pre-teen and teen audience. To top it off, the shows also feature ample doses of pop music, which is a little light for my musical taste, but works well with the tone, characters, animation, and stories of the series.

This disc contains four episodes from the series:

  • “Partners” - A never-before-seen story, in which the evil Dr. Drakken pretends to fall in love with the evil DNAmy in order to use her for her mutation skills. Only Kim and Ron can save the town from certain disaster at the hands of a rampaging dinosaur.
  • “Downhill” - Kim and the gang head out on a ski trip, but mutant beasts start to terrorize the resort and it is up to Kim to save the day.
  • “Attack of the Killer Bebes” - Kim meets up with Dr. Drakken's team of robotic warrior women and uncovers some secrets from Drakken's distant past.
  • “Crush” - This is the series pilot, and Kim must not only overcome Dr. Drakken's evil plan to build a giant robot but also her fear of asking Josh Mankey, her crush, to the school dance.

The Goodies

There are really only two bonus items of note: a music video and code-guessing game, but they are not terribly compelling for anyone other than the pre-teen and teenage audience. It is unfortunately as simple as that.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

The video and audio transfers on the disc are actually quite nice and will reproduce well on just about any family's home theater system. The video is displayed in anamorphic widescreen, which is a bit of overkill for a TV cartoon series, but I appreciate the effort Disney is making in this arena and hope it continues. The audio is also cranked up a bit from its stereo television standard to Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. This too is a bit of overkill, but it actually works well with this series, as there is a lot of music and audio effects that have been spread to the surround speakers. Finally, the interface is slick, well themed, and thoroughly animated on both the menus and transitions. For a seemingly simple TV cartoon series, this disc does its best to show it off.


Promotional image © Disney.

The Final Evaluation

Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy the disc, as it features very nice video and audio transfers along with a nice interface, but the minimal goodies and only four episodes may not be enough to warrant buying the disc. Fortunately, it is priced lower than other animated Disney theatrical or direct-to-video sequel DVDs, so if you or your children plan on watching this disc a lot, pick it up next time you are at a discount store. For those of you that are not fans, just hold tight for a little, there is bound to be something for you just around the corner.


Playhouse Disney
DVD FEATURES
Goodies
  • Make your own Jack-O-Lantern
  • How to make a Halloween decoration
Technical Specifications
  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Closed-captioned
Brave Little Toaster
DVD FEATURES
Goodies
  • The Making of The Brave Little Toaster (10 min)
Technical Specifications
  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Closed-captioned
  • French and Spanish subtitles
Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars
DVD FEATURES
Goodies
  • Storyboard-to-scene comparisons (1 min)
Technical Specifications
  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Closed-captioned
  • French and Spanish subtitles
Brave Little Toaster To the Rescue
DVD FEATURES
Goodies
  • Storyboard-to-scene comparisons (1 min)
Technical Specifications
  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full Screen - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Closed-captioned
  • French and Spanish subtitles
Kim Possible: The Secret Files
DVD FEATURES
Goodies
  • Kim's Most Wanted Wacko Bad Guys Game
  • Kim Possible Music Video - "Say the Word"
Technical Specifications
  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Widescreen anamorphic - 1.66:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Closed-captioned

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