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Big Idea Productions presents
VeggieTales: Lyle the Kindly Viking (2001)

Archibald: For our first story, we present the first all-vegetable staging of Shakespeare's classic, 'Hamlet.' Did you get the script?
Philippe: Well, actually, this 'Hamlet,' she was very hard to find. But we found something very similar.
Archibald: 'Omelet?'
Jean Claude: Just the name, she makes you hungry, no?

- Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: June 22, 2001

Stars: Lisa Vischer, Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki
Other Stars: Jim Poole
Director: Tim Hodge

Manufacturer: PDSC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing the least bit objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:36m:29s
Release Date: June 05, 2001
UPC: 045986029225
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AAA- C-

DVD Review

There is a whole world of entertainment produced strictly for the Christian market. You've got your Christian music, your Christian movies, and even your Christian cartoons. Many probably remember such retro productions as Superbook and Macgee and Me. If you aren't particularly religious (or maybe, not particularly Christian), you might not be interested in this material; after all, much of it can be viewed as little more than propaganda promoting Christian moral values (a thorny issue, to be sure). But there is one program that deserves your attention, whatever your religious beliefs may be. For the past five years, a small company known as Big Idea has been producing a direct to video, computer-animated series entitled VeggieTales, in which personified vegetables perform moral tales, both original and biblically-based.

The set-up is a bit whacked (talking food teaching values like honesty and kindness?), and the humor is out there as well, but it's all surprisingly mature and intelligent. Much like the Toy Story films, VeggieTales strikes a nice balance between kid-friendly humor and sly satire aimed at adults. Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato host each episode in the series. The two introduce the theme and set up the episode scenario, and often, star themselves, along with such players as Jr. Asparagus, the French Peas, and Mr. Lunt, the Mexican Squash with a gold tooth. Certainly the stories focus on Christian values, but the presentation is pretty general, and should apply to members of any faith, or to anyone trying to instill wholesome values into their children. Episodes deal with such non-secular themes that I can't imagine many getting offended by overt Christian dogma.

I mean, how biblically-based can a story called, Lyle the Friendly Viking, be? This episode is broken down into two sections. In the intro, Bob and Larry decide to turn control of the show over to Archibald Asparagus, who wants to produce something a bit more "classy" than the usual vegetative fare. First, he presents the classic Shakespeare tale (maybe not), Omelet. It seems the villagers are starving, and the only way they'll survive is if Prince Omelet shares his cholesterol-rich breakfast food. Then, in the tradition of Gilbert and Sullivan (that's Gilbert Jones and Sullivan O'Kelly, by the way), the Veggie players present the titular musical, Lyle. It seems that little Lyle is less interested in the Viking standards (pillaging and plundering) and more concerned with gentler ideas, like sharing, and potholders.

Separating the shorts is the traditional interlude, "Silly Songs with Larry," this time transformed into "Classy Songs." Larry, in top form, sings an aching, tender ode to his high top hat (and his box of chocolates).

The series' animation is only so-so. Character designs are good, but everything looks fairly blocky and simple. However, the writing and voice-work is excellent. Most of the dialogue is very funny, and there are many jokes hidden for watchful viewers (during a crowd scene, one enthusiastic, limbless pear is heard to quietly comment, "I'd clap if I could!"). Special mention goes out to the songs, always a highlight. All of the songs are inventive and catchy, and should keep you humming.

Though VeggieTales is aimed at a Christian audience, kids of all ages should enjoy it, and adults will appreciate the non-denominational values imparted. Plus, it's funny!

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The VeggieTales series looks very good on VHS, but the material shines on DVD. The animation style is similar to such programs as Shadow Raiders, mostly fairly simple computer graphics, and I can't imagine it looking much better. Colors look suitably rich and saturated, with no hint of color bleeding. Artifacting is not a problem, nor is edge-enhancement. Black level isn't an issue, as there are no dark scenes. I suspect the transfer was done direct from the digital source, because there is nary a speck of dirt or line evident.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both a DD 2.0 track and a DD 5.1 track are included with this release. Both sound very good, but the 5.1 is, of course, a bit more impressive. There isn't a whole lot of surround use, but in certain scenes (as in the rainstorm in chapter nine), they do come into play. Other than that, the front soundstage is very wide, with good directionality. Dialogue and song lyrics are anchored in the center, and are always clear. During the (many) musical interludes, the front mains are put to good use filling out the score. As far as direct-to-video transfers go, this one is a winner.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie
1 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Widescreen version of the Silly Song, Larry's High Silk Hat
Extras Review: The extras package on this disc may not seem like much, but when you consider that the DVD costs the same as the featureless VHS version, the inclusion is appreciated. I especially enjoyed a brief, five-minute interview with the creator of VeggieTales, Phil Vischer, and Lyle director, Tim Hodge. They both briefly describe story development and production, and they do so in a humorous manner, playing off of clips from the episode. I wanted to see more, and if similar clips are included on future volumes, I'll be quite pleased.

For some reason, a widescreen version of the episode's "Silly Songs with Larry" is also present. This is the same song, and the same animation, just matted to a 1.85:1 ratio. It's interesting, but sort of useless, as the show is formatted for the TV screen, and unless I'm mistaken, no digital doctoring was done to more accurately frame the matted image.

A brief storyboard-to-film comparison, using split-screen, and the trailer for the upcoming VeggieTales movie, Jonah, close out the disc. Is anyone else as overjoyed as I am to hear word of a full-length VeggieTales film?

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

The VeggieTales series is addictive. Kids enjoy it, but I suspect it is the adults that are the most fervent fans. This is the first episode to hit DVD, and it looks great. A quality transfer and some brief but informative extras make this well worth the $14.95 price tag. Order one for the kids, but don't forget to watch it yourself. After all, couldn't we all use a lesson in sharing? Mi DVD collection es su DVD collection.

 


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