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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Schoolhouse Rock: Special 30th Anniversary Edition (1972)

"Conjunction Junction, what's your function?"
- lyric from Conjuction Junction

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 01, 2002

Stars: Jack Sheldon
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 02h:18m:59s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 786936157826
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-BB B+

DVD Review

In 1972 Schoolhouse Rock first appeared as a series of three-minute bumpers between cartoons as part of ABC's Saturday morning programming. Designed and developed by advertising guy George Newall, the show came about as a way to try and help kids learn things they need to know, using the idea that if they can remember song lyrics, then they just might grasp educational concepts (multiplication tables, for example), wrapped in simple, comparitively spartan animations.

Making learning fun and easy was what Schoolhouse Rock was all about, and I defy anyone who watched Saturday morning cartoons in that era NOT to know such staples as Conjunction Junction, Three is a Magic Number or The Preamble; The Simpsons even parodied I'm Just a Bill on an episode, and that is a real benchmark of understanding just how much of a cultural icon Schoolhouse Rock was, and still is to a lot of people who grew up on it.

This two-disc set smartly gathers up all 46 songs to ever appear as part of the series, along with a brand new song entitled I'm Gonna Send Your Vote Off To College, which does its best to explain how the electoral college works. There are even a couple of "lost" segments that appear on disc two as a supplement. It's all here: every track from Grammar Rock, Science Rock, Money Rock, Multiplication Rock and America Rock, almost two hours and twenty minutes worth of nostalgic, educational goodness. There is an inherent, innocent cornball essence to these productions, and the balance between the psuedo-minimalist animation and the well-crafted lyrics serve to softly hammer home the appropriate message, whether it concern nouns, dollars or the right to vote.

During the show's run, through the 1970s, and a brief nostalgic return in the 1990s, Newall, songwriter Bob Dorough, voice talent Jack Sheldon and animators Tom Yohe and Phil Kimmelman put together 46 assorted ditties, and in between Emmy awards, managed to create something more longlasting and impactful than I think even they originally anticipated. It is no small feat turning such potentially dry subjects as taxes, the circulatory system and adverbs into memorable learning tools, but Newall and company have done just that.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: No surprise that Schoolhouse Rock comes from Disney in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format. Though most of the original source material presented here is pushing the 30-year-old mark, the image transfer is actually much better than I expected. Colors are not particularly bright, but overall the primary hues look pretty clean. Edge enhancement is evident fairly frequently, but I suspect the warm, fuzzy feeling you'll get from watching these educational shorts will negate those transfer imperfections.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno
DTSEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Digital mono is how the original songs are offered in this collection, and while there isn't much in the way of flashy dynamic range to be found here, the presentation is free of any tell-tale hiss or crackle.

The new song, I'm Gonna Send Your Vote To College, is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS(!), and the mixes sound positively booming, especially when compared to the conventional mono tracks for the rest of the material. The lack of any noticeable rear channel activity is not really that much of a major loss, as the piece doesn't lend itself to any needed audio theatrics.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mickey's House Of Villains, Winnie The Pooh: A Very Pooh New Year, Lilo & Stitch, Rolie Polie Olie, Winnie The Pooh Halloween Collection
2 Featurette(s)
10 Feature/Episode commentaries by Phil Kimmelman, George Newall, Tom Yohe Jr.
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Videos
  2. Jukebox
  3. Trivia Game
  4. Arrange-A-Song Puzzle
Extras Review: This is a nice 2-disc set with a number of listening options, and the supplemental material is a fine mix of light background fluff and kid-friendly content.

Disc 1
This one contains all 46 original Schoolhouse Rock songs, plus the new track presented in 5.1 and DTS. There is also a Top Ten Jukebox option, which gives you ten specific selections that you can play in any sequence you wish, even repeating the same ones over and over if you wish. A Play All option is available (as well as a shuffle feature) for each of the five main sections, in addition to what is referred to as The Whole Enchilada, which will do the same for all 46 songs.

English subtitles are also provided.

Disc 2
There's over 2 hours of material on the second disc, though there is some repetition from disc one. Things start off with the Making of I'm Gonna Send Your Vote Off To College (14m:47s), hosted by Disney's Michael Eisner, and is actually less about the new song than it is a brief background on how the series originally came to be. Featured are interviews with just about all of the principle production personnel, including creators George Newall and Radford Stone, voice talent Jack Sheldon (he IS the voice of Schoolhouse Rock), songwriter Bob Dorough and director of animation Phil Kimmelman. The segment culminates with a link to view the I'm Gonna Send Your Vote Off To College clip (which is also on Disc One).

An Emmy Awards featurette (03m:19s) is a collection of footage from the 1976 Emmys®, when the show deservedly snagged a few awards. Deservedly or not, you may want to issue a nerd alert for yourself if you consider watching old Emmy® footage is fun.

Also included is a trio of songs from the only recurring characters to appear as part of Schoolhouse Rock, Scooter Computer & Mr. Chips. The three songs (Software, Hardware, Number Cruncher) feature a skateboarder and a talking computer offering up the fundamentals of cutting edge technology in 3 minutes. The Weather Show, heralded on the back cover as being "long lost," has apparently been found, and its inclusion here should make completists quite happy, though this one follows the usual format in explaining just how weather works.

A Nike television commercial, which used Three is a Magic Number, is also part of the extras, and I guess illustrates just how deep the influence of Schoolhouse Rock ran. A quartet of music videos, featuring semi-alternative bands doing fairly straight-forward covers of the show's songs comes next. Featuring the original animation in one form or another, they are I'm Just a Bill by Deluxe Folk Implosion; Conjunction Junction by Better Than Ezra; My Hero Zero by The Lemonheads and Electricity, Electricity by Goodness.

Creator George Newall, director of animation Phil Kimmelman and animator (and son of original series animator) Tom Yohe Jr. provide audio commentaries for ten selected tracks, and their input, while not exactly riveting, is moderately informative. You'll have to decide if you really need to know the background of how The Preamble came to be, and then determine if the commentaries are for you. These ten tracks can be watched individually, or with the Play All option.

Rounding out disc 2 are a couple of games: Arrange a School House Rock Song and Earn Your Diploma. Arrange offers scrambled lyrics for I'm Just A Bill, Conjunction Junction and Three is a Magic Number, and it's your job to put them in the right order. Diploma has five quizzes and a word scramble that need to be completed to be able to solve a bigger word scramble. Neither are particularly challenging, but both display the same innocent charm as the series in general.

A nice fold-out insert booklet has lyrics for The Top Ten All-Time Favorite Schoolhouse Rock Tunes and the new I'm Gonna Send Your Vote Off To College, along with a short interview with George Newall. There are also a handful of Disney trailers (Mickey's House of Villains, Winnie The Pooh: A Very Pooh New Year, Lilo & Stitch, Rolie Polie Olie and Winnie The Pooh Halloween Collection) designed to influence your future buying decisions.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

I don't know how well todays kids (jeez, I sound old when I say that) will gravitate toward the somewhat dated animation style of Schoolhouse Rock, but for a dose of purely nostalgic hokum, this set is as comfortable as an old shoe.

 


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