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Scholastic Video presents
"One evening after thinking it over for some time, Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight."
DVD ReviewUpon its publication nearly a half century ago, Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon quickly joined an elite club of children's books that became mainstays in many a household side by side with the likes of Winnie The Pooh, Curious George and The Cat in the Hat. Unlike many of those classics, Crockett's creation stood out. Armed with just a purple crayon and his imagination, little Harold turned a simple moonlit walk into an adventurous voyage that would have made Jules Vern stand up and take notice.
In the wake of its monstrous success, Johnson went on to author four equally enchanting follow-up's with the last book appearing in 1965. Three decades later, proof of Harold's ongoing legacy came in the form of a long awaited animated series inspired by the original stories as well as new tales specifically created for HBO.
Even with all the advancements in animation over time, nothing quite surpasses the original vision now preserved for future generations in this issue of Harold and the Purple Crayon...and more Harold stories. Containing the original short inspired by the book, the 41-minute disc also includes two follow-up Harold adventures and three bonus cartoons from Scholastic's back catalog.
Harold and the Purple Crayon: Capturing the charm of the original book to perfection, David Piel's 1960 short recreates the world of an imaginative, silent child who lets his crayon do all his talking (save for Norman Rose's narration). Restless and unable to sleep, our boy wonder draws himself into a magical journey covering air, land and sea in less than eight minutes.
A Picture For Harold's Room: Wanting to create his own artistic masterpiece, Harold makes himself larger than life (literally!) as he towers above tall mountains and huge ships. In the span of a few seconds, he's cut down to size looking up at the beak of a huge bird. Not as enchanting as the original with bland backgrounds and the story's room-based confinement.
Harold's Fairy Tale: Recapturing the whimsy of the original, this third cartoon comes close to eclipsing it as an enchanted garden where nothing grew becomes home to a magical castle complete with king, an invisible giant and a wish-granting fairy.
The Mysterious Tadpole: Louis is a nature crazy kid who receives the gift of a tadpole that grows to King Kong-ish proportions. Based on the Steven Kellogg book and narrated by head Rutle Neil Innes, it's by far the most endearing of the bonus inclusions via its appealing twist on the time honored child/pet theme.
Drummer Hoff: Reminiscent of animated shorts featured on The Electric Company and Sesame Street, Hoff is a rhyme-based tale involving a group of soldiers preparing a cannon for firing. An interesting pop-art animation style makes it visually appealing, but the mundane, disinterested narration is annoying. This one's definitely the weakest selection (but mercifully short, clocking in at a tolerable 4 minutes).
Smile For Auntie: An overbearing aunt tries every trick in the book to turn her little tyke's frown upside down. As an uncle to three great-nephews and two great-nieces, I could relate to this adaptation of the Diane Patterson book. Crudely animated, but cute (with a wickedly funny ending).
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The transfer is so-so at times, with the original Purple Crayon, Tadpole and Auntie faring the worst with dirty backgrounds, noticeable grain and faded colors. While the remaining selections are not spit 'n' polish pretty, their masters are in much better condition (particularly Harold's Fairy Tale) and more pleasing to the eye.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: Flat and uninspiring, but at least the mono audio is spread to two channels with Dolby Digital encoding. Since the majority of the stories are so charming, any critical take on audio in titles like this is irrelevant.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsOne of the most endearing children's books gets a so-so DVD treatment mainly due to its central feature being in lamentable shape. Most fans will not be as picky as me, but I think little Harold deserved better. Hopefully the eventual DVD release of HBO's recent revival will fare better.
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