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Scholastic Video presents
The Snowy Day...and more Ezra Jack Keats stories (1964-72)

"Crunch, crunch, crunch! His feet sank into the snow."
- The Storyteller (Jane Harvey), from The Snowy Day

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 09, 2003

Stars: Jane Harvey, Loretta Long, Terry Alexander
Director: Mal Wittman, Cynthia R. Freitag, Jan Mack Northcutt

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:22m:26s
Release Date: August 26, 2003
UPC: 767685955635
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+C-B- B

DVD Review

One of the minor terrors of parenting that doesn't get much attention is the revisiting of cultural artifacts from your own childhood. Will the things that you found so sweet and endearing and important as a little kid appeal to your own children? Will they still appeal to you, or will they seem saccharine, or impenetrable, or just plain stupid? It was with just that sort of trepidation that I introduced my son to the stories of Ezra Jack Keats—I loved his books as a kid, and got all goofy over my own inside joke in literature classes, thinking about the poet of Ode on a Grecian Urn moonlighting as a children's book author.

Happy news, new parents: Keats' picture books remain as enchanting in the twenty-first century as they did in the previous one. This disc collects a series of Keats' storybooks in animated form; they may serve best as appendices to the texts, not substitutions for them, and you can get your kids thinking in multimedia terms, about books versus movies.

Our hero for most of these is Peter, Keats' alter ego, and he makes the most of things on The Snowy Day (05m:33s), perhaps Keats' best-known story, about a little boy having himself a fine time out in the elements. The animation is delicate, and adds just enough movement to Keats' illustrations to be respectful while also adding some visual interest. Peter next endeavors to keep his little dog in line in Whistle for Willie (05m:09s), but try as he might, Peter just can't pucker up to make much of a whistle to call the pooch. It's very much of a piece with the previous story—they're both based on Keats books from the mid-1960s—and were both directed by Mal Wittman. (The one curious note: in the first, the narrator is billed as Jane Harvey; in the second, as Jan Harvey.)

Peter has to make room for his new little sister as she prepares to occupy Peter's Chair (05m:23s), and while he's initially pretty resentful about the arrival of the new family member, he's soon in the swing of things, and proves himself to be a worthy and loving big brother. Finally, Peter takes a back seat to Archie, who tries to corral his cat to participate in the school Pet Show! (06m:31s). Alas, poor Archie has as much trouble with his cat as Peter had with Willie in the second story, but a bit of creative thinking and a good heart help Archie win a blue ribbon of his very own.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: It looks as if little or no effort has gone into this transfer, and the animated shorts bear the pock marks and scratches of thirty years of frequent projection. The colors are rather washed out, and the palette doesn't always show off Keats' illustrations to their best advantage. One more reason to read the book, either before or after you see the movie.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: There's some hissing and pop, and the dynamic range is limited on all of these; but there's a nice balance between the narration and the moody musical scoring, which makes for a pretty fair aural equivalent of Keats' prose and pictorial style.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 4 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. three more Ezra Jack Keats stories (see below)
Extras Review: There's not much to distinguish between the four stories that are considered the feature material, and the additional three you'll find under the Extras menu—these are a trio of Keats stories, cut from the same bolt of cloth.

Peter is back and seems to have developed an eye for the ladies—he's busy writing A Letter to Amy (06m:09s), inviting her to his otherwise boys-only birthday party. His pals overcome their initial revulsion to the intruder—I mean, we're talking cooties, after all—and a good time is had by all. Little Louie has moved to a new neighborhood in The Trip (06m:04s), and finds comfort in making up his own stories—he's fortunate to have an imagination as fertile as that of Ezra Jack Keats, and it's a comforting tale for kids a little bit spooked by new beginnings and the unknown. And Sam and Ben explore their building, wondering what all the noise is from Apt. 3 (08m:34s); they're a brave pair of lads, and their epiphany at the end of the story makes this almost a pre-school version of Raymond Carver's Cathedral.

Getting to Know Ezra Jack Keats (05m:50s) is apparently a clip from a longer documentary about the author and illustrator; he talks about his technique, about incorporating his own memories of his Brooklyn childhood into his storybooks, and about the magazine clipping that he had taped up over his desk for twenty-two years, which served as his inspiration for Peter, his own Nathan Zuckerman of sorts.

As with the other Scholastic titles in this series, English subtitles can be accessed with the Read-Along option, and the trailer is for the entire run of these DVD releases.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Rest easy, moms and dads. With this disc and a trip to the bookstore or the library, your kids will enjoy the tales of Ezra Jack Keats as much as we did back in the Mesozoic Era, when we were their age.


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