Category Archives: TV

DVD Review: My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic: Royal Pony Wedding (Plus: Win a Copy!)

Here’s the deal, fathers. If you have daughters—or sons who don’t care about outmoded gender roles (and if so, good on you, man)—there is a 90 percent chance that at some point during your day, you’re going to have to watch something with unicorns in it. The key is to find a unicorn-based entertainment which your picky-as-to-unicorns children and you, a reasonable adult, can watch together and enjoy as much as possible.

It’s actually not that hard. My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic: Royal Pony Wedding comes out on DVD from SHout! Kids on August 7. A two-hour length special miniseries of five episodes from the shockingly popular, actually pretty hip and funny The Hub channel’s 2010 reboot of the fanciful ’80s series, it’s both unicorn heavy (the way MLP always should have been!) and high on the drama.

Reflecting and condensing the recent English royal wedding fervor for children, the plot concerns Shining Armor’s impending nuptials to Cadance, the well-heeled niece of Princess Celestia. Shining Armor’s sister is, of course, Twilight Sparkle, so this marriage is one of romance, but also at least somewhat politically motivated, as this royal marriage will certainly consolidate power and join two of the most powerful families in the city-state of Ponyville. It’s also worth mentioning that these are some great unicorn names.

There are songs, rainbow-haired unicorns in wedding dresses, and lots and lots and lots of pink. It’s kind of ridiculous, but totally fun. Shout Kids! has graciously offered us up a giveaway: a brand-new DVD of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Royal Pony Wedding. If you think you’ve got the pony magic to bring this one home for you or your kids, leave a comment below. A random respondent wins! Dadnabbit is magic!

NOTE: Contest is now closed.

DVD Review: Babar: The Classic Series – The Complete First Season

Warm milk. A bath in lavender soap. An old episode of the ‘80s TV adaptation of Babar. These are the three things that every parent knows can relax and put to sleep even the fussiest of toddlers. Glory be, as Nelvana’s Babar, long a mainstay of VHS, the early morning hours of family-friendly cable channels, and on-demand services, is now available on DVD in full-season collections.

Originally airing on HBO, Babar: The Classic Series is the finest of many adaptations of Jean de Brunhof’s long-running, 80-year-old picture book series about Babar, the elephant made king by introducing civilization to his brethren. And while the books feature a now dated and mystifying undercurrent of imperialism and taming the “otherness,” the series is nothing but sweet and gentle, quiet and happy. Perhaps it’s the crisp, soothing tenor of William Daniels (the voice of KITT from Knight Rider, Mr. Feeney on Boy Meets World), or that twinkling piano theme song that sets the tone for Babar’s adventures that explore morality, understanding others, and just trying to be a good person (or elephant), who no matter who you are.

As a bonus, the whole thing has been re-mastered, so it’s far more lush and less scratchy looking than I remember, yet still retaining that simple, hand-drawn, thick-outlined storybook quality. Babar: The Classic Series: Season 1 offers 13 episodes on two discs, and you can even watch it in French, which is, of course, the native language of Babar, the elephant king.

 

‘Reading Rainbow’ Returns As An App

If, like me, you shed a silent Gen X tear when Reading Rainbow was forced off the air a few years ago, and if, like me, you felt bad for longtime host LeVar Burton, whose public quest to drum up funding for his (utterly worthwhile) show came to naught, you’ll be happy to learn that Rainbow is back as a brand new app that’s launching today, courtesy of Burton’s startup RRKidz.

As TechCrunch reports, the new-look Rainbow tries to bring books to life using a few methods your kids will already be familiar with (interactive menus, animation) and at least one they most likely won’t recognize (Burton himself, who hosts segments they’re calling “video field trips”). Observe:

The app is free, with a catch: Non-subscribers will only have access to a small amount of content, which can only be unlocked by joining up for a monthly fee. All of which makes sense — the only thing that gives me pause is RRKidz’s plan to charge $9.99 a month. I never watched Reading Rainbow — I was a little too old — but I definitely respect Burton’s work, and while I’m still ambivalent about apps that bend over backwards to make books more “interactive” for kids, I’d like to help him out. That price strikes me as a little steep, however.

I think maybe if Burton had rolled this out a few years ago, I’d have felt differently, but Reading Rainbow is entering a really crowded marketplace, and the price point for most apps has been set so low that $9.99 seems like a lot — especially given that a lot of parents are already paying similar fees for stuff like Netflix and Spotify. This isn’t a judgment against the content Reading Rainbow is offering, because the app seems pretty robust and well-designed; I just wonder whether they’ll be able to find enough subscribers to support their business model. I hope so — or, barring that, I hope they’ll be able to adjust their asking price enough to survive and thrive.

What do you think? Will you be purchasing a ride on the Reading Rainbow?