Just in time for Earth Day 2010, Lionsgate is releasing some environmentally-conscious blasts from the past in Jim Henson's The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories. The DVD features four unique programs produced by The Jim Henson Company and all centered on the interconnected nature of animals and the environment. Each of the programs originally aired at some point from the late 1980s thru mid-1990s.
"The Song of the Cloud Forest" premiered in 1989 as part of The Jim Henson Hour on NBC and focuses on Milton, a golden toad in the rain forest who can't find a date. Using a variety of very colorful Muppets and backgrounds, Milton discovers from two humans (called "uprights" by the animals) that he's an endangered species and worries that he'll never find his mate. When he and his friends discover that the uprights have a female golden toad in a cage that they're using to lure Milton out, he has to figure out what to do… Will he try to free her or will he run away to avoid capture himself?
The whole premise of this segment is that we (humans) don't understand that everything is interconnected, the animals must somehow express this sentiment to save the rain forest. Though the uprights in this instance see the light, I'm not convinced that the rest of the world understands this simple idea even 20 years later. We can only hope that with growing awareness around the world we will eventually find ways to get across the message that humans must stop destroying our planet. If not, we will be killing more than a few trees and frogs — we'll be committing suicide.
The only negative comment I have about "The Song of the Rain Forest" is that it looks like someone designed it while on an acid trip. The colors are far too bright in just about every scene, which distracts viewers from the message and enjoying the story and songs. However, if you wear sunglasses during those "too bright" bits, you'll probably be just fine.
Next on the DVD are two episodes of Jim Henson's Animal Show with Stinky and Jake, "Owl & Frog" and "Kangaroo & Frog." "Owl & Frog" originally aired in 1996 on Animal Planet during season 3 of the series and "Kangaroo & Frog" aired on Fox Kids in 1994. The Animal Show is set up in a talk-show format with Stinky the skunk and Jake the polar bear interviewing different animals and sharing fun facts about animals and the environment. They are cute and fit in well with the overarching theme of the set.
Those watching alongside me were all amused to notice that the frog puppet used in both episodes was the same, even though the character is Leapovich in the first episode and Mavis in the second. However, each had a very different view of the world. Leapovich thought he was the world's best leaper and Mavis was more of a mothering type.
The last item included here is an episode of Fraggle Rock, "River of Life," from season five of the show which aired on HBO the mid-1980s. In the episode something has contaminated the Fraggles' water supply; any Fraggle who drinks it becomes very sick. The water is also killing the vegetable garden of the Gorgs. What the Fraggles don't know is that Doc, a human inventor living outside the Fraggles' cave, has made a deal to test a waste disposal technique in the caves. The waste is polluting the water and once Doc figures that out, he pulls the plug on the experiment and flushes the system with fresh spring water, which makes everything better.
As with all Fraggle Rock episodes, the Fraggles struggle to find their place in their corner of the world. With humans on one side, Gorgs on another, and the wise and powerful Marjory the Trash Heap providing guidance, the little Muppets do their best to fit into the big picture (as we all do).
All in all, this is a fun collection of Jim Henson classics that directly relate to the world we live in. Even now, these shows are relevant and provide a good message to the youth of today. So if you're looking for some environmentally-related but fun programs for your kids, be sure to check out Jim Henson's The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories on DVD today!
For more information about this and other Jim Henson productions, check out their website.