Popular children’s author Beverly Cleary is the featured writer on Scholastic Storybook Treasures' Runaway Ralph, a live-action short starring Fred Savage, Conchata Ferrell, Sarah Gilbert, Summer Phoenix, and Ray Walston.
A very young Fred Savage appears as Garf, a little boy on his way to summer camp. He and his parents stop at an old hotel that is overrun by stop-action mice who like to watch TV and ride a motorcycle. For those of us who don’t speak mouse, the read-along feature (which is optional) overrides the need for a translator.
Ralph is a little mouse who decides to run away from home, and it takes quite a bit of mouse ingenuity for him to get past the front door. He hops on his little motorcycle and heads on down the road, only to have an accident with a camper. At nightfall he arrives at Camp Happy Acres, which coincidentally is Garf’s destination. Garf rescues him from a pair of marmalade tabbies (evil daddy cat and cute-but-dumb kitten) and deposits him in a cage next to an amiable hamster.
A friendship develops between the boy who doesn’t want to fit in at camp and the mouse who doesn’t want to be kitty kibble. And, of course, each has a happy ending. A little sappy, but young children will enjoy the talking animals and their interaction with the campers.
Commander Toad in Space is the bonus story on the DVD and stars Corey Miller and the voice talents of Nichelle Nichols and Mark Hamill. Based on the book by Jane Yolen, it features a boy venturing through space with a spaceship full of an amphibian-like space crew. Dialogue aboard the spaceship has a distinct Star Trek flavor, with a liberal sprinkling of Star Wars. The writing is tongue-in-cheek (“You can count on us like we’re your fingers”) and the puppet amphibians are entertaining. Although the special effects are primitive, they fit in perfectly with the silly story. Commander Toad in Space is a lot of fun for both adults and kids (goofy fun, I admit, but fun just the same).
Also included is “Talk about Runaway Ralph,” activity and questions related to the main feature.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Runaway Ralph? Yes. Maybe more for Commander Toad in Space, but both stories are suitable for children aged three through nine.