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DVD Review: Schoolhouse Rock! Earth

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Those of us of a certain age – whether we saw originals or repeats – vividly recall the goofy videos and songs that made up Schoolhouse Rock!.  The songs, which were surprisingly catchy ("Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function") not only entertained but maybe, just maybe, educated.  Now, the creators of the original series have attempted to recapture the Schoolhouse Rock! magic with Schoolhouse Rock! Earth.  The DVD, which is being released on March 31, features 11 new songs and one classic ("The Energy Blues") from the original series.

As the name of the DVD indicates, all the songs featured on the DVD revolve around the Earth and the environment and things we can do to protect our planet.  As with the original Schoolhouse Rock! series, the point very clearly here is to keep viewers intrigued while having them learn something.  Though often a tricky proposition, the producers are once again successful.

There is, almost without a doubt, a certain segment of the original Schoolhouse Rock! fanbase which, upon merely hearing of this DVD, will state that there is no way that it could ever be as good as the original, that the original captured a certain cultural moment and that the magic cannot be repeated.  Do not allow such naysayers to influence you.  Schoolhouse Rock! Earth will not only keep kids entertained over the course of its approximately 50-minute runtime, it might just convince them to turn off the lights when they leave the room or to walk somewhere instead of asking for a ride.  And, for the naysayers, the DVD even includes appearances from some original Schoolhouse Rock! characters, and the singing is done by the original voices as well.

The songs here are introduced by a trio of polar bears who also get to do a little singing of their own.  They are perhaps not as memorable as the poor little bill who wants to become a law, but still serve as a solid entry into the DVD.

The animation, though somewhat retro in its styling, is clearly leaps and bounds ahead of the original series' animation, something that comes through quite obviously when "The Energy Blues" is played.  That song has been digitally remastered, but still fails to look as clean and crisp as the newer animations.

The biggest disappointment in the DVD isn't the reimagining of our childhood, it's the fact that some of the lines in some of the songs seem to feature different audio levels.  A solo voice will come through at full volume, followed by a noticeably quieter group of voices in the next line.  However, this is only an occasional issue and certainly something that will not dampen a younger viewers' enjoyment.

The new songs are catchy ("You Oughta Be Savin’ Water"), the animations fun, and the original principle behind it all applied.  It may be true that you can't go home again, but that's no reason your child shouldn't go and visit your slightly remodeled old home. 

Schoolhouse Rock! Earth is a complete triumph in terms of being enjoyable, hopefully it will be as successful in helping educate about preserving our world too.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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