Cover Art & Packaging: 10/10
Those big carved-in-stone letters jump out, grab you and take you back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons and Wacky Races. Whoever drew those letters inspired me to learn how to draw lettering and go on to make many a high school banner, poster and lettering for parade floats. Thanks to the makers of School House Rock for such a quirky gift. Using that classic logo along with the Conductor for Conjunction Junction and Bill from Capital Hill is like reaching out and tugging at the heartstrings of every 30 Something American who ever woke up before TV even started on Saturday mornings way back in the 70’s. I remember that test pattern quite well. While the rest of the house was sleeping I would turn the volume down on our old console TV, go grab something wonderful for breakfast like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I tossed down my pillow about 17 inches from the screen and waited patiently while those blocks of color stared back at me like some cruel prankster just waiting to see me slip to the dark side and fall back asleep. But I never did. I would be happily slurping my soup, dipping my Saltine’s in the oh-so-manufactured chicken broth as the first images of the day would appear. Between the 30 minute episodes of the standard cartoons of the day, those letters, those huge yellow letters would appear and I was ready to sing along.
The entire cover has a shiny metallic sheen with the charming artwork laid over the top. A mixture of the old with the new. I know it’s not something that most people care that much about, but I appreciate it when the makers of a DVD pay such attention to detail.
Can you tell I’m glad they used the original artwork? I can’t think of a better image to look at whenever I’m browsing through our DVD collection. I only wish I had a Bill poster for my wall.. maybe someday.
The DVD’s have similar artwork printed on them which makes the set even more friendly to old eyes like mine.
The Original 46 Animated Songs:
First of all you will notice that the menus are in keeping with the style and colorful images that School House is famous for. Disc 1 menu is, well, it’s a menu of all the different categories. I never knew they were categorized, but now I see why. There is Grammar, Science, Money, Multiplication and American (History). Little did I know I became such a well rounded student of Saturday morning cartoons.
I had not even heard of many episodes because they were made in the 80’s, after my days of cartoon obsession. So for me it’s wonderful to have them all in one place where I can see the oldie goldies and the newer additions to the family. Here is most of the list. See if you remember them from their titles..betcha won’t. Gotta see and hear them to have your brain kick back into School House Rock mode. I’ve marked the ones I remembered seeing as a kid with an *, the rest are either totally new (made in the 80’s and 90’s) or ones that maybe just didn’t stick in my head like the others.
- Unpack Your Adjectives
- Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get
- Your Adverbs Here
- Conjunction Junction
- Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla
- Verb: That’s What’s Happening
- A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing
- Busy Prepositions
- The Tale of Mr. Morton
- No More Kings
- The Shot Heard Round the World
- The Preamble
- Elbow Room
- The Great American Melting Pot
- Mother Necessity
- Sufferin’ Till Sufferage
- I’m Just a Bill
- Three Ring Government
- My Hero Zero
- Elementary My Dear
- Three is a Magic Number (MY FAVORITE)
- The Four-Legged Zoo
- Ready or not, Here I Come
- I Got Six
- Lucky Seven Sampson
- Figure Eight
- Naughty Number Nine
- The Good Eleven
- Little Twelvetoes
- The Body Machine
- Do the Circulation
- Electricity, Electricity
- The Energy Blues
- Interplanet Janet
- Telegraph Line
- Them Not-So-Dry Bones
- A Victim of Gravity
All New Song, “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College”
Since I have grown up and developed an opinion about the Electoral College, this one has a little less sentimental value to me. It’s excellent though, same old style with great lyrics and fun music that sticks in your head. Just ask my poor husband who was singing it for a couple of days after we watched the DVD.
- The Lost Song, “The Weather Show” – Dug out of the trenches and off of the cutting room floor, new to us but an original that never made it to the little screen. It has the same style, but just doesn’t seem to compare to the quality of the rest of the projects. But well worth a watch just to say you’ve seen it!
- Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips” 3 Song Set – Fantastic!! Being a computer nut these days this is such a bonus for me. I was not a computer kid like my brilliant husband was, but if I had been, I would have LOVED Mr. Chips. Only in the past couple of years have I learned what he is singing about, so I’m glad I found these cool clips at my age, otherwise they would have gone over my head. If you are a self professed geek/nerd, Mr. Chips is definite subject matter for all kinds of cool toys and posters to idolize. Maybe we will see a line of Mr. Chips merchandise someday. A girl can dream can’t she?
- Behind the Scenes Footage – Always a treat to see what goes on in the making of a project. This one spans many years and the input of many creative people. It’s nice to see the faces behind the voices.
- Top 20 Countdown 20 top voted favorite clips
- Earn Your Diploma” Trivia Game– What can I say, we spent a good chunk of time playing the quiz. It’s not something your average person might consider fun, but who said I was average.
- Arrange A Song Puzzle– Not the most functional feature I’ve seen on a DVD. You pick the parts of the song in the wrong order and they play back all jumbled up. The only problem was it didn’t really play back very smoothly, not enough to be amusing as I think it was meant to be. If you are up for the challenge of putting the sequences in the correct order, go for it!
- 4 Music Videos by Contemporary Artists – This is a very cool feature. With four contemporary artists/bands singing these classics it gives them a new life and bridges the gap between the elders (like me) and new generations of sing-a-long freaks.
- Emmy Awards Featurette – Nominations for awards were a surprise to the creators of School House Rock. See how this little animation series that could made it big in the TV world.
- Nike Commercial of “Three is a Magic Number” – My favorite of all the School House series. This little baby hit it big with a Nike ad campaign.
- Audio Commentaries– The creative forces behind School House Rock have such a passion for this project that it comes shining through with every interview, behind the scenes footage and commentary. Ever wonder who did the voice of Bill? Who wrote all those lyrics? Find out all about the history and making of School House Rock.
- Presidential Minute – Brand new song with 2 surprise endings.
- Election tracker – Poster With Stickers pictured below.
The Animation: 10/10
Being an American these little short animations are a great memory from a 70’s childhood. My husband is British and to my shock, horror and dismay he had never heard of or seen any of the School House Rock episodes. I had to gather my composure and then gently guide him through the high lights. Strangely I realized after watching a few of the American Rock songs my view of Britain could have been tainted. A few of the songs could be considered American propaganda-istic..but it’s all for fun and education, right? It was comical to watch them with someone who first of all had never seen any of them, and second of all grew up in England and was seeing the way we were taught about American history. Talk about a view askew.
“3 is a Magic Number” gave me a run for my money every time it came around. I always thought after the first chorus of multiplying by 3’s counting down from 10 I could keep up. However, I was always a few words behind. At 35 years old I can proudly say I can now keep up just fine. The pride I have for this accomplishment baffles my lovely Manchurian husband, but he accepts me as I am, School House Rock and all.
The animation is old school, frame by frame drawings of simple, yet memorable characters and images. I often had my notebook and pencil on the floor in front of the TV trying to draw the girl from “A Noun is a Person Place or Thing”. The tunes are catchy and infectious. I am humming the noun song now that I just wrote about it. That is the beauty and genius of these animations. The receptiveness could drive a person insane, but hey, I know my multiplication tables. Success! Crazy, but smart, an admirable goal.
The “Scooter and Mr. Chips” series is so cool. Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:
Think computer Scooter.
A byte is several digits all standing in a row,
They help present a letter or a number that you know.
For instance when you write an “A”
This byte is what I see,
And 00110011 is my way of saying “3.”
How cool is that? If you are a lover of all things computer, you will understand my strange attraction to this particular set of animations. They were way ahead of their time on this one. I even got my PC building, techy husband (the Brit who had never heard of School House Rock) interested with Mr. Chips.
There is even one that kind of gives me the chills. I’m not sure why, but the Figure 8 song is a bit creepy. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but it’s eerie. You have to just see it to know what I mean.
With one girl falling in love with an Aardvark, snowing in the Summer at the Statue of Liberty, a Solar System Miss and Hooking up Box Cars there is so much creativity going on in these little short “stories” it’s easy to see why they have been in our subconscious all these years. Unlikely phrases like, “Interjections show excitement or emotion”, “An adverb is a word that modifies a verb.”, or the classic that helped us all in every history class from 1st grade through college, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union….” (go on, I know you want to sing the whole thing out loud) become ingrained in your psyche and you actually learn a few things. That is something that the makers of this series of animations should be very proud of.
I’m a huge fan of School House Rock and I will do my best to pass it on to the kids in my family.
Fantastic bargain. With extras that give you a well rounded view of how these little shorts came to be, interviews with the makers, behind the scenes, introductions to the faces behind the voices, lost songs, new songs, every animation made, and the booklet with lyrics to the most famous episodes, this is $20.00 well spent.
I think you know my over all view of this DVD. Nostalgia, quality production, great menus, and lots of fun to be had here. If this is just an American “thing” and you have lived on other parts of the planet, away from the School House Rock radar I’m not sure how much of an impact these little short animations will have on you. But I highly recommend giving them a view. The high scores are purely from my American kid/grown up perspective, totally twisted and molded by a childhood in front of that lovely thing we call a TV.
Overall Score 10/10