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Imagination Movers: Warehouse Mouse Edition DVD Review

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Show & DVD Details

Writer/Developer: Rick Gitelson / Director: Jonathan Judge

Cast: Rich Collins (Mover Rich), Scott Durbin (Mover Scott), Dave Poche (Mover Dave), Scott Smith (Mover Smitty), Wendy Calio (Nina), Kevin Carlson (Warehouse Mouse), Douglas Fisher (Knit Knots), Joe (Frank Crim)

Running Time: 96 minutes / Rating: TV-Y
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 5, 2009 / Originally Aired September 2008 - January 2009
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / White Keepcase

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Disney has a knack for taking existing properties and making them their own. The company most famously has done this with its feature animation canon, most of which is based on classic literature, short stories, and mythology. When one tends to think of the tales from which the animated classics are adapted, it's difficult to shake off the Disney interpretation. Even then, though, most are aware that the studio did not invent those fables.

An area that has snuck under the radar is the company's television department. While most of the programming is original, there have been times where Disney acquired the rights to an already-active franchise. Curiously, this seems to apply more to their live-action fare than animated.
Both "The Doodlebops" and "The Wiggles" originated in other nations before being brought to America by Disney. A similar acquisition has recently taken place, only this time it's taken an already domestic property and turned it into something far more mainstream. The franchise in question is none other than the "Imagination Movers".

The band, originally formed in New Orleans in 2003, consists of four members: Rich Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche, and Scott "Smitty" Smith. In the Playhouse Disney series, the group works similarly to handymen (despite their name). When an "idea emergency" crops up, the Movers take it upon themselves to solve the problem using their different imaginative skills. Rich uses his drumsticks to write and draw in the air. Scott has a special pair of "Wobble Goggles" that allow him to see things from any chosen perspective. Dave's red cap doubles as a sort of Mary Poppins bag, containing anything and everything imaginable. Smitty's journal is used for collecting and re-arranging information. Inside their Imagination Warehouse is the mischievous Warehouse Mouse, their unofficial pet. Next door is the office of the ultra bland and stuffy Knit Knots (Douglas Fisher) and his good-natured niece Nina (Wendy Calio).

Despite the abundance of color in the show itself, the "Imagination Movers" logo goes for a more understated approach. The Imagination Movers need you to help them with their brainstorming. Luckily, they don't pause to let you deny the offer  la other preschool shows.

Live-action children's programming has often struggled in comparison to its animated brethren. It somehow seems more difficult to sell material with on-screen actors, perhaps because children see adults as something untouchable and unrelatable. It doesn't help that more than a few of these shows feature adults who are either unintentionally amusing or, quite frankly, unsettling. The latter is a hindrance more commonly run into with adult men. Therefore, the idea of having an all-adult cast comprised mainly of males (with one lone puppet in the mix) seems almost suicidal. Somehow, though, the team behind "Imagination Movers" avoids such fates to become something surprisingly palatable and entertaining.

The most noticeable aspect of "Imagination Movers" is its tone. It's exceedingly wacky and hyperactive, resembling "The Monkees" in more ways than one. Some may bemoan the fact that the show rarely stops to breathe, and that it embraces the ADD-style format of most television (children's and otherwise). Others may also complain that the series isn't as educational as others. Such criticisms miss the point. "Imagination Movers" is meant to stimulate creativity and be entertaining, not to teach classroom facts. Its free-for-all motivations also act as a breath of fresh air from some of the mind-numbingly dull children's shows that write themselves into a corner.

The actors/musicians involved do their best to ensure the content stays fresh and lively. Their music is more than listenable, incorporating various genres into a very modern flavor and sensibility. The many musical numbers performed throughout are of a higher standard than usual. It's true that the dialogue and acting come across as forced at times, but the obvious zeal of those onboard make such aspects endearing. A certain warmth and charm would've be lost had these been professional actors rather than grassroots musicians. That homey sort of attribute makes "Imagination Movers" one of the more memorable children's shows out there, and it's one that won't drive adults batty.

The Movers and Warehouse Mouse perform a bubbly number even with Rich's foot in a bucket. Nina (Wendy Calio) is all smiles, despite holding a mouse that fears for his life.

Reaching stores this week, this Warehouse Mouse Edition actually isn't the first "Imagination Movers" DVD to have been released. Back in 2004, years before joining the Disney family, the band released an independent DVD compilation entitled Stir It Up.
That disc contained music videos and live performances, none of which make it here. Instead, four episodes from the 2008-launched Playhouse Disney series are provided, each running 24 minutes and 4 seconds.

1. Bucket of Trouble (Originally aired September 22, 2008)
The Movers decide to put on a commercial, but the plans are postponed when Rich gets his foot stuck in a bucket.

2. The Tooth Hurts (Originally aired September 6, 2008)
Warehouse Mouse gets a toothache, but he refuses to let the Movers take him to a vet.

3. Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Mouse? (Originally aired January 31, 2009)
When the Movers' television breaks down, they hire a repairman who happens to be afraid of mice.

4. Finders Key-pers (Originally aired September 27, 2008)
Knit Knots loses the key to his office, so he enlists the help of the Movers to help him find it.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Imagination Movers:" Warehouse Mouse Edition comes in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio of its standard broadcasts. This comes as a disappointment as the packaging erroneously mentions an anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen presentation and some cropping of arms/shoulders is visible at times. Despite those oddities, the transfer excels. The bright primary color scheme is lush and vivid without ever bleeding. Clarity for the most part is consistent, and there are no noticeable digital or print flaws.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack isn't as alive as one would expect given the outrageous visuals, but it does well enough. Dialogue and effects are very front-heavy and clean. Surrounds are reserved mostly for the musical numbers, which are robust but never extreme.

Because this little girl's father is too incompetent to locate the bus stop, Special Agent Oso takes it upon himself to show the way. Nina and the Movers bounce around and within rotating gears on the disc's widescreen main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The sole bonus feature is an episode of the Playhouse Disney series "Special Agent Oso." In actuality, it's two episodes bookended by a single pair of credits, much like other half-hour animated shows. The segments included here are "Goldfeather" and "Live and Let Ride". In the former, Oso helps a little girl build a bird feeder out of homemade products. In the latter, he helps another little girl find her way to the bus.
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Both feature an identical format and structure and involve the sort of audience participation found in other shows. It may get stale in the future, but these two episodes are bizarrely fascinating in their James Bond-meets-Fischer-Price hybrid style.

Via Disney's FastPlay, the main program is bookended with sneak peeks. These begin with ads for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse:" Mickey's Big Splash, The Tigger Movie: 10th Anniversary Special Edition, the now postponed Monsters, Inc. on Blu-ray, and Disney Movie Rewards. After the feature presentation, more previews turn up for A Bug's Life on Blu-ray, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, The Princess and the Frog, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse:" Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland, and "Handy Manny" on Playhouse Disney.

The main menu features the theme song while the colorful gears from the show's scene transitions rotate. One of these showcases a montage of scenes from the disc's episodes. All other menus are static, but are similarly designed and contain their own unique music.

In addition to the disc (boring gray as part of Disney's recent standards), inside the keepcase is a Disney Movie Rewards code and pamphlets advertising other Imagination Movers products, including a sweepstakes. It's worth noting that the back cover is inaccurate on several levels. First, in the show summary, it makes references to three episodes not included in this compilation. Second, the episode listing contains a couple of typos. Third is, of course, the inaccurate claim of widescreen presentations. These errors make one wonder just how late into production this disc and its sleeve art were created, especially since there's not even an obligatory slipcover provided.

You can't very well have song-filled children's programming without the leads striking a pose. No, he's not selling anything from the black market or doing anything else inappropriate in the warehouse; Knit Knots (Douglas Fisher) is simply illustrating all the places he's looked for his key.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Imagination Movers" is a series that had all the elements needed to go terribly wrong. Instead, it uses these elements to its advantage to create breezy entertainment that's not too bogged down by lectures or pandering. Aspect ratio aside, image quality is top notch as is the audio. It's disappointing that there are no supplements with the Movers like interviews or even concert footage. The advance episode of "Special Agent Oso" included here is interestingly odd, though it's in stark contrast to the main feature. As with other Playhouse Disney DVDs, the choice of whether or not to purchase it lies in just how big of a fan the child (or even the adult) is. The show itself comes recommended, but casual fans and newcomers should be fine skipping this release and catching the program on television.

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Reviewed May 6, 2009.