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"The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss": There is Nothing to Fear in Here DVD Review

The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: There is Nothing to Fear in Here DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: There is Nothing to Fear in Here
Show & DVD Details

Executive Producers: Michael K. Frith, David Steven Cohen, Brian Henson, Stephanie Simpson / Producers: Lauren Gray, Jerry Kupfer / Directors: David Gumpel, Emily Squires, Rick Velleu / Writers: Marcello Picone, Phil Lollar, Will Ryan; Theodor Geisel (works)

Cast: Anthony Asbury (Yertle the Turtle, The Grinch, Terrence McBird), Martin P. Robinson (The Cat in the Hat), Bruce Lanoil (The Cat in the Hat, Zander), Brian Muehl (Binkham Tamino McDoyal III), Stephanie D'Abruzzo (Little Cat B, Sarah Hall-Small, Max, Mandy), John E. Kennedy (Little Cat C, Norval the Fish), Timothy J. Lagasse (Little Cat), Kathryn Mullen (Little Cat A), Leslie Carrara (Little Cat A), Pam Arciero (Assorted), Jim Kroupa (Assorted)

Running Time: 73 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: October 5, 2010 / Episodes Originally Aired March - November 1997
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

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Most television shows can only dream of the kind of success enjoyed by The Jim Henson Company's earliest series. "The Muppet Show" (120 episodes) and "Fraggle Rock" (96 episodes) are two of the most beloved and best-selling series of their times. "Muppet Babies" (107 episodes) hasn't cleared the legal hurdles needed to bring it widely to DVD, but it will never be forgotten as long as the words "file sharing" have meaning. The company has had less success with shows introduced after those initial television ventures. "The Storyteller" (13 episodes) has at least somewhat of a cult following and enough people know and like "Dinosaurs" (65 episodes),
but beyond them, the later small screen work hasn't really entered the cultural zeitgeist the way those earlier shows have.

Part of it could be that the kids who watched the programs of the late 1990s and early 2000s haven't yet gotten nostalgic and vocal about them. Part of it may be that the Henson Company hasn't been the same without Henson himself (although he died before "Dinosaurs" was realized). And part of it may simply be that the shows haven't reached or even attempted to reach the wide audiences and creative heights of the Muppet shows and "Fraggle Rock."

One such lesser-known Henson Company series is "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss", a show I'm not even sure I'd heard of prior to receiving this DVD for review. At first glance, "Wubbulous" appears to be a cousin of the long-running "Bear in the Big Blue House", with its overlapping production periods and comparable stylings. Debuting October 13, 1996, "Wubbulous" came a year before "Bear." Of course, per the title, it had nearly sixty years of familiar children's literature to lean on in the fifty books published by author Theodor Geisel, better known by his pen name Dr. Seuss.

The Season 1 title logo for "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss" displays both of the series' primary tools: puppetry and computer animation. The Cat in the Hat teaches the Little Cats about the severe storm blackout fun that can be had with a flashlight and shadow hand puppets.

"Wubbulous" ran for two seasons on Nickelodeon for a total of 40 episodes. From distributor Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, many of those episodes came to VHS in the late-1990s and then DVD from 2003 to 2008. While Bear and his big blue house went to Disney in that company's 2004 purchase of the Muppets, "Wubbulous" stayed put at Sony until more recently, when it evidently joined the rest of the Jim Henson Company library at new distributor Lionsgate.
Since that agreement was announced in August 2009, Lionsgate and Henson have been putting out new DVDs of yesteryear television at encouraging rates. Now, the two have come to "Wubbulous", issuing a new compilation alongside two existing titles' re-release.

The new disc, There is Nothing to Fear in Here, is the subject of this review. It's clearly timed, themed, and packaged for Halloween retail traffic. None of the three episodes it holds have ever before been released to VHS or DVD.

The Cat in the Hat is our rhyming host. With the Wubbulascope, he takes us to the different worlds of Dr. Seuss' books with the typical Henson blend of puppetry, songs, stories, and comedy. At least he does so in the DVD's first episode, which is actually the last of the three produced. Perhaps the show was retooled in its second season to make it more like "Bear in the Big Blue House." Or maybe every episode offered a different experience. I only know what's found here.

The Cat-centric title episode is pretty enjoyable stuff. The other two are less so; with the Cat and his three little followers on the fringe, they rely on less signature Seuss characters and feel like a perfectly mediocre and indistinctive children's show.

Let's take a look at the three featured installments...

In her imagination, Sarah Hall-Small tells the Nightwomp in her closet how it is with her snare drum. Posing as heroic beast-defeating Yertle the Brave, Yertle the Turtle manages to assume power and have his demands filled in Troomph.

1) 2.16 There is Nothing to Fear in Here (24:02) (Originally aired November 30, 1997)
The Cat in the Hat, the three Little Cats, and Terrence McBird cope with a scary storm outside. Our first story tells us of fearful Sarah Hall-Small, who speculates on the monster making the noises in her bedroom closet. The second shows the Grinch, bothered by Seussvillians' detestable cheer, scaring everybody out of the park and back to their homes.

2) 1.12 The Blag-Bludder Beast (24:22) (Originally aired March 2, 1997)
Yertle the Turtle builds himself a reputation as Yertle the Brave with the jungle people of Troomph by lying that he has rid them of their feared Blag-Bludder Beast. As the Troomphians look to him for guidance, Yertle makes large demands.

3) 1.14 Norval the Great (24:22) (Originally aired March 30, 1997)
Here, the Cat in the Hat turns our attentions to Binkham Tamino McDoyal III, better known as Binky, who tells of his out-of-this-world adventures with talking goldfish Norval. While the camelback brigands of far-off Taboo pursue him for the Mystic Ring of Malmading he's swallowed, Captain Norval commands the HMS Mantelpiece and deals with the Wickershams on the Isle of Hango-Tango.

Norval the fish, a.k.a. Norval the Great, can not only talk and captain a ship, but also elude a dangerous castaway situation in Hango-Tango. In 1997, this was the kind of quality computer animation you could expect to see on cable television.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Wubbulous World" is presented, as intended, in 1.33:1 fullscreen and basic stereo audio. It looks and sounds pretty good. The show employs a bit of crude computer animation and that is a little fuzzy. But the picture is otherwise clean and sharper than you might expect for modestly-budgeted 1990s cable TV. The soundtrack also boasts above average clarity, with elements complementing each other and making apt use of each distinct channel.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There are no real bonus features here.

The disc loads with Alpha and Omega's trailer and a promo for LeapFrog titles Let's Go to School and Math Adventure to the Moon. The main menu's "Also from Lionsgate" listing plays these same previews, with one for Happily N'ever After 2: Snow White - Another Bite at the Apple in between them.

The disc's two 4:3 menus are static, silent, and similar to the case art. The ecologically-cut keepcase is housed in a routine, redundant cardboard slipcover.

The Grinch ponders how best to spook the happiness out of Seusville in a short story from "There is Nothing to Fear." Zander and Mandy are skeptical of Binky's unbelievable adventures with his supposedly talking goldfish Norval.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Going entirely on the three episodes of this DVD, I feel unqualified to pass judgment on "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss" as a series. While the title installment is well done, the other two were quite forgettable. Whether that's the result of them being from a weak first season, an erratic series, or just something of which increased exposure drains adult interest, I can't say. I'm confident that this show doesn't have the wide entertainment value of better-known Henson television, but I've yet to encounter anything from the company that is without merit and this doesn't come close to upsetting that.

Lionsgate's DVD provides adequate picture and sound but no real bonuses of any kind. Judging from the six-digit Amazon sales rank, there isn't much interest in this disc. That's understandable for a show that ended over a decade ago and has already come to DVD in many a 3-episode compilation. Though the initial price is a little high, when it drops, you could definitely do worse as far as children's DVDs go. But obviously, you could also do much better, even limiting yourself to Henson TV titles.

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Reviewed October 3, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1997 Jim Henson Television, Dr. Seuss Enterprises and 2010 Lionsgate Home Entertainment and
The Jim Henson Company. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.