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SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK
Special 30th Anniversary Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Bob Dorough, Jack Sheldon, Lynn Ahrens
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  283 Minutes
Release Date:  August 27, 2002

“Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”

Series ****

When I was growing up, Saturday morning cartoons were a way of life, and an unforgettable staple of them was Schoolhouse Rock.  Each week brought a new song that taught something about grammar, science, or American history, and each tune was singable and unforgettable…they’d be rolling off our tongues until the next Saturday came along!

Amazingly, it was never even its own show…just a tiny vignette tucked away on ABC every week in between other cartoons.  You couldn’t look it up in your television guide, but somehow, we never missed it.  Now, thirty years later, we can look back at the Emmy-winning series and rightfully call it a classic.

Who knows if the fact that I grew up to be an English major came out of my Saturday mornings singing “Conjunction Junction”, “A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing”, “Interjections”, or “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”?  Amusing cartoons one and all, each with a terrific musical hook, each with something to say about grammar…all these years later, I still know them up and down!

“Grammar Rock” was only one part of the Schoolhouse Rock curriculum.  For most of us kids, our first taste of history came from “America Rock”, including “The Shot Heard Round the World”, “No More Kings”, “The Preamble”, and the ever-popular “I’m Just a Bill”.  But I also learned about women’s rights in “Suffering Til Suffrage” and the system of checks and balances in “Three Ring Government”.

“Multiplication Rock” taught us our times tables, and to this day, I still sing “Ready or Not, Here I Come” when I count by fives…occupational hazard of being a kid, I guess.  But we also learned that zero could be a hero, and that three was a magic number.

“Science Rock” gave us the memorable “Electricity, Electricity”, “A Victim of Gravity”, “The Body Machine”, and one of my all time faves, “Interplanet Janet”.  Later seasons would also add “Money Rock” to the mix. 

Sadly, Schoolhouse Rock went off the air in 1986, but for those of us who grew up with it, we’ve never forgotten our favorite songs or the lessons we learned from them.  An album of modern groups doing covers of the original songs was only the first indication that the popularity of the series was anything but waning.  Now, with this definitive collection, parents and kids alike can sing along, laugh, and learn, without commercials or product placement.

A bowl of sugary cereal would compliment the viewing nicely.

Video ***

Considering the age of some of the shorts, they’ve held up pretty well, and translate to DVD quite nicely.  I noticed no transfer problems…the only video shortcomings are the result of age, but even they aren’t terribly distracting.  In other words, this doesn’t look as good as Toy Story, but who could expect it to?  Safe to say, it’s a bright, colorful romp, and a satisfying viewing experience.

Audio **

There’s not much to say about the audio…the songs are mixed a tad quietly, but a few clicks up on your sound system will compensate.  The tunes are a bit thin, as you might expect given the age and the original mono presentation, but the lyrics all come across nicely.  A decent but unspectacular presentation.

Features ****

This double disc set excels in the extras department, including giving you many ways to enjoy the shorts!  You can watch them all, you can select your favorite category (“Science”, “America”, etc.), you can find your favorite songs, you can play them randomly in a shuffle, or (on Disc One), you can watch the top ten, or (on Disc Two), count down the top twenty!

Both discs include a brand new song, “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College”, but Disc Two features a 5.1 DTS mix for it.  The second disc also includes a pair of almost forgotten programs from the Schoolhouse Rock creators, including “The Weather Show” and the three-part short series “Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips”.  You can earn your diploma by playing an interactive trivia game, you can listen to audio commentary by the creators on 10 of the more popular tunes, you can see a featurette on the Emmy awards (the series won in four different years), put a few of the songs in order (if you can), some behind-the-scenes footage, enjoy four modern remakes of SHR songs, or watch the Nike commercial that featured the “Three is a Magic Number” song. 

In addition, the menu screens are nicely done and feature both voice and printed instructions (for the kids), and the booklet contains the lyrics to the new song, plus the top ten.  A great and fun family package!

Summary:

Schoolhouse Rock still rocks.  For the grownups, it’s a wonderfully fun trip down memory lane.  For the young ones, these are gems waiting to be discovered all over again.  This double disc anniversary collection is one of the best all around family DVDs you can own.  Highly recommended.

"Darn!  That's the end..."