If you’re burned out on all the traditional children’s holiday fare, Shout! Factory has a cure for what ails you: 110 minutes of yuletide adventures from everyone’s favorite Parisian kid-lit superstar.
Aside from a few random samplings of the books, I’m not all that familiar with the Madeline franchise, but my daughter is currently deeply in love with Madeline’s Christmas and Other Wintery Tales, and I’m totally okay with that. From a technical or storytelling standpoint, there’s really nothing special about any of these five segments, but the Madeline cartoons have a quiet, medium-paced charm that’s hard to resist; they aren’t loud or in your face, they’re just pleasant stories about pleasant girls who occasionally face relatively minor obstacles. That may sound dull, and really, Madeline isn’t for everyone. But for kids like my daughter, who loves musicals and dreams of living the life of a princess, they’re pretty perfect, and I really appreciate the decaffeinated storylines, which hew closer to the cartoons of my youth than the Day-Glo CG nightmares running 24 hours a day on Nick Jr.
Like the DVD case says, these are all holiday-themed stories, four culled from the more recent New Adventures of Madeline and one from the original series. There’s an obvious difference in the animation quality, but it isn’t jarring, and the overall tone of the stories is consistent — basically, Madeline and her schoolmates face a Christmas problem at the beginning of each episode (No snow! Quelle horror!), and 20 minutes or so later, everyone’s happy. Madeline gets snowed in, she meets Santa, she wants to be a champion ice skater…it’s all pretty mild stuff, but utterly absorbing for kids in the right demographic, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll welcome their calm cheer with open arms.
The Tigger Movie: Two-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition (2009, Disney) purchase from Amazon
Nobody raids the vaults like Disney. Even now, in the era of the DVD’s death spiral, most studios refrain from pathologically reissuing catalog titles — particularly those that were never terribly popular in the first place — but Uncle Walt’s house has always treated everything it’s ever done (or almost everything, anyway) like a timeless classic. Which is why you shouldn’t raise your eyebrows (but probably will anyway, if you’re anything like me) at the double-disc 10th anniversary edition of The Tigger Movie, an enjoyable trifle that Disney sort of half-heartedly shooed into theaters roughly a decade ago. Part of a sort of low-profile renaissance for A.A. Milne’s beloved characters at the studio, The Tigger Movie is a kissing cousin to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, a more fleshed-out (and less Tigger-centric) adorable lesson in things like acceptance, friendship, and personal identity. Where Tigger Too mainly revolved around Rabbit’s perennial annoyance with Tigger’s brain-damaged antics, The Tigger Movie puts the bouncy-tailed wonder in pursuit of the family he’s certain is out there — despite his famous (and, it must be said, joyous) earlier insistence that he was the only one of his kind. Continue reading →
Making the jump from grown-up rock to children’s music is all the rage now, but Farmer Jason — a.k.a. Jason Ringenberg, the erstwhile leader of Jason & the Scorchers — has been doing it longer than most; he made his first foray into the kid-pop market in 2003 with A Day at the Farm with Farmer Jason, and since then, he’s divided his time between post-Scorchers solo records (such as 2004’s Empire Builders) and appearances as his agriculturally inclined alter ego, who has been rocking the junior set in concert and a local access PBS series, bits of which have been repurposed for his new DVD, It’s a…Farmer Jason!
Given its humble origins, the DVD is about as endearingly low-budget as you might expect, despite a NASCAR-type block of corporate logos emblazoned on the back of the case. Nothing too flashy, just Farmer Jason kicking it up with bunches of his little fans (as well as a handful of special guests, including Webb Wilder, Todd Snider, and ex-Scorcher Warner E. Hodges). For kids raised on overcaffienated Nickelodeon fare, I suppose It’s a…Farmer Jason! might seem a little too slow, but that speaks to a defect in current children’s programming trends, not a weakness in the DVD; Ringenberg is an enormously appealing host, and the songs — which include titles like “Punk Rock Skunk,” “Ode to a Toad,” “Potato Rap,” and “The Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug” — are tons of instantly memorable fun. It’s simple, sweet, and positive — in other words, everything you want in entertainment for your young ones. Check out samples and buy the DVD (for the low, low price of $16.75) at Farmer Jason’s official site