If Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics sounds familiar, it's because DVD Talk's been down this road before. Volume 1 of Scholastic's award-winning anthology of beloved children's classics really broke the mold for DVD releases aimed at the younger crowd. As our own Stuart Galbraith IV hinted at in last year's review, it's getting tough to find kid's DVDs that aren't loaded with toy commercials, shallow stories and rapid-fire editing. Luckily Scholastic has returned to the well for Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics, Volume 2, another massive collection of guess-how-many books presented in a variety of visual forms. Listed below in their entirety, some of these quasi-animated stories borrow liberally from the original book illustrations, some are live action are others are slightly more static in nature. Celebrity narrators include Mia Farrow, Laura Dern, Rob Reiner, Ossie Davis, F. Murray Abraham, B.D. Wong, Alexander Gould, Calista Flockhart, Zach Braff, Anthony Edwards and more, but even the lesser-known speakers narrate these classics with style and flair.
The format of this surprisingly compact release is similar to the last one: each of these 17 discs, which typically run for just over 60 minutes apiece, has been given its own loose "theme" ("bedtime stories", "school adventures", etc.), while some are grouped together by their respective authors. Many of the more well-known stories (listed below as the first on each disc) are granted "team captain" status, but nearly all of these stories should hold the attention of most young readers. As a whole, the set seems to be geared towards ages 4 through 9, though each individual disc is listed with a loose set of age guidelines. Of course, purchasing either volume of Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics for use as a "virtual babysitter" would defeat the purpose entirely; as with the original books, these animated versions are much more enjoyable when read with (or by, or even to) a parent, guardian or sibling. To help replicate the original experience, each of these 100 stories is paired with "read-along" subtitles...so whether it's the older or younger viewer(s) doing the speaking, most of these stories are especially easy to follow.
From the endearing 1984 live-action version of "Corduroy" (above) to the familiar animated world of "Happy Birthday, Moon" (below left), many of these curiously animal-themed adventures are perfectly charming and full of imagination. Lesser-known gems like "The Happy Lion" (below right) and "Bear Snores On" also provide plenty of accessible enjoyment, while some of the holiday favorites (mostly collected on Discs 15 and 16) will ensure that several of these discs get a guaranteed annual spin. For some of the perennial favorites, a daily (or nightly) viewing is certainly possible. And again, while these quasi-animated stories are hardly a substitute for the printed originals, they'll certainly do in a pinch. From top to bottom, here's what Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics, Volume 2 includes:
Complete List of Contents
(100 stories on 17 single-sided discs)
Disc 1: "Corduroy", "Mike Milligan's Steam Shovel", "The Happy Lion", "I Love You Like Crazy", "Smile for Auntie", "Happy Owls" and "Goose"
Disc 2: "Good Night, Gorilla", "Happy Birthday, Moon", "The Napping Mouse", "The Rainbabies", "Zin! A Violin" and "Elizabeti's Doll"
Disc 3: "The Wheels on the Bus", "Musical Max", "Joseph's Little Overcoat", "Bugs!", "Colors of the Earth", "Keeping House" and "Hush Little Baby"
Disc 4: "The Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", "This Land is Your Land", "Froggy Went A-Courtin'", "Over in the Meadow", "Giraffes Can't Dance", "Dem Bones", "The Chinese Violin" and "Changes, Changes"
Disc 5: "Is Your Mama a Llama?", "Noisy Nora", "Each Peach Pear Plum", "Little Red Hen" and "Reading to Your Bunny"
Disc 6: "Giggle, Giggle, Quack", "Dooby Dooby Moo", "Duck for President", "Diary of a Worm" and "Diary of a Fly"
Disc 7: "Red Riding Hood", "Cinderella", "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", "The Three Little Pigs", "Hansel and Gretel" and "Space Case"
Disc 8: "The Ugly Duckling", "The Emperor's New Clothes", "Nightingale", "The Red Shoes", "The Little Match Girl" and "The Swineherd"
Disc 9: "The Whole World in His Hands", "Come On, Rain", "Giving Thanks", "Owl Moon", "Mandarin Ducks", "Patrick" and "A Boy, a Dog and a Frog"
Disc 10: "Antarctic Antics", "In the Small Pond", "Bear Snores On", "Bark, George", "Caps for Sale", "The Hat" and "Little Red Lighthouse"
Disc 11: "Teacher from the Black Lagoon", "Librarian from the Black Lagoon", "Gym Teacher from the Black Lagoon" and "Shrinking Violet"
Disc 12: "Ms. Nelson Has a Field Day", "Ms. Nelson is Back", "The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash", "The Dot" and "Amazing Grace"
Disc 13: "Crazy Hair Day", "Petunia",
"How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?", "Monty" and "Will I Have a Friend?"
Disc 14: "So You Want to Be President", "A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C.", "Madam President" and "Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote"
Disc 15: "The Night Before Christmas", "In the Month of Kislev", "Seven Candles for Kwanzaa", "Too Many Tamales", "Max's Christmas", "Morris' Disappearing Bag" and "The Little Drummer Boy"
Disc 16: "A Very Brave Witch", "By the Light of the Halloween Moon", "A Dark, Dark Tale", "Georgie", "The Witch in the Cherry Tree", "The Three-Legged Cat", "The Three Robbers" and "Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain"
Disc 17: "Ralph S. Mouse", "Stanley and the Dinosaurs" and "Uncle Elephant"
Presented on DVD by NewVideo, Scholastic's Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics, Volume 2 is a compact and nearly indispensable collection that parents and children should enjoy in equal measurements. Though the technical presentation could definitely use a little tightening around the edges, this 17-disc collection also includes a handful of thoughtful and appropriate bonus features. Overall, it's a solid collection of material for a fairly reasonable asking price...and though Volume 1 boasts a slightly stronger lineup of stories overall, this follow-up certainly isn't far behind. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in their original 1.33:1 format, these stories vary quite a bit in overall condition...but for the most part, they're perfectly watchable. A few of the older stories suffer from moderate amounts of dirt and debris, while others display mild interlacing issues and compression artifacts. It's obvious that some of this content could've benefited from a little cleanup around the edges, but most parents and children will be perfectly pleased with the visual presentation.
The audio presentation is also uneven but acceptable, as most of these stories seem to be presented in Dolby Digital mono and stereo mixes; additionally, a handful of stories also include Spanish dubs. Dialogue and musical numbers come through clean and clear, largely free of hiss, distortion and other such problems. All 100 stories also include "read-along" subtitles that are presented like karaoke lyrics, should the parent (or child) choose to read along. A thoughtful and appropriate touch!
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the static menu designs offer simple, problem-free navigation. Each story runs roughly 5-15 minutes and is presented without chapter stops, while no layer changes were detected during playback. This 17-disc set is housed in nine two-hubbed thinpaks which are tucked inside a colorful slipcover. A handy index and a promotional insert are also included.
Surprisingly, we also get a few extras here and there, aside from the Spanish Versions of certain stories mentioned above. Discs 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17 include a few Discussion Questions; they're presumably for a classroom setting, but they should also work just fine with a parent and child. A few Interviews are also peppered throughout the collection: Disc 3 features writer/illustrator Bob Barner ("Bugs!"), Disc 5 features writer Rosemary Wells ("Reading to Your Bunny"), Disc 6 features illustrator Harry Bliss ("Diary of a Fly"), Disc 13 features writer/illustrator Barney Saltzberg ("Crazy Hair Day"), while Disc 14 features author Lane Smith ("Madam President"), the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his beloved Portuguese Water Dog, "Splash". Disc 14 also includes a handy Presidential Timeline, but adults can see how much they remember from History class as well.
Overall, this is a solid and unexpected collection of bonus features that kids and adults should enjoy; the interviews are especially valuable. Like the stories, these extras are presented in 1.33:1 but do not include optional subtitles or captions.
As a follow-up to the first collection, Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics, Volume 2 is an equally impressive effort overall. Families should enjoy digging through all 17 discs included in this release, whether the stories are familiar favorites or entirely new to all involved. While some of these visual adaptations are more successful and ambitious than others, they're all worth a look...and some will undoubtedly be requested on a regular basis. NewVideo's DVD presentation is perfectly fine given the circumstances, pairing a decent technical presentation with a surprising handful of informative bonus features. Overall, Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics, Volume 2 is certainly a worthwhile "sequel" that readers of all ages will enjoy digging through. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, mocking passers-by and writing things in third person.