Author Crockett Johnson first introduced the world to an imaginative little boy named Harold in 1955 with the release of the now classic picture book, "Harold and the Purple Crayon". Crockett followed that successful debut with many other books which featured the adventures of Harold and his ever-present purple crayon. Three of these stories have been brought to life by the folks at Weston Woods animation and these tales are now available on DVD from New Video and Scholastic.
(As this DVD contains several different episodes, each will receive a capsule review which includes an overview of the video and audio aspects as well. It can be assumed that these shorts were captured on film for classroom use. Each contains a stereo soundtrack.)
"Harold and the Purple Crayon" -- 7 minutes -- This is the one that started it all. Harold, an imaginative child, uses his trusty purple crayon to draw an entirely new world on the wall of his room. By drawing mountains, an ocean, a boat, etc., Harold is able to take a long journey without ever leaving the confines of his room. The story teaches us that our imagines are boundless. It also teaches that it's OK to draw on the walls, so parents may want to be standing by. This is clearly a very old cartoon, as the image is very grainy and shimmery and minor defects are evident throughout. Also, one can clearly see the outline of any object that Harold is about to draw, creating a very odd effect. The sound is fine, but there is a mild hiss on the track.
"A Picture for Harold's Room" -- 6 minutes -- This story is very similar to the first, but for one exception. In Harold's original tale, all of the drawings were to scale, but here, Harold places himself into his pictures, so that he appears to be a giant -- towering over mountains and wading through the ocean. As with the first story, there is no true narrative here, we simply watch as Harold's drawings build upon one another. This segment is more modern, and thusly the picture is much clearer and sharper. However, the framing appears to be off, as the bottom of the image is cropped. The colors are fine and the audio shows no defects.
"Harold's Fairy Tale" -- 8 minutes -- Unlike the first two stories, this Harold adventure has more of a linear story to it. Harold journeys into a fairy-tale land of his own creation, where he enters a castle and tries to decide what keeps the gardens from growing. While the "Harold" stories all show Crockett's imagination, "Fairy Tale" is especially good, as each drawing grows and changes, thus moving the story along. Children will be fascinated by how a simple shift in perspective can change the meaning of a picture. The picture here is clear, and there are only some minor defects from the source material visible. The sound is fine, containing no hissing.
This disc features three bonus stories, which share no real relation to the "Harold" tales.
"The Mysterious Tadpole" -- 9 minutes -- Each year Lewis receives an animal from his Uncle who lives in Scotland. This year, Lewis has gotten a tadpole. But, this is no ordinary tadpole, as it continues to grow and grow. In which Loch did his Uncle find this creature? There's no great moral here, just a fun story, which is only semi-animated (based on pictures from the original book I suppose). (Also, the story is quite similar to "Clifford, the Big Red Dog".) The picture here is noticeably grainy and the colors are slightly muted. The audio contains a faint hiss and some crackling.
"Drummer Hoff" -- 4.5 minutes -- This odd tale is simply a repititious poem which focuses on a group of soldiers who are firing a cannon. Only the bravest of souls will be able to finish this one. However, the art is quite interesting, as it resembles wood etchings. The colors are muted, but the image is clear.
"Smile for Auntie" -- 5 minutes -- Playing as one long joke, a woman (presumably Auntie) attempts to get a child to smile, by making faces and odd noises. As with "Drummer Hoff", this one wears out its welcome rather quickly. To make matters worse, the image is very grainy and shimmers constantly
The final extra is not really an extra at all. A "read-along" is offered, but this is essentially the addition of English subtitles on each of the main selections. The subs are the same size as standards subs. They would need to be bigger to be effective as a "read-along".
Fans of the "Harold and the Purple Crayon" books should be delighted by these animated offerings. As noted above, the stories teach a valuable lesson about the power of animation. However, the bonus stories aren't very good, and the image quality suffers quite a bit on many of the segments.