This disc was my introduction to the "Monster High" franchise, which is a line of toys and other merchandise for goth-girls-in-training (and has nothing to do with the 1989 B-movie of the same name). The students at Monster High are supposed to be the offspring of more famous monsters- such as Count Dracula's daughter named Draculara, the daughter of Frankenstein's Monster named Frankie Stein, and Clawd Wolf, son of the Wolfman. The girl characters are referred to as "ghouls".
Most of the characters, with a few exceptions, are given close to human-like appearances. The design of their world is rather interesting, with the Monster High school building resembling a castle and most objects are coffin-shaped, including the school lockers, speakers and cell phones.
While this disc is advertised as "2 movies for the first time on DVD," these are really 'specials' originally shown on Nickelodeon (appearing to be done occasionally rather than as a regular series), running 46 minutes each without commercials (there are several points where the shows cut to black, where the commercial breaks would have been.) Both are CG animated, less elaborately than most CG-animated feature films but they don't appear 'cheap' either.
In "Friday Night Frights", Monster High's roller-skating team loses the "Skultimate Roller Maze" to the competing Granite City Gargoyles (all of which are stone gargoyle characters), which means the Gargoyles also get to take possession of Monster High's school crest. Without the crest, the school building starts to gradually fall apart (causing one character to remark "It's like a morgue in here, and not in a good way.") Frankie starts to think about how they can win the crest back. Many of the star players were injured during the last game and won't be able to play again for a while (including Clawd Wolf who is placed in one of those large "pet cone" collars so that he won't lick his wounds), so Frankie convinces her "ghoul"-friends to sharpen up their skills and take the injured players' places. The remaining male players resent having "a bunch of ghouls" on their team, saying that traditionally ghouls have been excluded from the sport for many centuries, so they quit in protest, forcing Frankie and friends to recruit more "ghouls" to take their place. Most of the school becomes skeptical that they can win the crest back, in an episode whose message is obviously to not discriminate based on gender and to question traditions of the past.
Draculara's 1600th birthday celebration, which also falls on Valentines' Day, is the basis for "Why do Ghouls Fall in Love?" This episode takes a few liberties with the legend behind the holiday, with "Valentine" being the name of a suave young vampire who has literally captured the hearts of some young "ghouls" over the past 400 years. He had fallen in love with Draculara long ago and declared her birthday as Valentines' Day, but lost touch with her after her family had to move suddenly. Now he's found her and transferred to Monster High to try and steal her heart again, but since she's in love with Clawd Wolf now who will prevail? The message of this episode is to consider what true love really is- Valentine tries to win Draculara with expensive gifts, but the seemingly everyday objects Clawd presents her with have more meaning behind them.
Both shows are in 16x9 widescreen. Sadly, the DVD format is really starting to show its age here, as the picture is very soft compared to Blu-Ray and even over the air HD TV broadcasts. You can tell that details in the animation have just been blurred by the DVD's limited resolution. This would have looked so much better on Blu-Ray. (Update: I've just watched the latest "Monster High" release "13 Wishes" on Blu-Ray, and discovered much of the softness to the picture is intentional.)
Audio is in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and sounds adequate although the surrounds are used very sparingly. ("Why Do Ghouls Fall in Love?" seems to use them more consistently for ambient sounds than "Friday Night Frights" where I only noticed two directional effects from them.) Dubs in Spanish and French 5.1 are included, along with subtitles in those languages and English SDH-style subs.
No real extras are included, but the disc opens with a promo for the Monster High "Skultimate Roller Maze" game for the Nintendo Wii and DS systems, and a trailer for the Monster High "Ghouls Rule" DVD.
Although I was mostly unfamiliar with "Monster High" until viewing this disc, I found it entertaining enough and would check out any further productions with its characters- I'd also like to find out more about the people behind "Monster High" and what inspired its creation- they seem to have found the right balance where the concept is a bit unconventional yet stays within appropriate bounds for childrens' fare. The underlying message of accepting everyone the way they are certainly can't be argued with. If Saturday morning TV were still what it used to be, I could see "Monster High" fitting in quite well there- as it is I've imagined what a 1970s cel-drawn version might have looked like. A live-action "Monster High" movie is said to be in development, so it should be interesting to see how that turns out.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.