Created by Jeff Borkin and Ellen Martin, Blaze and the Monster Machines is Nick Jr.'s breakout hit aimed at single-digit scamps who like trucks. And who doesn't like trucks, especially sentient ones? The story goes like this: Blaze (voiced by Nolan North of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and his blank-faced, curiously underage driver A.J. (Dusan Brown) are the best racing team in Axle City, a nondescript metropolis populated by talking monster trucks. Blaze's four-wheeled and two-legged pals include Evel Knievel fan Darington (Alexander Polinsky), dino-truck hybrid Zeg (James Patrick Stuart), beastly tiger truck Stripes (Sunil Malhotra), cowgirl Starla (Kate Higgins), mechanic Gabby (Angelina Wahler), and more. Their main opposition is Crusher (Kevin Michael Richardson, also from TMNT) and his doofy sidekick Pickle (Nat Faxon), who routinely gum up the works around Axle City before our hero speeds to the rescue.
Most episodes follow that exact template, with an obligatory bit of science and engineering thrown in for good measure; educational topics include inertia, balance, wind power, and more. The educational aspects of this series can't help but feel a little forced; it's nowhere near as a bad as Dora, but the show's otherwise action-oriented approach and dynamic visual style end up competing with the forced interactive moments (especially on the third or fourth time through). Perhaps "fun and educational" is simply mandated for shows of this type, but Blaze ends up selling itself a little short due to its similarity with so many other shows from the past decade. Luckily, Blaze and the Monster Machines' stylish "camerawork", fast-paced races, and catchy songs outweigh its less impressive moments.
Rev Up And Roar is the third installment of Blaze on DVD (following 2015's Blaze of Glory mini-movie and High Speed Adventures), with the loose theme of "dinosaurs, volcanoes, and other creatures". Like most Nick Jr. DVD collections, Rev Up And Roar isn't part of a proper season set or even concerned with chronological order; this isn't a huge problem since the episodes are self-contained, but it's frustrating for collectors (and parents out of the loop) because you've gotta do research if you'd like to own everything. This time around, episodes include "Zeg's Egg", "Gasquatch!", "Dragon Island Duel", and "Dino Dash"; all originally aired in February-October 2015 as part of Blaze's first and second seasons. It's a brief but fun collection of adventures, and the series' extremely polished visuals are as good as ever. The action happens on mountaintops, dense forests, mud pits, and other off-road locales...which is more than welcome, since Blaze's colorful, dynamic visuals are better suited to these scenic environments anyway.
Nickelodeon's DVD offers strong A/V marks and even a bonus feature this time around, but it's getting harder to peddle physical media like this when Amazon is streaming complete season packages (with an HD option, even). For those sticking with discs, piecemeal collections like Rev Up And Roar are the best you're going to get for now.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Since Blaze and the Monster Machines was created in HD, it's no surprise that Rev Up And Roar looks extremely strong on DVD with bright colors, fine image detail, and a pleasing amount of texture on characters and backgrounds. All episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratios, which showcase the series' eye-catching visual design and well-rendered background compositions. The stylized color schemes look great with no obvious bleeding, while shadow detail and black levels are also consistent from start to finish. Small amounts of banding can be spotted along the way, but that's expected for standard definition releases and is most likely a source material issue. Overall, this is easily one of the best-looking Nick Jr. DVDs in recent memory, and it's almost a shame there's no Blu-ray option.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds great under the circumstances. Dialogue is crisp without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives song-driven moments and driving sequences a decent amount of punch. LFE is very frequent as well, especially once those engines roar to life. Unfortunately, no English subtitles or Closed Captions have been included during any of these four episodes, but optional French and Spanish dubs are advertised on the packaging (NOTE: there's no French dub for episode #4, "Dino Dash").
Menu Design, Presentation, and Packaging
After a few advertisements and warnings, Paramount's DVD opens with a colorful interface (below) that's easy to use. This one-disc release arrives in an eco-friendly blue keepcase with a matching slipcover and promotional insert.
Not much, but at least there's something here. The lone extra is a "Blaze of Glory" Video Storybook (4:13) that simply narrates a very condensed version of the series' first two episodes. Having never seen said episodes, I can't tell if anything important was left out. But while this looks pleasing enough with fine narration, it's definitely a big step down from the series' usual presentation. Honestly, I'd rather just read an actual book or watch the original mini-movie, but kids might like it well enough. It's presented in 16x9 with 2.0 audio and, unfortunately, no subtitles.
Blaze and the Monster Machines steps up a little with Rev Up and Roar, a slightly better collection of episodes than the ones we got the last time around. The series' mixture of fun and education often feels as forced as you'd expect (but nowhere near as obvious as Dora, Team Umizoomi, and the like), while the catchy songs and dynamic visuals make up for some of its less impressive moments. Nickelodeon's DVD package is definitely thin on content: there's only four 22-minute episodes and a very short bonus feature, but the strong A/V presentation plays to Blaze's technical strengths. Recommended for fans of the series, although Amazon's complete season packages are a great option too.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.