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Magic School Bus: Season's Greetings Double Feature, The

New Video // Unrated
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Walmart]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted November 6, 2014 | E-mail the Author

Best known as a long-running book series by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, The Magic School Bus also existed as a popular animated series on the Fox network. It aired for four seasons (1994-97) and scored a daytime Emmy for good measure, loosely adapting the books' free-wheeling blend of education and entertainment. In a nutshell, MSB follows beloved teacher Ms. Valerie Frizzle (voiced by Lily Tomlin) and her students as they travel on spontaneous field trips just about everywhere: underwater, inside the human body, exotic ecosystems, and more.

This Season's Greetings double feature serves up two disc's worth of classic episodes, but only two episodes vaguely fall within the confines of Halloween and Christmas. It's also worth noting that the recently released Holiday Special disc is part of this collection, as well as a "Season's Greetings" disc that appears to be exclusive to this release. Either way, there's nothing technically new here, so those who have collected all the previous DVDs over the last decade---or better yet, the Complete Series collection---don't need to read any further. But if you just need a sample of MSB, this double-length collection is a pretty safe bet for the price...even though it doesn't quite live up to its title.

The themed episodes include "Holiday Special" (a Wonderful Life depiction of the world without recycling) and "In the Haunted House" (which explores the wonderful world of sound), and each one captains its respective disc. The other episodes only serve up cursory hints of seasonal imagery or themes: "In the Arctic", for example, deals with heat generation, while "In the Rain Forest" and "Gets Ready, Set, Dough" occur on Earth Day and Mrs. Frizzle's birthday, respectively. "Getting Energized", on the other hand, just takes place at a carnival. I kind of see what they were going for here (and obviously, these are all fun and educational episodes nonetheless), but Season's Greetings feels like a lazy repackaging job instead of an attempt to organize the series in a sensible manner. With the existence of that Complete Series collection, you'd think they'd just divide up those boxed set discs at $10 a pop instead.

Either way, any Magic School Bus on DVD is a good thing, and a glance at the series' episode list doesn't reveal that they left anything important out of this semi-themed collection. Bottom line: those interested in the Complete Series collection should ignore releases like this entirely, but there's still some great material here for the price.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Video quality is just...OK, but I'd imagine ten years ago this disc would've gotten an easy pass. All six episodes (plus two bonus ones, listed below) are presented in their original tube TV-friendly 1.33:1 aspect ratio and look no better or worse than your average mid-90s animated series ported to DVD. Image detail definitely runs a little on the soft side, while mild interlacing and motion blur can also be spotted on some occasions. Colors are relatively bold and bright, although the warmer colors are prone to bleeding. Black levels are typically more like dark grey. Season's Greetings still serves up a passable presentation overall, at least enough so that young fans won't find much to complain about.

DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0; the default track is English, and optional Spanish dubs are here too. Both sound fine under the circumstances, but they're obviously limited by the source material. Voices and music are relatively crisp and clear without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives many of the action-driven moments a modest amount of punch. Unfortunately, no optional Closed Captions or SDH subtitles are included.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Basic, show-themed menus offer easy navigation and only the bare minimum of logos and warning screens. This two-disc release is housed in a black hinged keepcase and includes a promotional insert. Unlike New Video's recent "DVD + Book" packages, this trades the book for four more episodes...and more than likely, your kids won't mind.

Bonus Features

Two Bonus Episodes are included here, one on each disc. "Gets Charged" (from Season 4) is an electric episode that takes place on Valentine's Day, while "Gets a Bright Idea" (from Season 3) is a spooky adventure that deals with light and optical illusions. Both are entertaining and, in certain respects, tie in to the holiday theme better than some of the episodes above. A/V quality is similar to the others, as well as the unfortunate lack of subtitles or captions.

Final Thoughts

Much like New Video's recent "DVD + Book" packages of The Magic School Bus, the two-disc Season's Greetings forgoes chronological order in favor of a (loosely) themed episode collection. If you simply want the whole series in one convenient package, just spring for the eight-disc Complete Series boxed set...but if a you're only interested in certain episodes included here, it's still a decent value for less than $15. Either way, you're getting some entertaining and educational material that kids will enjoy (from age 4-10, more than likely), so you can't really lose either way. Season's Greetings is definitely Recommended...although this type of release should be the exception, not the rule.

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.







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