Created by Jeff Borkin and Ellen Martin, Blaze and the Monster Machines is one of Nick Jr.'s newest breakout hits aimed at single-digit scamps that like trucks. And who doesn't like trucks, especially sentient ones? High Speed Adventures is the second collection of Blaze episodes on DVD, but I'll be honest: I'm pretty new to this series, having first seen it on Paramount's recent Celebrate Fall collection. The story goes like this: Blaze (voiced by Nolan North of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame) and his blank-faced, curiously underage driver A.J. (Dusan Brown) are the best racing team in Axle City, a nondescript metropolis largely populated by talking monster trucks. Blaze has a bunch of friends including Evel Knievel fan Darington (Alexander Polinsky), dinosaur-truck hybrid Zeg (James Patrick Stuart), beastly tiger truck Stripes (Sunil Malhotra), cowgirl Starla (Kate Higgins), and expert mechanic Gabby (Angelina Wahler).
Of course, no kids' series is complete without a mustache-twirling baddie; Blade has the perpetually cheating Crusher (Kevin Michael Richardson, also from TMNT) and his doofy sidekick Pickle (Nat Faxon), who routinely gum up the works around Axle City before Blaze and company speed in to save the day. Most episodes follow that exact template, with a bit o' science and engineering thrown in for good measure (educational topics include acceleration, mass, adhesion, wind power, and more). Like most Nick Jr. DVD collections, High Speed Adventures serves up four 22-minute adventures with a loose theme instead of proper chronological order; this isn't a problem since the episodes are self-contained, but it's frustrating for collectors because you've gotta do some research if you'd like to own everything. A complete season package is available for streaming on Amazon (with an HD option, even)...but for those sticking with physical media, piecemeal collections like High Speed Adventures are the best you're going to get.
After a handful of advertisements, warnings, and logos, Paramount's DVD opens with colorful menu designs that are easy to use. Episodes include "Bouncy Tires", "Stuntmania!", "Epic Sail", and "Team Truck Challenge"; all originally aired in October-November 2014 as part of the first season. This one-disc release arrives in an eco-friendly blue keepcase with a matching slipcover and one promotional insert. Not surprisingly, no extras are included.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Since Blaze and the Monster Machines was created in HD and is less than a year old, it's no surprise that High Speed Adventures looks 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 compositions. The stylized color schemes look great with no obvious bleeding, while shadow detail and black levels are consistent from start to finish. Small amounts of banding can be seen 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 fine 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 frequent as well, especially once those engines roar to life. Unfortunately, no English subtitles or Closed Captions have been included during any of these seven episodes, but optional French and Spanish dubs are advertised on the packaging. Again, there aren't any bonus features on board, which isn't surprising.
Aside from its atmosphere of hard driving and awesome stunts, Blaze and the Monster Machines is pretty much your average modern kids' show: colorful and entertaining with loose educational bits, catchy songs, and the obligatory "forced participation" like Dora the Explorer. Still, this is good, harmless fun that kids will enjoy and parents won't be too irritated by (in small doses, at least). High Speed Adventures, unfortunately, skimps on the material with less than 90 minutes of main content and no bonus features, although the A/V presentation is excellent. New viewers may want to stream a few episodes first, but this is still a safe bet for established fans. Mildly Recommended.
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.