'Once Upon a Time' S7 DVD & Blu-ray: New Realms in Final Season for Fairy Tale Heroes, Villains, and Those In-Between
The ABC Studios separate August 28, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2017-18 seventh and final season of the ABC prime time serial fantasydram "Once Upon a Time" provides a good chance to escape into multiple fantasy worlds before fully facing the cruel cruel end of summer.
The first good news for folks (such as your not-so- humble reviewer) who have not watched "Time" for a few years is that the new directions for the final season of this series about Disneyfied fairy tale folks living in our reality and a few others make it easy to follow even if you have never watched the show. Other good news is that a Pacific Northwest retailer that shall remain shameless is selling an S1-S6 Blu-ray set for a tempting price.
Speaking of Blu-ray, spending a few extra dollars to get sets in that enhanced format is well worth it, The elaborate fantasy worlds and copious effects are only part of the story. Like any Disney-oriented project, the behind-the-scene folks are Disneyiacs (if not collectors) with moderate to high obsession levels regarding accurately depicting these versions of favorite childhood characters. Further, seeing the cast make us believe that Snow White lives down the street and that Jiminy Cricket is a psychologist is great fun that deserves the full Monty.
The other big picture is that perceived similarities between "Time" and the equally lore-laden, reality and time-shifting 2004-10 ABC drama "Lost" is not your imagination. Both series are from the same production company, and the credits of "Time" showrunners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis include writing for "Lost." Further many "Lost" stars go on to do "Time." The only disappointing absence is not having Josh Holloway being a "Time" character with a habit of assigning nicknames ala calling a clad-in-green Peter Pan Kermit.
This shared epic aspect of "Lost" and "Time" results in more creativity and payoff regarding the well-crafted lore of each series in in one episode than in a handful of most 60-minute dramas. "Time" does especially well making delightfully surprising connections.
The basic lore of "Time" is that the evil queen of "Snow White" fame imposes a curse that transports virtually every character from well-known Disneyfied fairy tales from the old country to the small town of Storybrooke, Maine. Part of the curse is that these princesses, princes, dwarves, etc. lack any knowledge of their true selves and live the same as the rest of us.
Ten year-old everykid/non-fairy-tale character Henry Mills is virtually the only one who knows the truth; the efforts of this boy who cries Big Bad Wolf to get the adults to take him seriously is a common theme of literature that is very relatable to current and past children.
Ala "Lost," the "Time" story greatly expands beyond the series of "operations" that Henry undertakes to put things right in manners that include getting the real-life versions of fairy-tale characters to wake up and smell the porridge. It ultimately seems that any fur or face that one can see at a Disney Park (or on the stage in "Wicked") shows up.
S7 starts with exposition that sets the stage for the aforementioned retooling. Recent Storybrooke High graduate Henry is setting out to literally and figuratively find his own story after writing the one of those of his fabled family, friends, and "others." His stating that every fairy tale has numerous variations sets the stage for things to come. Our boy then rides into the sunset via a portal to another realm.
A series of events that clearly establish both that we are not in Storybrooke anymore and that the events in the lives of the fairy-tale characters are not your daddy's bedtime stories. This is not to mention that some old friends who join Henry in his new reality have evil twins with various origins.
A particularly Upside Down aspect of S7 is that we get a late-20s author/Seattle resident Henry, who is a one-book wonder and a young widower, being under a curse that prevents remembering any aspect of his past. The annoyingly persistent child this time is Lucy, who claims that she is the daughter of Cinderella and that Henry is her baby daddy.
The numerous notable aspects of adult Henry are his separately bringing a pen to a knife fight and showing that he really does not know Jack.
Wonderfully dark themes that run through the S7 realms include sacrificing a "virgin" to save a loved one, the use of a curse to get revenge, an evil stepmother, revenge-driven blood lust, etc,
Horowitz and company go full-on "Lost" for roughly the final 3/4th of this 22-episode season, We get a big surprise regarding the central curse, learn that being woke is not desirable for evryone, and see prime examples of someone being his or her worst enemy. All this leads to a build up to a climax and an epilogue that is worthy of such an epic series.
The highlight of the numerous special features is "And They Lived Happily Ever After." This 22-minute Valentine has cast and crew reliving memories accompanied by clips from every season and express their appreciation to the fans. We also get bloopers, deleted scenes, and a look at cast member directing an episode.
The August 14, 2018 DVD release "Muppet Babies: Time to Play" provides a good chance to check out the adorable Disney Junior reboot of a genuine pop-culture phenomenon. The original 1984 8-season series is the first of many shows, which include "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" and "Flintstone Kids," that shave years off of popular characters. The hilarious "Community" parody of this concept is one of many examples of the success of this theme,
The bigger picture is that "Play" is further proof that Disney cable channels offer fare for all ages. This release comes on the heels of a reviewed DVD of the very bright series with a literal strong Latin beat "Elena of Avalor." Other recent Disney releases include the latest (also reviewed) set of episodes of the Disney XD reboot of "DuckTales" and the first set of the personal fave Junior series "Puppy Dog Pals" that centers around incredibly cute pug siblings going on missions. A "Pals" "Babies" crossover would be beyond awesome.
The following YouTube video of the opening credits of "Babies" illustrates (pun intended) the updated CGI look of the series. It also introduces the emphasis on using your imagination that is a central theme.
The core group that returns consists of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo the Great, and Animal. Summer the penguin literally and figuratively joins the band. Group caregiver Nanny is now Miss Nanny; she still only is seen from the baby perspective of the waist down.
Each half-hour episode consists of two or three adventures. Things typically start out with either Nanny initiating an activity that triggers a fantastic voyage of the mind or a mishap among the kids prompting the adventure du jour. Either way, viewers can count on a clever escapade and a rockin' music video. A song that be considered Muppet Beach Party is particularly fun.
The first outing in "Play" has Miss Nanny actually going into the closet triggering the muppets going in after her. The issue related to this quest is being afraid of the dark. The dual messages are that that phobia is valid and that the dark is nothing to fear.
A rather bizarre element in another outing has Miss Nanny planning to show her charges what clearly is the Olympics; she refers to the event as the Sport-a-thon for an apparent but unknown legal reason. The modern problem of the Internet going out leads to the gang staging their own games. The lesson this time is the importance of being a good loser. One spoiler that is refreshing in 2018 is that Miss Nanny does not issue participant awards.
A cute outing from the perspective of one with a childhood friend named Peter Potato has Gonzo bonding with an inanimate root vegetable. This one begins with hilarious sequences that show that the potato is not very good at games. This leads to Gonzo getting upset when his new buddy is ostracized. The lesson this time is of inclusion.
The copious special features begin with 10 Show=and-Tell shorts that likely are filler on Junior. The theme is one or two of our friends discussing show-and-tell presentations. We also get six music videos from the episodes in the set.
One of the best overall things about the new "Babies" is the same as the Disney approach to the "Star Wars" franchise. The new productions staying true to the source material helps make watching with the kids fun for the adults.
The most awesome thing about the August 7, 2018 DVD release "Elena of Avalor: Realm of the Jaquins" is that it follows the grand tradition of introducing those of us without babies and toddlers to the joys of the fare on the Disney Junior cable network. A prime example is LOVING "Puppy Dog Pals" after reviewing a DVD set of that series. The warnings regarding "Pals" is that you often will find yourself singing "pu pu pu puppy dog paaaals" and will have even trips to the grocery store prompt singing "we're goin' on a mission, goin' on a mission; arf, arf, arf, arf."
The literally and figuratively fantastic worlds of Avalor and titular neighboring dimension Vallestrella alone are amazing. The surprisingly exceptional quality of the DVD images will almost make you want to wear shades while watching the adventures in this vivid universe.
The accolades for "Elena" includes a well-deserved Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding Casting for an Animated Series or Special." It also has an Imagen Foundation Awards win for Best Children's Programming.
The titular princess rules in the titular fictional Latin American country; she is subject to a legislative branch in the form of The Grand Council that largely is there to curb her enthusiasm. The rockin' Latin songs that every episode features and the adoration for this future queen both within and outside the palace walls evoke strong feelings of "Evita."
"Elena" saves the strongest star power for the villains. Former Monster-In-Law Jane Fonda voices evil sorceress Shuriki, who is still around after a lore-establishing major beat down at the beginning of the series. Lou Diamond Phillips gives perfect voice to scoundrel/thief Victor Delgado.
"Realm" begins with a special one-hour episode of the same name. The titular creatures who are jaguar/eagle hybrids are native to a dimension that can be considered the realm of Dr. Moreau in that the creatures who inhabit it are natural hybrids of two species. The peabunnies who look like rabbits but have elaborate fanned tails are one of the cutest examples.
The very cute toddler-friendly action begins with the trio of jaquins who hang with Elena and her cute harmless boy sidekick Mateo the wizard taking a rite of passage test. Success means getting to stay in Avalor to help maintain the peace; failure requires returning to the land of the butterfrogs.
The expression two out of three ain't bad applies to the text results; the desire of Elena for a second attempt at a trifecta leads to her traveling to the Jaquin home turf of Vallestrella to plead her case to the ruler of that kingdom. The obstacles include the mere presence of Elena violating an isolationist policy that has a valid basis.
The inadvertently triggered threat regarding this sort of a homecoming further justifies maintaining a strong border. The cooperative effort that puts right what once went wrong shows the value of international cooperation.
"Three Jaquins and A Princess" pays honage to the '80s Disney film "Three Men and a Little Lady." A variety of circumstances lead to Elena younger sister Isabel watching over a trio of Jaquin eggs, The triplets being preemies leads to comic chaos as Isabel tries to prove that she can handle these adorable flying infants. The lesson this time is that there is no shame in requesting help.
The third but not least full-length episode is equally cute. Elena defies The Grand Council and goes center-of-the-earth deep undercover to fulfill what she considers her royal duty. Mateo comes along in a manner that fully makes him sidekick Ron Stoppable to Elena in full Kim Possible mode.
Disney supplements the above offerings with 10 bonus shorts that presumably are filler on Disney Junior. The two main categories of these mini-episodes are "Adventures in Vallestrella" and "Scepter Training with Zuzo." Paws down the best in the group is the fairly self-explanatory "Peabunny Boogie."
'Duck Tales Destination: Adventure!' DVD David Tennant Lends Voice and Spirit to Greatest Recent Reboot
Being able to state that the Disney June 5, 2018 DVD release "DuckTales Destination: Adventure!" is all that it is quacked up to be is awesome. These six episodes of the Disney XD reboot (and two bonus episodes of the 1987-90 syndicated OS) follows the December 2017 DVD release of episodes from the XD series in "DuckTales: Woo-oo."
The following YouTube clip of the XD "First Look" promo. for "DuckTales" includes a perfect "25 words or less" summary of the show and highlights the strong animation and humor of the series.
The underlying premise of the OS and the reboot is the effective Disney strategy of getting the most bang for its buck regarding licensed characters, The format this time is that Donald Duck nephews Huey (Red), Dewey (Blue), and Louie (Green) go to live with their great-uncle Scrooge McDuck in search of adventures that often have a profit motive.
The lively and hilarious voice-over performance of Tenth Doctor David Tennant as Scrooge alone makes the XD series well worth watching. Other household names in the cast include Danny Pudi of "Community" as Huey and Bobby Moynihan of "SNL" as Louie.
The very special guest star is "Hamilton" man Lin-Manuel Miranda as fan favorite GizmoDuck in "Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System." That one is an exceptional cautionary tale on the hazards of self-driving cars and the related issue of not having machines replace humans.
The aptly titled "The Beagle Birthday Massacre!" kicks things off with an escapade that mostly focuses on tag-a-long chick (pun intended) Webbigail "Webby" Vanderquack, who is the granddaughter of the cook/housekeeper for Scrooge. Webby literally missing the boat regarding the latest outing of the boys leads her to meeting bad influence Lena.
This new friend manipulates Webby into crashing the birthday party for Ma Beagle, who is the matriarch of The Beagle Boys trio of criminals who are the nemeses of the McDuck clan. A particularly amusing aspect of this is seeing the multiple variations of Boys bands.
This one is a very special episode in that Webby develops a bond that compensates for not being a full-fledged member of the band of brothers with whom she hangs. Other fun comes regarding Huey and Dewey mercilessly teasing their chill sibling about a past failure.
Disney saves the best for second in having "The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra!" follow "Boys." This one has Scrooge and the gang discover an obliviously exploited lost civilization while exploring an Egyptian tomb. A reference to a pyramid scheme is the best line of any of the six episodes in "Adventure." Additional fun comes in the form of a "Wizard of Oz" element that one of the boys exploits to his own end.
"The Spear of Selene!" is another especially funny outing. Much of the humor in this one relates to mythology and Indiana Jones-style quests. The substance in the journey comes in the form of providing the boys a chance to learn more about their absent mother Della Duck. The special guest star this time is Uncle Donald. Veteran Donald Duck voice actor Tony Anselmo does his thing in this one.
The aforementioned vintage "Ducktales" (which have never been previously released on DVD) provide great fun in allowing comparison of the two series, including the very catchy theme. These episodes also are great nostalgic fun for OS fans.
The very '80s titled "New Gizmo-Kids on the Block" finds our fowl heroes donning the garb of the titular superhero. "Ducky Mountain High" centers around Scrooge competing with a fellow Master of the Universe for ownership of property where money essentially does grow on trees.
The awesomeness of the new "Ducktales" includes staying true to the OS spirit but providing the necessary updates to avoid the youth of today from declaring the reboot lame. This includes giving Huey and his bros modern 'tude.
The challenge regarding reviewing the April 10, 2018 Disney DVD release of the Disney Junior series "Puppy Dog Pals" is conveying the extent to which this show about the titular young pugs is adorable and amusing. You really must see it to get a proper sense of this program that is almost is certain to create a legion of dedicated adult fans that rivals the obsession of the Bronies who go way overboard regarding "My Little Pony."
The following YouTube clip of the "Puppy" theme perfectly conveys the fun spirit of the series and will leave you wanting oh so much more.
Much of this praise relates to comedian/series creator Harland Williams, who also voices human father/inventor Bob, getting into the mind of a puppy. His stars talk and act exactly in the manner that globally endears baby dogs to people. Grey pug Bingo and his brother (perhaps from another mother) tan pug Rolly display perpetual elan.
The ridiculously cute scamps live with Bob and their older cat sister Hissy, who tolerates her younger siblings. Their family dynamic is fully established in the opening scenes of the first of the two adventures in the pilot.
The puppies are riding their skateboards and pretending to be surfing; they soon successfully beg Hissy to play along by pretending to be a shark. Candor requires confessing to regularly playing games such as "Space Cat" and "Abominable Snow Kitty" with a household pet.
The fun continues with so-cute puppies going nuts on saying good morning to Bob; their body language is clear, but Bob hears their words as adorable barks of extreme joy.
The typical charm continues with morning events prompting Bob to comment on the joy of walking on Hawaiian sand. He then leaves for work completely oblivious of the plans of the dogs to make their dad happy by traveling to our 50th state and be back before he returns home.
The boys then race to their mad tricked out dog house to the accompaniment of their "goin' on a mission" theme. Their prep. includes having a dome outfit them with utility collars that puts the belt of Batman (and Ace the Batdog) to shame. The enhanced cuteness continues with Rolly gleefully announcing that he is bringing an old sock because chewing on it makes him feel good. Bingo equally happily responds that everyone loves chewing on an old sock.
Similar outings include a day trip to Antarctica to remedy of dearth of ice at Chez Bob and an equally short trip to France to get bread for French toast. The Paris adventure is particularly true to the spirit of the recent film "The Secret Life of Pets," which depicts a particularly eventful day in the life of four-legged New Yorkers. The guest stars in this "Puppy" adventure include rats and pigeons.
An episode that hits closer to home in the Disneyverse is a variation of "Toy Story" starts with Bingo and Rolly damaging a favorite stuffed animal of Bob during "ruff" play. Their remedial efforts this time land them in a variation of Build-a-Bear.
Hissy fully gets into the action when her well-meaning bros take her along for a grand local day out. One spoiler is that a dog park is not as much fun for a cat as it is for man's best friend.
All of this amounts to a show that parental figures may beg their pre-schoolers to watch again and again and again. It is very relatable to pet lovers of all ages and lacks EVERY annoying aspect of most toddler fare. There are no shrill voices, encouraging children to shriek, or sickening morals. "Puppy" simply is pure entertainment that delights all from 3 to 100.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Puppy" is strongly encouraged to email me. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
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