Schoolhouse Rock: Earth – DVD Review

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Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Schoolhouse Rock was entertaining kids everywhere on Saturday mornings. In between their favorite cartoons, a series of catchy little animated songs taught kids about math, grammar, science, U.S. history, and the American political system. “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction” were just two of the many songs from Schoolhouse Rock that were just as popular to kids then, if not more, as any Elmo or Blue’s Clues song today. Now just in time for Earth Day on April 22, Schoolhouse Rock has put together 12 brand new songs, along with the original “Energy Blues” song, on its Schoolhouse Rock: Earth DVD. Yes, it’s time for kids to learn about saving our planet!

Schoolhouse Rock aired regularly during commercial breaks, during Saturday morning cartoons from 1973 to 1986, and semi-regularly through 2001. It was the invention of advertising wizard David McCall, songwriter Bob Dorough, and animator Tom Yohe. It’s hard to describe what exactly Schoolhouse Rock was, because it was not a television series nor a movie. It was basically a series of cartoons that educated kids on elementary school level topics in the subjects of English, Math, Science, History, and Civics. It did so by creating catchy tunes and writing clever lyrics to those tunes.

This is a timely release of environmentally conscious songs. Subjects covered in these include recycling, biodiversity, solar energy and various other aspects of conservation. This collection follows a somewhat linear storyline by connecting the songs with our three polar bear hosts named Jack, Bob, and Lou. Each song mostly retains the independent, individual sense at the same time. Overall, this is a pretty in-depth collection of lessons about saving our Earth set to catchy tunes and lyrics.

The new songs for this set were done in the same similar soft-pop style, with repetition to reinforce their messages. All of them are sung and/or written by the creators of the original songs as well. So the only worry is that perhaps these songs won’t work as well for today’s generation of kids as they did for kids from 20 and 30 years ago. In addition, watching all of these songs back-to-back seems to be a little too much. There are good messages to be heard throughout this DVD set, but will kids really sit through 50 minutes of non-stop lessons?

Schoolhouse Rock will always go down as the greatest educational tool ever created for kids. Not only can teachers use this to teach their students, but they can rest assure that their students will be listening to them as well. This new DVD set about saving Earth is a welcome addition to the Schoolhouse Rock collection. Given out one at a time, kids will surely be entertained and educated by these new songs. All at once may be too much for kids to handle, but any parent with young children needs to purchase Schoolhouse Rock: Earth to show each musical lesson in small doses.

THE SONGS

“Report from the North Pole”
In this song, three polar bears are on an ice float that continues to shrink as they sing about global warming. They sing about the way that the reduction of their habitat has a domino effect that touches all of our lives. The lyrics are good, but the tune is not as catchy as some of the others.

“The Little Things We Do”
This song features Mr. Morton and his family as they learn about little things they can do to help the planet conserve energy, like turn off lights when they’re not being used, don’t leave video games on when you’re watching TV, car pool, get a tune-up, drive slower, use push lawn mowers, take shorter showers, and turn down the thermostat (which the Morton’s cat proudly does). A catchier tune than the first one.

“The Trash Can Band”
This song is also about what you can do to save the planet, with the focus on Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Singing about it are three containers who play instruments in a slightly rockabilly style with Dolly Carton taking center stage. Some of the points they drive home are buying in bulk to cut down on packaging that ends up in landfills, reusing plastic, using cloth bags at the supermarket, and rejecting Styrofoam.

“You Oughta Be Savin’ Water”
This song features Dewey Drop and the Drips in a faux doo-wop ditty (“If you’re not conservin’ water, you oughta, you oughta”) and basically talks about those minute-less showers again.

“The Rainforest”
This song teaches about the levels of the rainforest, and then draws the connection again between the animals’ loss of habitat and human consumption and the effect diminished carbon dioxide-consuming plants will have on the planet.

“Save the Ocean”
This song offers a crustacean, fish, and squid singing about keeping the oceans clean. There is also a rapping walrus and sea turtle in here as well. This song is pretty cringe-worthy in parts as well.

“FatCat Blue: The Clean Rivers Song”
This song talks about the waste products that go down our sewer systems into the local rivers, and particularly single out factories as the biggest offenders.

“A Tiny Urban Zoo”
This is a catchy tune that gives kids a fun idea to do. That is to throw some wildflower seeds down in your backyard and start your own “zoo,” which will soon be populated by bugs, beetles, butterflies, and birds.

“The Energy Blues”
This is the original save-the-planet song from the old Schoolhouse Rock series. It actually looks like it is brand new, though. This songs talks about how our energy search began with wood, progressed to coal, then oil, and what effect consumption has on the planet.

“Solar Power to the People”
This song features an old Schoolhouse Rock character, Interplanet Janet, as she sings about the sun as a source of heat, lighting, and electricity.

“Windy the Windmill”
This song talks about wind as a power source, similar to the previous song.

“Don’t Be A Carbon Sasquatch”
This is a catchy tune that teaches kids about “carbon footprints” but then circles back to reduce consumption themes from previous songs.

“The Three R’s (Music Video by Mitchel Musso)”
This is a live-action music video starring Mitchel Musso, of Hannah Montana fame, with a Roger Rabbit-style integration of cartoon elements. The three Rs are Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, of course.

The video is in 1.66:1 widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The transfer here looks great, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since this is a new DVD release from Disney with new content from Schoolhouse Rock. Colors look bright throughout and the picture is constantly crisp. No major or minor problems at all.

The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surroundsound or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are no subtitles available, but that likely due to the fact that lyrics to the songs often pop up onto the screen, so there likely would be no room for subtitles. But overall the audio quality is great.

“The Three Rs” Music Video
This is not really an “extra”, since it’s playable at the end of all the other animated song segments, but it’s different than the other songs since it is a live-action music video starring Mitchel Musso from
Hannah Montana. So I guess that is why it is advertised as a “bonus song”.

This new Schoolhouse Rock set does have some good messages. It also looks and feels like all the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. Will it work on today’s kids? There is a chance, if you don’t hit them over the head with all of these messages at once. As far as how this set ranks when compared to other Schoolhouse Rock cartoons, well this set won’t go down as the best or most memorable, but it is definitely worthy enough to added to the collection.


Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents Schoolhouse Rock: Earth. Created by Tom Yohe and George Newall. Running time: 50 minutes. NOT RATED. Released on DVD: March 31, 2008. Available at Amazon.com