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Aug 102016

Sesame Street – Put Down the Duckie is a feature I remember well long before it was released on DVD. Back in 1988, it was advertised as The Sesame Street Special and premiered on Prime Time. When I first heard about it, I couldn’t wait to see it, despite the fact that the network had a telethon that ran through some of the time slot. Don’t you just hate that?

The special starts with Gladys Knight and the Pips performing the extended version of the Sesame Street theme, then Phil Donohue interviewing the people on the street. Of course everyone wants to speak. It was enough for Phil Donohue to take off. I remember Phil Donohue having a popular talk show back in the day but never understood it.

From here on out, this feature is all songs and segments from previous episodes of that season. The highlights include the Monsterpiece Theater segment The 39 Stairs, Grover as a singing and dancing waiter in a Spanish restaurant, and the Jellyman Kelly song.

Of course the biggest highlight in this feature is Hoots the Owl and his band performing Put Down the Duckie as Ernie struggles to play the saxophone while holding his rubber duckie. As an extension to the catchy song, various celebrities join in like Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Madeline Khan, Paul Simon, Jane Curtain, Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), and bunch of others I didn’t recognize.

Speaking of celebrity guest stars, in another segment Bob (Bob McGrath) sings People in your Neighborhood, which features Barbara Walters getting the scoop on Bob and Linda’s (Linda Bove) relationship and Ralph Nader practically destroying Bob’s sweater as he inspects it. This segment seems much different compared to past versions of this song because it’s not as innocent as before when comes to describing each person’s job.

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I can also remember back in the day when Robert MacNeil was a news correspondent on PBS. He appears on this feature to investigate a missing cookie story by talking to Cookie Monster. Kermit the frog also appears as Cookie’s lawyer.

The final segment is called Pretty Great Performances, which features an all animal orchestra performing Italian Street Song with Placido Flamingo. Who remembers this character? Looking back now, he sounds just like Wayne from The Muppet Show, especially when he sings.

This was certainly a classic Sesame Street feature, especially since it was only on TV once. You still won’t find this feature on cable because it’s now part of Sesame Street Old School. By the way, when do you think they’ll release Sesame Street Old School: Volume 4 on DVD?

Jul 132016

Sesame Street DVDs are best known for their entertaining and educational segments coinciding with themed story lines, but Sesame Street – Friends to the Rescue is different in more ways than one.

It starts with an exciting story line about a hurricane hitting Sesame Street and everyone prepares for it by taping windows, getting supplies, and bringing all loose items inside which includes Oscar’s trash can. That sure inspired me to prepare in case something like a hurricane was to occur.

It’s also nice to know that Kermit the frog makes an appearance as a Sesame Street news reporter. How long has it been since he last did that?


After the hurricane ends the next day, the story goes in a different direction. It focuses on how natural disasters can affect people emotionally. The one most affected is Big Bird because his nesting area behind the colored wooden doors was completely destroyed. I haven’t seen Big Bird this sad since Sesame Street’s Follow that Bird when he was captured by those crooked funfair owners, known as the Sleaze Brothers, and sang that sad song about wanting to get back home again.

It turns out that there are no extra segments about any letters or numbers. This feature is all about everyone helping Big Bird rebuild his home. Big Bird is grateful but goes through a lot of emotional distress.

Even though the place gets all fixed up again, there’s still one thing missing, the nest itself. Big Bird was left to build his own since birds do it all the time, but Big Bird doesn’t know how. He was never taught.

Just then, three architects who are based on The Three Little Pigs offer their services, but they only know how to build houses and I don’t mean birdhouses.

Big Bird decides to call his Granny Bird for assistance. I remember Big Bird mentioning his Granny Bird before, but this is the first time we ever actually see her.

The new nest does get built, but there’s another problem. The city nest inspector, based on the Big Bad Wolf, suddenly arrives to make sure it’s safe. That just goes to show that when it comes to fixing up homes, one thing always seems to lead to another.

This was a good feature that’s both exciting and heartwarming. My only concern was that some of the other characters like Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, and the Count do not appear at all. It makes you wonder what they were doing throughout this duration.

Jun 292016

When I was a kid, I remembered seeing the Strawberry Shortcake characters on different kinds of merchandise, especially stickers. However, it wasn’t until I saw some of the straight-to-video specials when I came to understand what they were about.

The small garden world of Strawberry Land is populated by a group of young folk called berry people and they have berry food names like; Huckleberry Pie, Blueberry Muffin, Plum Pudding, Raspberry Tart, Apple Dumpling, and of course Strawberry Shortcake.

These features were among those that could only be found as VHS rentals at the grocery store back in the 80s when they were new. It’s so good that now you can find at least the first two specials on DVD in Strawberry Shortcake – Double Feature: The Wonderful World of Strawberry Shortcake / Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City.

The first feature is The World of Strawberry Shortcake (1980). It’s Strawberry’s birthday and her friends got her a magic watering can that ends up flooding all of Strawberry Land, thanks to their arch nemesis the Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak.

The Pie Man is always intent on scheming against Strawberry and her friends with the help of his berry birds. In a way, this pie chef is like what Gargamel is to the Smurfs, and you’ve got to admire his evil lair on Porcupine Peak. It’s so creative how it’s made entirely out of giant baking supplies. Some of which are magical.

The second feature is Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City (1981). In this one, Strawberry goes to Big Apple City to participate in a televised bake-off and the Purple Pie Man is her opponent trying to cheat his way to victory. Along the way, Strawberry meets new friends, Orange Blossom, Lemon Meringue, T.N. Honey, and Apricot.

The only other feature I remember well that’s not on this DVD is Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Berrykins (1985). The animation style was much different than any of the previous specials, and even Strawberry changed her look.

There are also new characters that live in Strawberry Land, which include Lime Chiffon, Peach Blush, and Banana Twirl.

As for the story line, the Purple Pie Man is up to his old tricks again. This time he creates a rain cloud that changes the scents of all the berries merely to make the world’s most wonderful perfume. Now it’s a race against time for Strawberry and her friends to stop the cloud at the source before it bursts wide open.

In addition, the Pie Man has a new partner named Sour Grapes. She’s a snobbish woman that wears a live snake called Dreggs like a shawl and loves to yodel, despite how the Pie Man hates it.

I should point out that both the Purple Pie Man and Sour Grapes were featured in later versions of the franchise like Strawberry Shortcake – The Sweet Dreams Movie. However, I sometimes wonder if these two villains have become underrated because they don’t appear in the latest series, Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Bitty Adventures (2010-present). There’s no explanation on why that is.

These were among the cartoon classics I grew up on. One last thing: The talking sun doesn’t appear in later Strawberry Shortcake features either. I guess there was no need for a narrator anymore after the franchise updated.

May 252016

Welcome back. Some of the other books on tape based on TV shows of the 80s only had a single story. For instance, here’s one about The Popples in The Magic Shoe. In case you were wondering, this version from the 80s is much different from the new series on Netflix.

Another good one is about Pound Puppies in Pet Project. Yes, it’s another series that has a current version that’s nothing like the original.

Here’s an interesting item. A character called Barney the Book Bear hosted this story. I had no idea who that was until I saw his picture right inside the back cover.

Now that we’ve made it through the storybooks, it’s time to go over the songbooks. That’s right. Some music albums had books to follow along with lyrics and cool pictures to go with it.

First we have Fraggle Rock Sing Along Book, Volume 1. Basically it only contains a few songs from the series. I don’t know if there were other volumes since this is a very unique one.

However, there were other Fraggle Rock albums like the 3 CD set Fraggle Rock: The Fraggle Rockin’ Collection. But looking at the old book with these cool pictures sure brings me back.

The only other classic music book on tape I have is Sing Along Favorites performed by Bob McGrath. We all know him as Bob from Sesame Street, but this is not a Sesame Street album. It contains basic kids songs like If You’re Happy and You Know it, When the Saints Go Marching in, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, The Hokey Pokey, etc.

This album was made in 1986, but I’ve heard that Bob McGrath has a new album, which contains most of these same songs with some new ones and is available on CD. Whether you listen to this one or the other that nostalgic feeling is still the same.

Finding these books on tape again brings back some great memories despite that most of this material is not likely to make it to CD. It just goes to show how big those 80s cartoons were.

May 182016

We all enjoy a good audio book once in a while. Back when I was a kid the only kinds I preferred were the ones where you could follow along in a storybook while listening to a cassette tape or sometimes a vinyl record.

The main ones I still have are based on 80s pop culture I grew up on. That’s what made these books on tape so interesting and it’s very helpful that there’s always some sort of chime that lets you know when to turn the page. Usually audio books don’t have a book to follow let alone a signal to turn the page.

Let’s start with the series sets where each book was sold separately. The Smurfs had four different stories based on certain episodes; A Winter Smurf, The Smurf Champion, There’s a Smurf in my Soup, and The Smurf-Eating Bird. What really kept these interesting was the nice tune that played at the beginning and end of each story as well as the three-second tone that signals to turn the page. No other books on tape do that.

Ducktales had several stories as well based on particular episodes with the original voice actors and musical score. My favorite is Scrooge’s Treasure Hunt, which is basically from part 2 of the series pilot Treasure of the Golden Suns.

There was also a set of five stories on The Gremlins. I don’t remember these too well, mainly because I’m not as much into The Gremlins as I used to be. Moving on.

Next is a series of books based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Unlike any other books on tape based on popular shows that stay loyal to their series, this group is nothing like the actual He-Man animated series. The stories and action are edgier. Some of which are featured in comic book style format. At first I struggled to get into these because they were so different, but now that I’m more into the fantasy genre these storybooks are awesome.

It wasn’t just TV shows that became books on tape. Movies have too, like The Muppets Take Manhattan and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Of course due to time, the story lines were trimmed down quite a bit, but still remain faithful to their source material.

There are other books on tape about 80s classics I’d like to blog about. So check my blog for part 2 for more.