The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories
Phillip Chapman (April 7, 2010) - Next Tuesday April 13, The Jim Henson Company and Lionsgate will be treating fans with a long-awaited release, "The Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories". The DVD coincides with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day later this month on April 22.
The Emmy nominated "Song of the Cloud Forest" first aired in July 1989 in prime time on NBC as part of the short-lived, beloved series, the Jim Henson Hour. Since the 1950's, Jim Henson always pushed the technical boundaries of how to recreate puppetry for maximum impact on television.
"The Song of the Cloud Forest" continues that tradition in that it was the very first Henson production taped entirely against a "black screen" with the puppeteers dressed entirely in black. Computer animation and all other effects were added in post-production. This practice is common today, but twenty years ago this was a pioneering and complex undertaking. Kids and parents familiar with the PBS series "It's a Big Big World" will see how Henson's techniques in Cloud Forest influenced this modern series.Included on this DVD is not only the half-hour Cloud Forest special, but also several other Henson favorites all emphasizing wildlife and environmental issues.
The main menu includes three selections: "play all", "story selection" and "also from lionsgate". A short preview of a few clips from Cloud Forest are shown center-screen while several of the characters from the show move across the menu.
The "story selection" menu includes options to select from all the episodes on the disc. The three bonus episodes are: Jim Henson's Animal Show: Owl and Frog, Jim Henson's Animal Show: Kangaroo & Frog and also Fraggle Rock: River of Life. The Fraggle Rock episode in particular is one of the series best.
"Song of the Cloud Forest" is a visually stunning expedition to a tropical rain forest combining puppetry, music, animation and special effects. The story revolves around Milton, an endangered golden toad and his desperate search for a mate. Knowing their own survival may be at risk, the animals of the rain forest want to do everything they can to help Milton. Two human scientists Jack (Jerry Nelson) and Louise (Fran Brill) are trying to trap Milton in hopes of preserving the golden toad species from extinction.
The show has just the right balance between being convicting and moving without preaching a specific agenda to the viewer. We watched "Song of the Cloud Forest" with our five year-old and were curious to see his reaction. When it was over he thought it was "terrific" and he seemed to understand the importance of protecting the animals. It must have made quite an impression as he has requested to see it again for repeat viewings.
Due to the computer effects, "Song of the Cloud Forest" does show its age, especially in some of the scenes where the animation isn't as polished. The puppets are all bright and beautiful as you'd expect from a prime-time Henson production.
Other than the four half-hour episodes mentioned above, no other bonus features are included. That's understandable given the DVD's low price point. A nice inclusion would have been this two-minute video about the making of Cloud Forest (originally from "The Secrets of the Muppets", another Jim Henson Hour episode).
Two trailers are featured. The first is for two Leap Frog releases: "Let's Go to School" and "Math Adventure to the Moon". The second trailer is for "Happily Never After 2: Snow White Another Bite at the Apple". It was surprising that Lionsgate didn't include trailers for some of their Fraggle Rock DVD's or Jim Henson's Animal Show: Lions, Tigers and Bears which is also being released for the first time on DVD April 13, 2010.
"Song of the Cloud Forest and Other Earth Stories" is a must buy for any Henson fan. After you watch this special on DVD, you'll never go back to your VHS copy again. Consequently because the special is now available in higher quality, it's easy to see how far computer animation has progressed over the past twenty years. Regardless, the timeless message of preserving our environment for all creatures has never been more needed.
Be sure to order your own copy of Song of the Cloud Forest and help ensure that many more Henson classics are released on DVD in the months ahead. Lionsgate will release another fan-favorite from the Jim Henson Hour this June, Dog City: The Movie. We can only hope that other segments from the Jim Henson Hour and other Henson series (like "Ghost of Faffner Hall") will soon be released on DVD as well.
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