Sesame Street - 40 Years of Sunny Days
Phillip Chapman (November 3, 2009) - We just received an advance copy of the long-awaited "Sesame Street 40 Years of Sunny Days" anniversary DVD box set. It’s been two long years since Sesame Workshop released their last Old School DVD collection so fans are counting the days until the Sesame Street 40th anniversary set is released on Tuesday November 10.
Instead of including a few hour-long episodes, Sesame Workshop decided to highlight over five hours of short segments comprising the “best-of-the-best” from the show’s 40 year history. No doubt the production team had a challenging time deciding what clips would be included from more than 4,200 episodes.
Obviously, there are particular classic segments that we’ve all seen time and again that had to be featured in this collection. But fans have been wondering, would this collection include enough rare and previously unreleased material to justify the purchase? Would the promised behind-the-scenes footage live up to its billing or would the bonus features be somewhat lacking (like the recent Letters to Santa DVD release)?
If you already bought Sesame Street Old School Volume 1 or Old School Volume 2, then you need no introduction to Sesame Workshop’s high-quality presentation from packaging to bonus features. Thankfully, the “40 Years of Sunny Days” DVD set continues these same high standards. The set includes two DVD’s along with a limited edition mini-hardback book.
Each DVD begins with Count von Count turning on a TV and watching short clips from each season. The first time you watch this television montage it’s quite enjoyable, however, after repeat viewings you may find yourself skipping over this segment and going to the main menu instead. All of the clips are also included in their entirety on each of the DVD’s.
The menus are beautifully designed as they include photos, scripts, props and sheet music. On each menu, the camera pans from one item to another. You can either watch all of the clips on a disc sequentially or you can choose the “Select a Segment” option and advance to a particular clip. Vocal and instrumental versions of popular songs are previewed on the menus.
Thankfully, the included segments feature many songs from the show. Some of the included tunes are ones you’d expect (like “Rubber Duckie”, “I Love Trash” and “Bein’ Green”). Thankfully fans get to once again see favorites like Little Jerry and the Monotones’ “Mad” and the cast singing “Hello Hello Hello” from Season 12.
There is such a wealth of material to choose from for inclusion on these discs that if offered the opportunity nearly everyone would have a different list of clips they would like to see. Overall, the selection is very good and will appeal to a wide audience. From Mr. Hooper’s death to Snuffy’s reveal to Maria and Luis’ wedding most of the big moments are here.
Some of the rarities include Telly Monster’s first appearance, Oscar and Bruno’s trip to the theater (with a few surprise guests) and the first time Elmo “found his voice”. Some fan favorite characters like Roosevelt Franklin, Dr. Nobel Price and Forgetful Jones are featured while others like Sherlock Hemlock and Don Music unfortunately are not.
When some of the clips begin playing you’ll see a behind-the-scenes photo either related to that particular segment (like Carol Spinney meeting R2-D2) or a Muppeteer performing on-set.
Guest stars with their own segments include: Madeline Kahn, James Taylor, Patti Labelle, Batman, Lena Horne, Fonzie, the Star Wars droids, Mister Rogers, Diana Ross, Pee Wee Herman, Feist, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennet, Destiny's Child, and Robert De Niro among others.
All of the clips are presented in 1.33:1 full frame, along with English Dolby 2.0 mono and stereo soundtracks. The 16:9 clips from seasons 39 and 40 are shown in 4:3 letterbox. The bonus preview of Abby Cadabby’s new CGI segment "Abby's Flying Fairy School" is presented in 16:9.
The following bonus features are included:
There are several options to view the behind-the-scenes footage. You can watch them in order seperately from the main titles or you can choose to have them play in relation to the main titles. Meaning you can see the behind-the-scenes footage after you see the original segment while watching all of the clips from the main menu.
Fan who are familiar with the Muppet Morsels segments from The Muppet Show Season 1 DVD will appreciate the on-screen pop-up's which include facts and trivia about Sesame Street. There are a few grammatical issues here and there, but nonetheless this is a great feature and highly recommended. You might even want to turn on the "on-screen pop-ups" before you watch the clips for the first time.
Overall, the bonus features are outstanding especially the behind-the-scenes footage of the puppeteers in action. Often the magic below the camera is even more exciting than what happens on-camera. I was impressed with how much behind-the-scenes footage exists from the 1980's especially from the original Muppeteers Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt. Seeing some of these rehearsals and read-throughs for the first time is more than worth the price of admission.
On the second DVD, there is a bonus option titled "Bonus Behind the Street Scenes" which reveals a link to Sesame Workshop's website with even more popular clips from the show's 40 years.
The front cover is bright Big Bird yellow and includes stills from many of the segments featured on the two DVD’s. Each of the DVD’s are in individual slimline cases. Thankfully, there are no digi-pack cases here. None of the discs are stacked on one another. The back of the packaging includes retrospective photos and text. Unfortunately, there is a character mistake on the back of the first DVD case. Oscar’s trash man Bruno is referred to as Biff.
The included limited-edition book is actually a mini-version of the comprehensive “Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street” book, cover and all. This mini-book includes a few of the same photos as the large version, but has updated layouts and abbreviated text to suit the smaller edition. The mini-book is 24 pages. No doubt this was included to promote the incredible Sesame Street collector’s book that we previously reviewed.
“Sesame Street - 40 Years of Sunny Days” is a joyous trip to the most famous street in the world. It’s a delight to see Sesame Workshop finally release some of these rarities and fan-favorites on DVD. With an on-line purchase price of around $20 this collector's set has a lot of value for any fan's collection. Overall, the selected segments are very good, I just wish more was included. Increasing the set to four discs, instead of two would have allowed each DVD to have been devoted to its own decade.
This set is one of the last Sesame discs to be produced by Genius Products. It was recently announced the Warner Brothers will be distributing Sesame Street DVD’s in 2010 and beyond. We can only hope that this is just a tease of future releases to come. With more than 75 million adults who've grown up on Sesame Street looking for a taste of nostalgia and now having children of their own, releasing more classic material no longer shown on Sesame Street is a no-brainer. Hopefully, Warners will be releasing many more classic DVD box sets from the early years of Sesame Street in the months ahead. If so, they’ll be plenty more sunny days ahead indeed.You can listen to the music of Sesame Street from the show’s 40 year run on Muppet Central Radio.
40 Years of Sunny Days Disc 1
40 Years of Sunny Days Disc 2
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