Fraggle Rock Complete Series Collection DVD
Phillip Chapman (October 29, 2008) - HIT Entertainment continues its fine four year tradition of releasing yet another Fraggle Rock DVD box set on November 4. While The Muppet Show and Sesame Street Old School DVD releases remain quite popular, HIT continues to go the extra mile with Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series.
Once word broke earlier this year that HIT Entertainment would be releasing the fourth and final season of Fraggle Rock not as a separate season set (like the first three Fraggle releases), but instead would only release Season 4 as part of a “Complete Set” with the first three seasons, fan opinion has been rampant.
Some of the dedicated Fraggle fans who purchased the previous box sets have been frustrated that they have to once again purchase the first three seasons in order to get the final episodes. To date HIT Entertainment has been extremely quiet on whether or not the fourth season will eventually be released as a stand-alone set. Hopefully, 2009 will bring the release of a separate Season 4 (even if the discs are identical to the ones included here). Our hunch is that Season 4 will eventually be released separately, likely next fall.
Usually I reference the packaging toward the end of a review. However, this is no ordinary DVD box set. In fact, the design and packaging on the outside of the box looks simply stunning. The graphics are even better in person than at first glance on the web.
As you’ll see in the following pictures, the Fraggle Rock logo is actually three-dimensional. It's on the front of a binder which holds all 20 discs in the series. The replica looks so impressive that many fans will likely keep the case on display with some of the other Fraggle items in their collection. (We can only hope Disney will create a mini-replica of The Muppet Show Theater for the eventual complete set for “The Muppet Show.”)
There are two discs in each cardboard sleeve in the binder. Each season is color-coded and the discs are all numbered 1-20 on the DVD label and in the case. In the box set we received, a few of the discs had slid out of the binder which makes them prone to unfortunate scratches.
As a much hyped extra bonus, HIT has included a folded 19 ½ x 12 ½ reprint of a Michael Frith illustration. It showcases the various worlds of the Fraggles including: Gobo and Sprocket in Outer Space, the Fraggles in Fraggle Rock and the Gorgs and their castle. While the beauty and detail of Michael’s work is indeed masterful, this image has been included on multiple products in the past. So even though many fans are already familiar with this piece of art, it’s nice to see it included.
Not surprisingly, it appears that the DVD’s for the first three seasons are identical to the ones previously released. Depending on your perspective this may be good or bad news. If you already purchased the first three sets, there is some natural frustration of getting 15 more discs like the ones you already have in order to get Season 4.
However, if you’re buying these episodes for the first time, you may be relieved to find out that video-wise you’re not missing anything from the previous releases. In fact, it appears that the only “extras” you miss out on by not buying the individual season sets are the replicas: Jim Henson’s notepad from Season 1, the pitch book from Season 2 and the 50 or so early sketches from Michael Frith.
As mentioned above, on the disc labels and in the binder, each disc is numbered 1-20. However, on the DVD menus themselves each disc is numbered according to season. So for example, let’s check out a Season 4 DVD. Disc 19 is on the label. However, as you’ll see below, the menu says “Season 4 Disc 4”. I wish that HIT would’ve kept with one nomenclature scheme for the discs-and-menus instead of having this inconsistency. (Regardless, here’s a sign that HIT could repackage these same discs without having to re-author them for a single season release.)
Concerning the Season 4 menus specifically (since they are being seen here for the first time), fans will either like the simplicity of the design or be left wishing for something with a little more whimsy. I think what we all love about the show is not the rocks or caverns, but the beloved characters. Seeing a lack of characters on the fourth season menus leaves something to be desired.
Each of the 96 episodes are uncut and presented in 1.33:1 full frame, along with English Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtracks over sixteen DVD’s (four additional discs include bonus features). In all, it’s over 47 hours of Fraggle fun. So if you’re obsessive, you could in theory watch Fraggles non-stop for about two-days. Or you could take the slow but steady approach and watch an episode a day for about three months.
For the rest of this review, the comments will focus primarily on the content of the Season 4 discs as the first three seasons were covered in our previous reviews (Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3).
If you saw the original press release in August from HIT Entertainment, one of the planned bonus features was an “all-new Fraggle Rock short produced by The Jim Henson Company and featuring Red Fraggle.” However, just a few weeks after HIT made this announcement, the Henson.com Podcast (September 17, 2008) revealed that the short had to be delayed and that it wouldn’t be included in the box set. The announced alternative show opens from the UK Fraggle Rock series also didn't make the final master.
Here are the details on the Season 4 bonus features.
BEHIND THE ROCK
SILLY CREATURES SPEAK
THE SOUNDS OF FRAGGLE ROCK
A FRAGGLE CELEBRATION
Since 2005, we’ve been treated to the ultimate Fraggle prize, owning the entire series in glorious DVD quality. Fans of other shows and genres may not fully appreciate what this means for Henson fans as the show hasn’t even aired on a widespread US cable channel since the Disney Channel fifteen years ago.
So if you do not have any of the Fraggle Rock season sets, we cannot recommend you buy this box set enough. It’s really a bargain at around $100 for nearly two days worth of Henson magic. Without giving the conclusion of the series away, the evolution and character development of the show is what sets this series apart from all others. The last several episodes are simply outstanding. The entire Henson team is at their best.
The tough question is, “What do you do if you’ve already purchased the first three seasons?” It’s a personal decision whether or not to wait it out for a “potential” separate Season 4 release. For dedicated fans, having Season 4 on DVD, owning the wonderful display replica of Fraggle Rock and seeing the newest bonus features is a worthwhile purchase whether you own the previous box sets or not. If you are a casual viewer of the show and don’t mind the risk of missing out on Season 4 all together, than maybe waiting for a potential Season 4 release is your best option.
The great news is that even though fans now have an opportunity to own the complete Fraggle Rock series on DVD that there will hopefully be more Fraggle fun in the future. It would be great to see HIT release the thirteen-episode Fraggle Rock animated series as its own box set. The Fraggle Rock theatrical film continues to be in development. And with the film’s release should come a plethora of new merchandise unlike anything we’ve seen since the show’s heyday in the 1980’s.
“Dance your cares away… VHS for another day… Let the DVD’s play… Down at Fraggle Rock!”
You can listen to the music of Fraggle Rock from the show’s five year run on Muppet Central Radio.
what you may be missing!