Thursday, May 31, 2012

Product Review: Liberty's Kids Complete series DVD

As a huge fan of all things animation, there is nothing that I love more than collecting great cartoons series on DVD. Many of my favorite shows unfortunately are spread out acroos multiple physical releases that. This is why it's I find it very refreshing when an entire show is sold in a single convenient collection. Liberty's Kids: The Complete Series DVD from Shout! Factory is one of these.

Liberty's Kids is an educational cartoon series that  first aired on PBS Kids from 2002 to 2004. Though I personally didn't catch it back in the day, all it took was previewing a single episode on YouTube to convince me that owning all 40 of them in one collection was a worthy deal.  

Set in Colonial America, the series tells the tale of America's quest for independence. The whole span of these events, from the Boston Tea Party to the adoption of the Constitution, is seen through the eyes of three kids. The youthful colonial journalist James, the young Englishwoman Sarah, and the rascally French orphan, Henri. All three are enduring characters who are easy to become fond of. Despite witnessing historical events from 1773 to 1787, none of the protagonists age visibly, keeping literally to the title "Liberty's KIDS."

It's easy to tell that a lot of effort was put into Liberty's Kids. Production values are high both visually and audibly. The art style portrays characters and scenery in colorful detail and really brings colonial America to life. Voice actors do the same thing for their respective characters. James's performance is filled with  patriotic idealism and the Ben Franklin's conveys humble wisdom. Henri's French accent is adorable and Sarah's British one is hilariously over the top. Music is another area of strength, with the clear standout being the opening theme; a patriotic pop song that manages to avoid being corny.

As a matter of fact, Liberty's Kid's greatest strength is its avoidance of the cheesiness that  pervades most cartoon adaptations of the Revolutionary War. One would expect pure propaganda showcasing the British as utter villains and the colonists as solely heroic patriots, but this is not the cause. A real effort is made to show the conflict's two points of view, even if more focus is given to the American side. Furthermore, the series doesn't shy away from portraying the consequences of war. Death and serious hardship are present in a number of episodes, though actual onscreen violence is, of course, limited.

Despite the dramatic events at hand, there is also plenty of humor in Liberty's Kids to balance it off. One of my favorite scenes is when James and Henri are spying on soldiers disembarking from a ship. James asks Henri to count the English soldiers and Henri starts to do so, but in French. James then reminds his friend "English Henri!" to which Henri replies "I AM counting the English!" It's little things like this that give the episodes an amazing charm.

Along with all 40 episodes (totaling approximately 15 hours) a healthy amount of bonus content comes with this collection. There are clips showing aspects of the creation of the series, along with mini-segments involving quizzes and fact-reviews. These are so poorly animated and corny that they're hilarious. I kid you not that in one of them, Ben Franklin plays the part of a TV newscaster.

As great a cartoon as Liberty's Kids is, it's made even better by being packaged excellently. The six DVDs are stored in three thin, but sturdy disc cases, which are held in an outer sleeve. The cover artwork is attractive and included in the package is a 40 page booklet detailing episode content and a map showing where each episode takes place. All in all, Liberty's Kids has everything that a complete series collection should have. I can recommend it to both old fans of the show and people interested in a quality educational cartoon for themselves or their children.

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