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Featured TV on DVD Review: Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series: The Complete Series

March 18th, 2010

Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon

In 1983, Jim Henson Company created a show called Fraggle Rock that featured his latest creations, the Fraggles. This show ran for four seasons on the CBC up here in Canada and on HBO in the United States, so unlike The Muppets or Sesame Street, it didn't have a network presence to help build an audience. Even so, it lasted 96 episodes, great for a kids show. It was even popular enough for a spin-off, Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series, which sadly only lasted one season and 13 episodes. Obviously the show is aimed at fans of the original, but can it live up to its source and how well will neophytes enjoy it?

The Fraggles live underground in a series of caves called Fraggle Rock together with tiny Doozers who build scaffolding throughout the Rock, which is the favorite food of the Fraggles. (They eat the scaffolding, not the Doozers.) Meanwhile, there are the giant Gorgs, who consider themselves the rulers of the Universe, even though they do little more than grow beets on their small farm.

The show focuses mostly on five Fraggles: Gobo, Mokey, Red, Wembley, and Boober. Gobo is the leader of the group and the most adventurous. Mokey is the most sensitive and artistic. Red is most athletic and outgoing, but a little impetuous as well. Wembley is the exact opposite and is so indecisive that merely being presented with more than one option can cause him to pass out. Finally, Boober is the most cautious, which is the polite way to say he's paranoid and depressed. He's also good at doing laundry.

Of the 13 episodes, 11 of are split into two 11-minute episodes. The other two run for the full half-hour (22 minutes minus commercials). Individual episodes deal with many topics. Boober's is increasingly frustrated with the crowded conditions of Fraggle Rock. Wembley wishes he was bigger and grows so large that the Gorgs mistake him for one of them. Wembley's indecisiveness prevents him from figuring out what invention to make for Fantastic Fraggle Think-Up Day, and when the Trash Heap tries to help him, her plan backfires. Tired of having their radishes stolen, the Gorgs decide to grow awful berries while both the Fraggles and the Doozers try to solve the problem in their own way. Boober's life is turned around when his new toy turns out to be a good luck charm but when Wembley loses it they have to go an a dangerous adventure to get it back. In an attempt to be a philosopher, Mokey looks for a "Fraggle for all seasons" but since she's not sure what that means, it is a difficult test. Red's competitive nature takes over when she tries to grow the best plant she can and chooses a fast growing seed from Doc's workshop. This is also the theme for the next episode, in which Red tries to break as many records as she can, to the dismay of the other Fraggles. Gobo and Wembley are planning to climb the highest peak in the known universe, but Gobo spends so much time celebrating in advance that he doesn't have enough time to prepare for the climb. Gobo starts to think all the maps he makes are useless, until the minstrel sends him to a time before there were any maps. Wembley becomes afraid of the legendary Bemble, but no one else takes his fear seriously because they understand what "legendary" means. The Gorgs decide to put aside their differences with their arch enemies (who are as real as the Bemble) and invite them to dinner; however, due to a mixup, the invention lands in the hands of the Fraggles. Uncle Traveling Matt returns from Outer Space (where the humans live) but an encounter with Sprocket leaves him with amnesia and he declares himself to be Homebody Matt.

Over on disc two we see a great winter storm and how it effects Fraggle Rock. (I reviewed this DVD as part of A Merry Fraggle Holiday.) Red and Mokey are exploring a cave system, but when Red loses a sweater, Boober finds it and thinks Red is in trouble. Boober is a little more helpful in the next story when his nose is needed to help find where all the sweetwater has gone. Mokey's Flood of Creativity and What the Doozers Did are two of the most creative stories, because they look at the same problem (a flood of Fraggle Rock) from two different perspectives. In the first part we see how the Fraggles react to the problem, while the second part focuses on the Doozers. As Red prepares for her swimming extravaganza, she accidentally cracks a pipe. It's her job to fix it, but she puts it off with disastrous results. Mokey has been declared the greatest poet of all time and she decides to use this to add numerous new words to the dictionary. Red gets to play The Radish Fairy in a play put on by the Fraggles, but she decides to use her costume to trick Junior Gorg into giving the Fraggles all of the radishes. When Boober can't handle the joke contest, he decides to look for the funniest joke in the Universe. But is it too funny? Red declares it to be Fraggle Fool's Day, but one of her jokes backfires. Finally, Wembley tries to help everyone all at once and this causes him to develop a serious case of Wembliosis. The only cure for that is a good scare.

Also on Disc Two is an 8-minute featurette on the creation of Fraggle Rock and its re-invention as an animated show. There is also a gallery of character art, as well as storyboards for the opening credits.

The Verdict

All of the elements that made Fraggle Rock so much fun are still here: the characters are all there, the writing is still great, and every episode has a catchy song. Compared to the original, Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series feels bigger in scale. After all, it's easier to explore the vast cave network that is Fraggle Rock when you don't have to worry about fitting people under the set. (Also, water is a pain to deal with when you are using puppets.) That said, going from puppets to animation makes the show lose some of its charm. If you own Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series, then this Complete Series is also worth picking up. And if you've never seen the show, give it a rental, especially if you have kids.


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