Schoolhouse Rock! Earth features 11 new songs and one classic about the environment.
* Report From the North Pole
Panda bears sing about melting icecaps, and a “cub” reporter (get it?) visits other animals threatened by climate change in a non-musical section.
* The Little Things We Do
Mr. Morton and Pearl return with their son Norton and cat Orton (sigh) to demonstrate how small changes can help reduce energy consumption and global warming. It’s a nice picture of working with neighbors, even if many viewers will have already heard the tips — take shorter showers, change light bulbs, turn down the thermostat, recycle.
* The Trash Can Band
A jug band made up of a box, a can, and a bottle sing about reducing waste by reusing items or buying used.
* You Oughta Be Savin’ Water
Dewey Drop and the Drips do a doo-wop about conservation. It’s got a great, catchy chorus that quickly winds up in your head, which makes it the most effective song so far.
* The Rainforest
A different animation look sets this apart, based around black instead of white and using a more neon color palette. Very cool to watch, although the music is minimal in favor of a sung-talk narration.
* Save the Ocean
From the beginning, I knew singing fish would compare unfavorably to Under the Sea, the pinnacle of those kinds of musical numbers. But this one does have a rapping walrus driving a car. Also, there is lots of spelling in this one: S-A-V-E the O-C-E-A-N as a chorus, that kind of thing.
* FatCat Blue: The Clean Rivers Song
How waste and yucky stuff winds up in the river. Kind of a simple message, but I loved hearing that classic SHR deep voice as the cat, even though it wasn’t really a song.
* A Tiny Urban Zoo
A kid grows himself a garden inhabited by birds, beetles, and bugs. Very cool, snazzy song, unusual concept, and a distinctive British voice make this my favorite. The animation was funny, too, with a disappointed lizard missing out on eating caterpillars, and a really weird chorus kick line of all the various creatures.
* The Energy Blues
This one’s the classic, part of the original Schoolhouse Rock! run. It also appeared on the previous new DVD, the Election Collection.
* Solar Power to the People
Interplanet Janet returns! And the same voice and look, too! This one’s a hoot, if short on specifics.
* Windy and the Windmills
Wind power. Yeah, I was getting a little bored by this point, although seeing the images of people throughout history building windmills was neat.
* Don’t Be a Carbon Sasquatch
Explaining the concept of a carbon footprint and how you can reduce your use of energy that creates greenhouse gases.
I thought the animation was not quite as good as the classic Schoolhouse Rock material, because it was flatter and took more shortcuts (minimal movement), but watching “Energy Blues” reminded me that while the look is slightly different, the old and new are more similar in approach than I remembered. It was a pleasure to hear the familiar voices, even if they sound a little older. As expected, several of the songs are more interested in messaging than being a good tune. I can’t see myself singing any of them, but then, I’ve only heard them once each so far, and they don’t yet have any nostalgic pull for me.
Revivals can never live up to the memories of the original, and this isn’t going to be on every Saturday morning for ten years, drumming their tunes into our heads. I did think it was great to see cartoons with positive messages, and I’d be happy for kids to watch this. They’re the ones that have the potential to save the planet. I’m too old and too set in my ways, while they’re the ones demanding that companies pay more attention to what they’re doing in this area and making financial decisions on that basis.
If you Play All, there’s some additional in-between animation with the polar bears setting up each cartoon. There’s an alternate French audio track (yes, they sing in French) or French or Spanish subtitles.
Like every Disney DVD, there’s also an obligatory music video featuring whomever is being promoted to the tween market this week. Here, it’s “The Three Rs” by Mitchel Musso. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is sung to a tune that’s vaguely reminiscent of “3 Is a Magic Number”.
There are no other extras except for ads for other Disney products. We ignored them because we are not 6. Well, we did watch something: we thought the Princess Protection Program was about rescuing animated female characters from Disney’s control, but it turns out to be yet another movie about a girl who’s really a princess but still has to go to school. I also find it hilarious that Disney’s FastPlay feature, which is supposed to allow you to get to the content quicker without all the fuss, winds up taking longer because it explains itself.
For an extra $10, you can get a Classroom Edition, which includes “exclusive educational content, Public Performance Rights for classroom/educational use only, and a printable educator’s guide.”