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Scholastic Video presents
Miss Nelson Has a Field Day... and Miss Nelson is Back (1982-85)

"The Swamp will be watching!"
- The evil Viola Swamp (Diana Canova), in Miss Nelson is Back

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: March 23, 2003

Stars: Diana Canova
Director: Virginia Wilkos, Tee Vassili

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:24m:45s
Release Date: March 25, 2003
UPC: 767685952634
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BC+B- B+

DVD Review

Two tales from the charming and prolific James Marshall come to DVD courtesy of Scholastic—Miss Nelson gets top billing, but not the lion's share of screen time, although she's unlikely to quibble about that. They're a pair of funny tales likely to please those who have finally worn out their Elmo and Barney DVDs.

There is no joy in Medley in the first story, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, for the school football team, the Tornadoes, are an embarrassment—they're not just without a victory this season, but they haven't scored a single point. This has understandably caused poor old Coach Armstrong to become a little unhinged, and he takes an unplanned leave of absence. Who, then, will coach the team? Surely not the legendarily reclusive Viola Swamp, the Bill Parcells of children's books? Why, yes, the very one—Coach Swamp shows up and forges those whippersnappers into shape. Though Miss Nelson doesn't get much screen time, there's little doubt that she's the brains behind the brawn. You go, girl.

Miss Nelson is laid up with tonsillitis in the second story, which means that it's time for the kids in her class to terrorize the substitute. First up is ineffectual Mr. Blandsworth, the principal, with his card tricks and collection of ballpoint pens—he's the very definition of fresh meat. Then that horrid Viola Swamp is back on the scene, getting the class, through fear, back on the straight and narrow. One again, Miss Nelson and the Swamp are never seen together. Coincidence? You decide.

These are two nice stories, but I don't know that they're James Marshall's best—we're partial to George and Martha, his talking hippos, in my house, and perhaps other Marshall books will find their way to DVD incarnations before too long.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Colors are vivid and steady in the two Miss Nelson stories; the same can't be said of those in the extras package, which have been ravaged by time and neglect. That's where you'll find more than your share of scratches and debris, though it's not so bad as to make the shorts unwatchable.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo transfer is adequate, with the dialogue and narration easily discernible, though there's a good amount of hiss and crackle.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 2 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. three bonus stories
Extras Review: This is one of those peculiar discs on which the extras actually outweigh the main program, as three creditable shorts can be found here—they're referred to as Bonus Stories.

What Moscow is to Chekhov's three sisters, Panama (10m:58s) is to the little tiger and the little bear—they're off on a quest. You see, they found an empty wooden box bearing the name Panama, and it smelled like bananas—hence Panama must be very heaven. The two journey through the woods and meet many animal friends, and learn the age-old lesson that there's no place like home. They're a stupid couple of animated characters, and even little kids are likely to think so, too.

Sibling rivalry is the surprising subject of The Three-Legged Cat (10m:29s), as the owner of the title character is a homebody, but her pet longs for adventure, as does the owner's ne'er-do-well brother, a scallywag and a scoundrel. Brother and sister work out a mighty successful though unintentional swap: she gets his molting fur hat, which doesn't beg for scraps, and he gets the kitty to keep his scalp warm. The cat is the hat in this one.

Forget Goldilocks—in the final bonus story, Papa Bear faces off with a pestering insect. The Bear and the Fly (04m:57s) is the wordless tale of their interspecies battle, with Papa Bear and his flyswatter coming up short—the only thing that the big brown bear smacks with his swatter is everything breakable in the house, along with the peace of mind of Mama Bear and Baby Bear.

Getting to Know James Marshall (06m:11s) features the author in his studio, reflecting upon the impact his Texas childhood had on his work—he grew up in San Antonio, and happily draws the Alamo—and discusses how Viola Swamp is his revenge on the second-grade teacher who told him he'd never be an artist. This is a segment from a longer film, apparently, and ends with the sad fact that Marshall died in 1992.

English subtitles can be accessed via the Read Along option, and the trailer is for the full boat of Scholastic DVD releases.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Another solid job from Scholastic. This one isn't likely to become the very favorite of anyone—neither Miss Nelson nor Viola Swamp will stir up the depths of emotions necessary for that—but the bulk of extras especially make this a disc worth checking out.


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