“Save our pelts from lice and fleas
Save our pelts from fleas and lice
Shout it once
Shout it twice
Skog and mice.”
(National Anthem for “The Island of the Skog”)
Scholastic was founded in 1920 and has a long storied tradition (ha ha!) of publishing some of the world’s most loved stories like “Dr. Seuss’ Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” and a little series you may have heard of called “Harry Potter.”
They haven’t been in the book-to-dvd game for too long and one of their latest offerings is a multi-disc set they market under the banner of “Scholastic Storybook Treasures.
Good Night, Gorilla…and more wacky animal adventures is a compilation of three separate discs: Good Night, Gorilla…and more great sleepytime stories, Danny and the Dinosaur…and more friendly monster stories, and The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash…and more amazing animal tales.
“Good Night, Gorilla” (9 min) — Anthony Edwards is the voice of the zookeeper who was so sleepy at the end of the day he failed to notice the baby gorilla stealing his keys. As the zookeeper takes his final round to say good night to all the animals the baby gorilla follows and uses the keys to unlock the cages. The result is a parade of sorts which leads to the zookeeper’s house where all the animals settle down to fall asleep. When the zookeeper’s wife says good night to her husband all of the animals also say good night as well. It is then up to the zookeeper’s wife to put the animals back in their cages.
“Happy Birthday Moon” (7 min) — The story of a little bear who wants to give the moon a birthday present. He doesn’t know when the moon’s birthday is and when he tries to speak to the moon he gets no answer. And he realizes he’s too far away so he goes on a journey in order to get closer to the moon.
“The Napping House” (5 min) — A story about all the occupants of the house falling asleep in the same bed. There is a grandma, a little boy, a dog a cat, a mouse and a flea. The story reads like a poem with the same last two lines repeated “in the napping house where everyone is sleeping.”
“The Rain Babies” (18 min) — The story of an old couple who wish to have children but cannot. One night during a rain shower the full moon awakens the couple. When they go outside they discover a dozen rainbabies. The story takes a bit of a dark twist as the babies are continually placed in danger from nearly drowning to being burned alive. Just when you wonder what purpose this could possibly serve, we meet Mother Moonshower.
The first of the bonus stories is “Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin” (11 min). This is a story which is meant to introduce a child to the concept of an orchestra. Each one comes with an accompanying piece of music to also give a child the idea of what this instrument sounds like.
The second of the bonus stories is “Elizabeti’s doll” (9 min). When she watches her mama taking care of Obedi, her little baby brother, Elizabeti wants to take care of something of her own. But she has no doll so she finds a rock which she names Eva and takes care of it just like her mama does with Obedi.
“The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash” (5 min) — This story’s about a little girl whose mother asks her about the class visit to the farm. The little girl starts at the end and works back to the beginning as we learn about Jimmy’s boa and its adventures.
“Doctor De Soto” (10 min) — Doctor De Soto is a mouse and a dentist. He is highly sought after and only has one rule…not to treat animals that are considered even mildly dangerous to mice. But one day when Fox appears in considerable pain he and his wife decide to take the chance and fix the Fox’s teeth. But they worry that when the Fox returns the next day to finish up the appointment they will be eaten and so they concoct a plan to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“Flossie and the Fox” (14 min) — Flossie is in charge of getting a basket of eggs to her neighbor’s without losing any to the Fox who’s been stealing eggs out of the henhouses. When Flossie meets the Fox on the way to her neighbor’s she claims not to believe the Fox is indeed a fox. And the poor Fox spends the whole journey trying to convince her he is who he says he is.
“First the Egg” (4 min) — This quick little tale teaches youngsters about the forms animals take when they are babies and then adults.
“What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?” (7 min) — Using body parts such as eyes and ears, little kids learn the uses different animals have for these traits we share in common.
“Joey Runs Away” (7 min) — Little Joey the kangaroo decides it would be easier to run away than to clean his room. But his journey to find a new place to live proves to be more difficult than he anticipated.
“Interview with Robin Page and Steve Jenkins” (7 min) This was truly a very interesting interview. The illustrations in the book are actually paper collages before they’re scanned into a computer. Seeing the process was really cool.
“Interview with Laura Vaquero Seeger” (7 min) She talks about how her background as an animator helped her create the book and overcome some of the creative challenges she faced in putting the book together.
“Spanish Stories” — El dia en que la boa de Jimmy se comió la lavada, Doctor De Soto, Joey se escapa.
“Danny and the Dinosaur” (9 min) — When Danny goes to the museum he is surprised when one of the dinosaurs comes to life. They spend the day together exploring the city and playing with Danny’s friends.
“The Island of the Skog” (17 min) — All Jenny and her mice friends want to do is celebrate National Rodent Day. But the neighborhood German shepherd, cat, and gang of rats terrorize the mice. They decide they’ve had enough of being bullied and choose to sail away to the island of their dreams. When they find an island they learn it’s inhabited by an unknown creature called the Skog. They decide to try to get rid of the Skog, but when they finally succeed in discovering just what the Skog is, they find a new friend instead.
“T is for Terrible” (6 min) — A T-Rex wonders why he’s considered so terrible, musing that everything which makes him terrible are things beyond his control.
“Stanley and the Dinosaurs” (15 min) — Stanley is a caveman who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the caveman. He’s polite, he shares, he has manners and he’s friendly to the dinosaurs. He’s kicked out of the cave and builds a new home. When he rescues some of the other caveman they learn that maybe Stanley’s way has some merit.
“Danielto y el dinosaurio”
Good Night, Gorilla is animation in its simplest form, sometimes only literally a picture on the screen with the camera pushing in or pulling out. Some of the loveliest images are the chalk drawings of “The Napping House.” But the set works as a product designed to be played at bedtime and naptime. I appreciate that each of these stories has a different feel to it, not only in terms of content but animation and audio, and yet they work together as a collection with nothing standing out (and that’s a compliment).
The back of Good Night, Gorilla states that this is for children ages 4 to 10 but do not be fooled into thinking that each disc will appeal equally across that range. It is definitely skewed for the younger kids. I would go so far as to say toddlers even. Danny and the Dinosaur definitely has more sophisticated animation and subtext that the older kids would only just be able to start picking up on. The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash probably has the broadest appeal out of the three.
Stanley and the Dinosaurs was my favorite story in terms of the animation because I am a huge fan of stop motion. In terms of story content I really enjoyed “The Island of the Skog” because it had a complex story, morals, and some very clever lyrics in the national anthem which is sung at the end.
The read aloud along portion is probably the weakest feature of the discs as the subtitles are up and gone too quickly for very early readers and may prove frustrating for more advanced readers.
Two of the things I really enjoyed about Good Night, Gorilla were the muted palette and, indeed, overall look of the video. This is something that is supposed to put little kids to sleep and a highly-saturated, brightly-colored, computer-graphics-driven picture would’ve done just the opposite. To this end the audio works well too because a full multi-channel presentation would’ve been too much to pay attention to and would likely keep kids awake. Good Night, Gorilla featured a jazzy version of Brahms’ lullaby, which I enjoyed, but the music of Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin was my favorite and I was delighted to discover it was written by Marvin Hamlisch, who has written such classics as “The Way We Were.”