- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2014

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for the animated, multimedia watcher in the family.

Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Rated G, $36.99) — The classic Brothers Grimm fairytale got Disney-ized way back in 1959, and it returns to the Blu-ray format offering a perfect gift for animation fans in the family.

As the last hand-inked cartoon by the Disney animators, this tale about the power of love remains an important piece of cinema history and well worth the painstaking digital-restoration process (a frame-by-frame cleanup).

The high-definition result is simply breathtaking on large television screens and most amazing during any scene starring my favorite animated villain, Maleficent, especially her climactic battle with Prince Philip.

The best extras carry over from the 2008 Platinum Edition of release of the film and offer a 44-minute documentary and an optional commentary track starring Pixar commander John Lasseter, Disney animator Andreas Deja and film historian Leonard Maltin.

Sailor Moon: Season One, Part 1 (Viz Media, Rated TV-PG, $79.98) — The adventures of a 14-year old schoolgirl turned into a guardian of love and peace come to high-definition light in this collection of Toei Animation’s popular anime series from the early 1990s adapted from Naoko Takeuchi’s manga.


SEE ALSO: ZADZOOKS GIFT GUIDE: Best of Blu-ray and DVD (television)


Through the first 23 episodes of the series, viewers learn about Usagi Tsukino and her friendship with a talking cat named Luna. The feline gives her a magical brooch that she uses to transform into a Sailor Moon (soldier in a sailor suit) and protect the earth from the evil Queen Beryl.

Each episode features a new English dub in addition to the original Japanese dialogue track as well as new English subtitles. Besides the six discs, (three DVDs and three Blu-rays), the package includes an 88-page, full-color booklet offering artwork, character profiles and an episode guide.

Note: The restoration of this classic has been controversial at best with some subpar quality issues (blamed due to the original anime footage), but it remains the only source for fans in search of a high-definition release of this classic and beloved series.

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, $149.99) — Actor Paul Reuben’s famous living cartoon character, the 1950s man-child Pee-wee Herman, captured the imagination of children and adults back in the late 1980s.

In fact, the grey-suited, bow-tied, buzz-cut goof-ball was so popular and appreciated that he had a delightfully cutting edge, Saturday morning television show between 1986 and 1990 that ended up winning a whopping 22 Emmy awards during its run.

This eight-disc, Blu-ray collection contains all 45 bizarre episodes from the cult classic plus the famed 1988 Christmas Special (with Cher and Little Richard to name a few celebs stopping by). The collection is digitally restored to make the colorful sets, animation and characters look like they are in an owner’s entertainment room.

With stellar support from a cast of kooky characters such as Captain Carl (Phil Hartman), Cowboy Curtis (the Laurence Fishburne), the most beautiful woman in Puppetland Miss Yvonne (Lynne Maria Stewart) along with retro cartoons and a theme song sung by Cyndi Lauper (interpreting Bettie Boop), Pee-wee gave humans a roughly 30-minute journey into the happiest place in the universe each week.

For those who remember screaming the secret word at their television screen, reciting “Mecka-lecka hi, Mecka-hiney ho” along with Jambi the Genie and Pee-wee’s encounters with Chairry, Pterri (a young Pteranadon) and the Conky 2000 robot, it’s a flood of fun memories.

Hardcore fans also get over four hours of bonus featurettes covering the origins of the Playhouse concept to the writing of shows and interviews with the artists, some of the cast and the technicians. Surprisingly Mr. Reuben’s only pipes in during in an optional commentary track tied to the Christmas Special.

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