Get ready to dance your cares away because the complete series of Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock is on the way to Blu-ray! The show is just as much fun as it ever was, filled to the brim with colorful characters and wild amounts of inventive imagination! Sony Pictures brings the entire run of Fraggle Rock in a 12-disc DigiBook set. Shot on video over 30 years ago, it's an odd choice for Blu-ray, but the show does benefit from the format. It's not a sparkling perfect image but it's bright, colorful, and there is more detail than previous releases. The audio gets a boost where it counts and is crystal clear. Coupled with the complete animated series and hours worth of bonus features, Fraggle Rock The Complete Series is hard not to recommend.
"Look, Ma! I got a Fwaggle!"
In Doc (Gerard Parkes) and his dog Sprocket's laboratory wall, there is a hole. Behind that hole, there is a magical land called Fraggle Rock populated with a band of furry critters called Fraggles. The Fraggles live with the small but construction-adept Doozers. Best friends Gobo, Wembley, Red, Mokey, and Boober go on wild and crazy adventures. Meanwhile, the great Fraggle explorer Travelling Matt visits "Outer Space" where he observes strange creatures called "humans" like Doc and how they live and sends his nephew Gobo postcards about the things he sees.
Fraggle Rock debuted just after I was born, so I wasn't among the legion of fans who got to see each new episode as they aired. Thanks to the show's popularity, I did get to watch it each morning crammed in between reruns of Super Friends and Scooby-Doo Where Are You? - it's there where most of my memories of Fraggle remain. I remember the flurry of activity as my Mom and Dad whirled about trying to get my older sister ready for school and out the door for work while I got to casually sit there in front of the T.V. and eat my sugary cereal.
Coming back to Fraggle Rock was a lot of fun. As a grown tax-paying adult with responsibilities, I honestly didn't expect to be sucked back into this crazy world. When I got this set to review I was pretty certain that I would end up giving it to my little nieces - now I'm not so sure. After a long work day, there was something comforting about turning on an episode or two of Fraggle and relaxing a little. My childhood memories are so faded I didn't bask in the glow of nostalgia but instead, I got to view each episode like it was brand new. If it's been a while since you last took a trip to "Outer Space" with Traveling Matt - maybe it's time to give Jim Henson's little opus another go. If nothing else it'll put a smile on your face once that theme song kicks into gear.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Fraggle Rock sneaks past the Gorgs and onto Blu-ray in an impressive 12-disc boxed set thanks to Sony Pictures. Pressed onto Region A BD-50 discs (Note - Region B support, but not C, is indicated but I have no means of testing that), the discs are housed in DigiBook sleeves that are stiff and secure enough to safely house the discs without being too difficult to remove and risk tearing the paper. However, and this is my primary complaint with this set, there isn't a stiff cardboard sleeve to house the DigiBook. When the set first arrived the discs looked like they had jostled out of their cradles in shipping and I had worried about damage - thankfully that didn't happen but it was a bit nerve-racking to see.
Each disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. Each disc has about 8-10 episodes plus bonus features while Disc 9 only has 4 episodes while containing all 13 episodes of The Complete Animated Series in the bonus features section.
There's also a booklet containing disc information with episode guide and a cardboard cutout figure of Uncle Traveling Matt is included with instructions on how to take pictures of Matt and share the photos on social media.
Here we are with Fraggle Rock presented in 1080i (not 1080p as indicated on the packaging) with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Only it's not really actually full HD. As is well known, Rock was shot on video and there are resolution limitations that simply cannot be overcome. Where other shows of the era were shot on film and benefit from restorations for their Blu-rays, this was shot on video in the 80s... and it looks it. There is still video-related anomalies like banding or ghosting effects around chroma key inserts none the least of which is the limitation of fine detail exposure.
That said, after gathering up a couple seasons of Fraggle on DVD from my local library, I'm pleased to say this Blu-ray provides is an appreciable improvement in the overall picture quality. The first thing that stood out to me was the colors. Even against the lower-quality video source, colors maintain a rich vivid presence with strong primaries. The fun of Fraggle - beyond the catchy as hell songs - is how colorful and imaginative the world of the show was. From the Fraggles' cave to Doc and Sprocket's workshop, the color pallet is much more refined than the DVD counterpart.
There is also a small but still noteworthy improvement in details over the previous DVD. This improvement was really only appreciable in close up shots of characters. Once objects moved to middle or deeper background, that sense of detail clarity tapers off and cooked-in video anomalies creep back in.
The Fraggle Rock Animated Series is also included here in its entirety and fares a bit better than its live action counterpart. It's definitely an improvement over the previous DVDs, in terms of clarity and color vibrancy, but it's not exactly eye-opening. I appreciate the improvements, but they didn't blow me away. As this was shot on film, I don't know if these episodes were sourced from the original elements or from older scans. Some very slight speckling remains - but that's the worst of the damage. Fine lines are well rendered and occasionally every few frames or so you can spot some paint strokes in the characters.
Considering the source of the show I wasn't expecting magic - and I even questioned the point of pressing it on Blu-ray at all - but I would say that even with the video source format limitations, there is enough of an improvement here over the previous DVD release that having Fraggle Rock on Blu-ray is actually worth it.
With the video limitations out of the way, I must say the biggest quality boost fans can expect is from the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix. It's lively. It's loaded with songs. It's got pop and presence. Dialogue clarity is top notch without any softness issues. If you watch too many episodes in a row, that opening theme song becomes quite the earworm. Sound effects have a lot of life in them and really bring a sense of space to the world of Fraggle. Free of any hiss or trouble spots, each episode enjoys a clean and clear audio mix that is the true highlight of this Blu-ray's A/V presentation.
On top of all the great production information found inside the DigitBook itself, each disc offers up a few bonus features to pick through. From retrospective pieces to on-set behind-the-scenes bits and bobs, there is a ton of content to go through and that alone will take you a few hours. Disc 9 contains all of the Fraggle Rock Animated Series episodes within the bonus features.
Fraggle Rock is a classic piece of children's entertainment - that's still tons of fun for adults. Jim Henson's creative imagination is on full display with this bright, colorful, and cheerful world. Even after all these years, it's a great place to visit after a long hard day and you need to unwind. Given the production's video origins, one wouldn't think there would be much value in having it on Blu-ray, but, surprisingly enough, the show does experience some modest improvements - especially in the audio department. And, the bonus features package will keep you occupied for a very long time!
While the a/v presentation won't win any awards, Fraggle Rock The Complete Series is recommended because this wonderful show is just so much fun and it's the best the show has ever looked or sounded.