Blu-ray: Recommended
4 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: October 21st, 2014
Movie Release Year: 1986
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series

Review Date October 22nd, 2014 by
Overview -

Pee-wee’s Playhouse is an educational, artistic and entertaining show that teaches kids strong ‘life lessons.’ With its innovative production design and Reubens’ rich original characters and humor, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is a magical place that sparks creativity and imagination—and brings joy to children and adults alike. Parents and grown-ups have always enjoyed the show’s many double entendres. The series features beloved regulars Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Reba the Mail Lady (S. Epatha Merkerson), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), Captain Carl (Phil Hartman), The King of Cartoons (William Marshall), Jambi the Genie (John Paragon), Ricardo (Vic Trevino) and Mrs. Rene (Suzanne Kent). And of course, Chairry, Pterri, Conky, Magic Screen, Clocky, Cool Cat, Dirty Dog, Chicky Baby, Penny, the Dinosaur family, and the rest of the gang!

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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Eight-Disc Box Set,BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs,Region A Locked
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080i/AVC MPEG-4
    Length:1600
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.33:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
    Subtitles/Captions: English SDH
    Special Features: Audio Commentary
    Documentary
    Featurettes
    Movie Studio: Shout Factory
    Release Date: October 21st, 2014

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

I may have been outside the intended target audience for 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' when it originally aired in 1986, but it didn't stop me from watching the completely bonkers and wacky show every single week. Of course, being a huge fan of Tim Burton's absurdly silly 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' was a massive help in my interest and decision to tune in when it premiered. In either case, what kept me coming back for more was the incredibly gonzo-like, gaudily flamboyant energy of each episode. It was unlike anything else on television at that time, the unconventional and bizarrely deliberate disregard for the standard children's program. Yet in its outlandish, off-the-wall way, the Saturday morning show managed to teach kids about ethical decision-making, moral behavior and about being more consciously empathetic towards others, especially those who are different and outside the norm, such as Pee-wee himself.

On the surface of it, there was something weirdly mesmerizing about a grown man-child playing with his seemingly cognizant toys or talking to his endlessly-building ants. The caterpillar-like octopus and the goldilocks Frankenstein doll were a particular favorite pair to watch because they were rather creepy, almost nightmarish for a children's show. It only grew weirder and more eccentric when the playhouse furniture talked and interacted with everyone else. Chairry and Mr. Window seemed innocent enough because they looked controlled by puppeteers, but Globey was a little on the freaky side for me. It might have had something to do with it the unexplained French accent and the puppet's odd mannerisms, compared to others. However, Conky 2000 was a funnily cool character, primarily for being in touch with the hip-hop culture and for providing the secret word of the day, requiring everyone to scream when it's said.

Certainly, there are a host of other disturbingly zany characters, like Magic Screen, Pterri, the red-headed marionette Randy, Cowntess, the jokester Knucklehead, the annoying salesman and the jazzing animal Puppet Band. Better still are the many human actors, some of which went on to become stars in their right but had their start with this particular show. The two most famous and recognizable faces are, without a doubt, Laurence Fishburne as the buoyantly upbeat and cheerful Cowboy Curtis and the quirkily funny Phil Hartman as the salty, grumpy Captain Carl, who only appeared in the first season. Then there's frequent visitor Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), the beauty-obsessed damsel that always garishly bright dresses. Arguably of more interest is seeing a very young Natasha Lyonne as one of The Playhouse Gang kids and a brief appearance by Jimmy Smits as the repairman, or knowing that Rob Zombie and John Singleton at one point worked on this particular production.

As 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' continued and grew in popularity, both with kids and adults, other celebrities would make brief cameo appearances, but most amusing is the fact that Mark Mothersbaugh, musician and co-founder of the awesome band Devo, worked on the show's score and created its memorable opening theme song. Many years later, 80s pop-star Cindi Lauper admitted to being the singer, which is both shocking and somewhat funny because I doubt anyone would have guessed that. Of equal interest are the clay animation sequences done by Richard Goleszowski and Nick Park, who later went on to create 'Wallace & Gromit' for the BBC. With so much going on for a half-hour series, it's no surprise the Saturday morning program, which is like a colorfully animated surrealist mishmash of 'Howdy Doody' and 'Captain Kangaroo,' entertained kids and has grown into a cult favorite amongst adults.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Shout! Factory brings 'Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series' to Blu-ray as an eight-disc box set. The Region A locked, BD50 discs are divided between two slightly thicker than normal blue cases with the first half containing the first two seasons while the remaining three seasons are spread across four discs in another blue case. The Christmas special is on the season three disc. They are all enclosed inside in a sturdy, colorfully vibrant cardboard box. At startup, each disc goes straight to a static menu screen with music and the usual options along the bottom.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Eight-Disc Box Set,BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs,Region A Locked
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080i/AVC MPEG-4
    Length:1600
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.33:1
    Audio Formats:
    English LPCM 2.0 Mono
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentary
    Documentary
    Featurettes
    Movie Studio: Shout Factory
    Release Date: October 21st, 2014

Video Review

4 Stars out of 5

The cult Saturday morning TV show screams, laughs and plays on Blu-ray with a shockingly good 1080i/60 encode, thanks to a meticulously restored and remastered transfer of the original elements, according to press material. The 1.33:1 image displays vivid, full-bodied primaries and bright, warm pastel hues, providing each episode with a spirited and energetic feel that's as visually entertaining as each wacky storyline. Adding to the animated picture is comfortably bright and well-balanced contrast levels while blacks are rich and true throughout. A very fine layer of grain is always present, and the video is terrifically detailed, exposing every sharp line and texture in the clubhouse, toys and Pee-Wee's unique outfit.

Audio Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

Like the video, the audio was also restored and created from the original elements. The end result is a very strong and entertaining uncompressed PCM mono soundtrack that delivers a decently wide but welcoming soundfield. Every zany and wacky sound effect is distinct and clear thanks to an extensive and dynamic mid-range with great detail and separation. The eccentric, carnival-like music, especially Mark Mothersbaugh's memorable intro, provides a good sense of presence and engagement. A few scenes even come with pleasantly weighty bass, mostly notably during the music. Vocals are pristine and precise in each episode, making the show a real joy to watch and relive.

Special Features

4.5 Stars out of 5

Disc Four

  • Building the Playhouse (1080i/60, 52 min) — Brand-new collection of cast & crew interviews the covers all the bases, from the origins and influences to production design and legacy, while also sharing several amusing anecdotes from the set.
  • The Look of the Playhouse (1080i/60, 30 min) — A look at the design, props, toys and the wild theatricality of the playhouse with interviews discussing the influences and ideas behind many of them.
  • Writing for the Playhouse (1080i/60, 19 min) — The featurette comes with more interviews of the show's humor, writers and composers.
  • Music of the Playhouse (1080i/60, 18 min) — An excellent look at Mark Mothersbough's and others' musical contribution.
  • Opening the Playhouse (1080i/60, 11 min) — Brief look at the show's opening sequence.

Disc Five

  • Audio Commentaries — The Christmas Special in season three comes with a pair of commentaries. Paul Reubens kicks things off with John Paragon (Jambi the Genie and voice of Pterri), Prudence Fenton (producer and animation director), and Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne) discussing how the special came together last minute amid lots of challenges. The second lively conversation is a voice actor's reunion featuring Alison Mork, Wayne White, Ric Heitzman, Kevin Carlson, George McGrath and Paragon where they each share memories and anecdotes from the set, on the performances and the show's design.

Disc Eight

  • The Cast of the Playhouse (1080i/60, 48 min) — More interviews focused specifically on the performances and the voice actors that brought the many wacky characters to life.
  • The Puppets of the Playhouse (1080i/60, 30 min) — As the title suggests, the piece gives fans a sneak peek at the various talking dolls, their individual influences and those providing the voices.
  • Animating the Playhouse (1080i/60, 21 min) — A detailed discussion on the animation sequences throughout the series.
  • Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse (1080i/60, 14 min) — A brief discussion on the novelties, trinkets and collectibles reflecting the show's legacy and cultural impact on various audiences.
  • A Very Merry Christmas Special (1080i/60, 10 min) — Discusses the making of the holiday episode in more detail with more interviews.

Final Thoughts

Although I may not have been the intended target audience at the time, 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' fascinated me nonetheless due to the absurd wackiness and the show's carnival, gonzo energy. Paul Reubens may have been the star, especially for making the Pee-wee Herman oddly entertaining, but a large group of talented artists worked on the program to make it one of the most eccentric and memorable things on television. The Blu-ray from Shout! Factory features excellent picture quality and a very fine audio presentation for a TV show. With a host of informative and revealing supplements, the eight-disc box set of the complete series is recommended.

Sale Price $99.96
List Price $99.96
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3rd Party $90.45
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Eight-Disc Box Set,BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs,Region A Locked
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080i/AVC MPEG-4
    Length:1600
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.33:1
    Audio Formats:
    English LPCM 2.0 Mono
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentary
    Documentary
    Featurettes
    Movie Studio: Shout Factory
    Release Date: October 21st, 2014