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Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series – 35th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Sure, this came out a few weeks back, but better late than never, right? Besides, I’ve only just received it. So now I can join Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober and Red in celebrating the 35th Anniversary of their beloved series as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment debuted FRAGGLE ROCK: THE COMPLETE SERIES on Blu-ray for the first time on September 25th. This extensive set, sprawling over 12 loaded discs containing every episode from both the original series and the animated one, is quite a sight to behold. There is also a lot of bonus material from past and present to sink your teeth into while watching your favorite episodes over and over and over and OVER again. Or, introduce your children to it. Order yourself a copy now by clicking the Amazon link at the end of the review.

Series 

Doc and his dog Sprocket have a hole in their wall, behind which live little furry creatures known as Fraggles in a place called Fraggle Rock. The Rock is also home to the Doozers (who are knee-high to a Fraggle) and the Gorgs (who are giants that think they rule the Rock).

Before Game of Thrones. Before True Detective. Before Silicon Valley. Before Sex and the City. Before The Sopranos. Before Arli$$. HBO housed the ambitious Jim Henson opus that was Fraggle Rock. From 1983 to 1987, the Fraggles, Doozers, Gorgs and Silly Creatures roamed the premium channel’s airwaves. It was a big production in the footsteps of The Muppet Show and running concurrently with such big film productions of muppeteering like The Dark Crystal. You could get that mastery on television at home…if you paid for it.

Personally, I DID grow up watching Fraggle Rock, but I didn’t have HBO. I was well aware of them, but I only saw them via reruns or specials or whatnot. I did catch the cartoon series during the year it ran on NBC Saturday mornings. Fraggles were well ingrained into my 80s childhood culture. I remember the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys that I just had to have all of them. For the better part of 2 decades, Jim Henson’s creations were super popular, but they didn’t really ever find themselves rebooted or reinvented and now reside as more of a nostalgia thing as opposed to their hyper-popular relatives The Muppets.

And its kind of a shame, but its also pretty cool that we have a finite amount to look back upon for the Fraggles to study. This show holds up very well. Its very educational for a child in the ways of life and getting through in the world. Surprisingly, it holds up in adulthood, too, beyond the nostalgia lens. The Fraggles are both funny and pretty endearing. In a different, adult light, the show is still pretty grand. And I’m more than excited to share this bit of my growing up with my own children. The theme song was an instant hook for them, and they love animatronics and puppets, so the rest isn’t hard to sell. This show is celebrating 25 years of a 5 year capsule in time that hasn’t be reconfigured yet (No doubt, some day The Fraggles will return), and its good to enjoy and look back upon what a fun, joyful and introspective experience this was.

Episodes

This release contains every episode from the entire series run of both Fraggle Rock and Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series (Disc 9).

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This set boasts that these episodes have all been mastered in High Definition. However, these look like they were originally shot or finished on video. Expectations should be set to stacking up with how the recent BBC release of Tom Baker’s first season as Doctor Who (Though these certainly look much better). My score is being generous and giving the benefit of the doubt that they really did the best they could with a source that wasn’t going to allow them to do a  whole lot. There’s certainly an little uptick in quality and the image is easily more confident. But, this isn’t a beauty and its not going to be blasting out amazingly from your sweet ass 4K monitor.

Depth:  Depth is decent and very much average here in the image. Movements can muster up some blur or jitter from time to time. Again, this source makes for a more flatter image than what could have been had this been done on film.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and saturated all right. It is what it is as some grain and other elements find their way into the blacks.

Color Reproduction: Colors are fine and a little dingier. Nothing really pops out, but they all come rather strong in instances where they are to give off a primary solid look.

Flesh Tones: We have really just one human and his skin tone is natural throughout the series. Facial features come through okay, but nothing outstanding due to the nature of the source.

Noise/Artifacts: There are some issues that drive up because of the source like ghosting, aliasing and the like. Nothing very distracting at all.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The image is what it is here, but the audio here has had a significant upgrade for this set as it is now presented lossless for the fist time ever.  You get some lovely sounding episodes and the songs performed sound pretty nifty. Its a loud track that hits some good deep end material moments quite well. Overall, this is a well mixed track that is quite the jump for those making this upgrade.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Due to the nature of the recording, there are some hisses and on-set mic pops and peaks that sneak through into the mix.

Extras 

Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series – 35th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is a 12-disc set that comes with an Uncle Traveling Matt mini cardboard figure and an episode guide booklet. Every episode contains a Sing-A-Long option.

Disc 2

Down at Fraggle Rock: Behind the Scenes (SD, 48:26) – A vintage piece that has Jim Henson guiding us through the creation and world of Fraggle Rock.

Disc 3

Marooned (SD, 5:18) – 3 of the actors/puppeteers discuss one of the first “deeper” episodes of the series.

Music (SD, 11:46) – Some of the show’s crew discuss the music on the show and how they came up with it.

Jim (SD, 8:19) – The co-creator, creative producer, and one of the actors discuss working with Jim Henson.

Archival HBO Promos (SD, 1:35)

Disc 5

Season 2 Overview (SD, 13:49) – The creators and such go over the challenges and workings that made Season 2 in this archival featurette.

Docs and Sprockets (SD, 10:26) – This is pretty fascinating going over the different iterations of the two characters over various different country. The actor would be different as well as their occupation and setting to feel more natural to that country’s viewers.

“All Around the World” Music Video (SD, 6:26)

Travelling Matt (SD, 9:03) – This goes over the 3rd aspect (Fraggles & Doc being the first two) of the show with the Matt segments that featured a sole puppet going around the world.

20 Travelling Matt Segments (SD, 18:21)

Disc 6

Special Tribute To Jerry Juhl (SD, 35:43) – Cast and crew share praise and memories of an “inviting force” and one of the most important members in the Henson history.

Season 2 Credits (SD, 1:07)

Disc 7

Season 3 Overview (SD, 31:05) – The creators and such go over the challenges and workings that made Season 3 in this archival featurette.

Scared Silly: Art Imitating Life (SD, 9:47) – A couple of the actors discuss the fun they had on set and that stuff inspiring them to make the show and the show in turn inspiring some of their pranks.

Production Design Featurette (SD, 12:35) – This archival featurette goes over the visual designs of the sets and characters within them for the show with its production designer. There are sketches aplenty as well as behind the scenes photos of construction and putting everything together.

Doozer Design (SD, 11:41) – This vintage featurette covers the little green characters and their contributions to the world of Fraggle Rock.

Disc 8

Interviews with Michael Frith, Kathy Mullen & Gerry Parkes (SD, 31:46) – Split into 3 segments, these are more full versions of interviews from other featurettes.

Electro-Mechanical Puppetry (SD, 13:19) – This one covers the animatronic aspects of the puppeteering on the show as well as touching upon Dark Crystal which was being made at the same time.

How The Trash Heap Came To Be (SD, 4:39) – A brief segment on how this character happened from a “cold reading” kind of sketching.

Gorg Design (SD, 11:53) – This goes over the bigger characters and how they were not only costumed people, but they were both puppeteered and radio controlled.

HBO Promos (SD, 7:03)

Disc 9

This disc contains the entire Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series (HD, 5:06:38) and its bonus features.

  • Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (SD, 8:01) – An interview with Michael Frith that contains plenty of sketches and script shots. The animated show came out their feeling that it wasn’t time to leave and the “freeing” experience it was to make.
  • Character Galleries
  • Opening Scene Storyboards

Disc 10

Final Season Overview (SD, 26:53) – The creators and such go over the challenges and workings that made the final season in this archival featurette. Their goal was to have 3 final episodes to wrap it all up and give a sense of finality, but Jim Henson disagreed due to how it would play in reruns (Though he allowed them to do it).

Designing the Puppets: An Interview with the Puppet Makers (SD, 5:58) – The creators and designers talk building them and putting their own personalities and influence into them.

You Cannot Leave the Magic: Excerpts from the Last Day of Shooting (SD, 6:17) – Footage from the set of the final day of shooting the original Fraggle Rock series.

Dance Your Cares Away: The Evolution of the Theme Song (SD, 10:45) – This vintage featurettes takes us through the adventure of coming up with the song and evolving it over the seasons.

Let the Music Play: An Interview with Phil Balsam and Dennis Lee (SD, 14:57) – The series lyricist and composer discuss the many musical moments in the series.

Disc 11

The Inner Gorg: An Interview with the Performers Inside the Costumes (SD, 23:16) – The actors, previously a mime company, of the characters that used to freak me out as a kid, talk their journey into Fraggle Rock and work on the series.

Celebrating Fraggle Rock: Excerpts from the Wrap Party (SD, 15:25) – Video from a dinner of Jim Henson speaking to the cast and crew as well as some other notable figures in the Fraggle production.

Directing the Fraggles: An Interview with Eric Till and George Bloomfield (SD, 5:43) – A nice, brief, introspective piece (“The humanity these characters have”) with two of the series’ directors. Includes behind the scenes footage.

Final Season Credits (SD, :41)

From the Archives: Additional Interviews (SD, 9:42) – Dennis Lee with Mokey, Jerry Juhl with Gobo, Jocelyn Stevenson with Red and Mokey, Faz Fazakas with Cotterpin Doozer, A Minute with Traveling Matt

Disc 12

Life On Set: Moments with Jim Henson (SD, 1:56) – Some outtakes of some Jim Henson filmed intros and interviews.

Archival The Today Show Segment Featuring Uncle Travelling Matt (SD, 4:48) – Has Katie Couric! Uncle Travelling Matt! A Doozer!

Fraggle Songs (SD, 51:37) – Lots of Fraggle song segments

Doozer Music (SD, 16:20) – Music de la Doozer

Summary 

Sony has put itself out a pretty impressive set for Fraggle Rock’s 30th Anniversary. While the packaging style is one that causes some division among collectors, one can’t deny the massive amounts of bonus material loading this thing up. While I’m a fan of this packaging, many detractors have me scratching my head at how you handle your discs or store them as I’ve had zero issues with this style in the past. The image here is very much a video sourced television show and the best they could do with it. Luckily the audio has had a nice lossless make-over and is the biggest jump in quality. Fans of the show should just pick this up right away to have it with all extras old and new and presented in the best way possible.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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