History is one of those subjects that can be made boring by a less than enthusiastic teacher – or by the misapprehension that it is, inherently, boring. In 2002 the DIC Entertainment Corporation produced a twenty-eight episode history of the United States of America as witnessed by four young people: Henri [voiced by Kathleen Barr], a young French boy whose parents died en route to The colonies and was forced into slavery to pay their passage; James [Chris Lundquist], a teenager whose passion for reporting and for the revolution are occasionally misdirected; Sarah [Reo Jones], recently arrived from England and incapable [at first] of believing that England’s Parliament could possibly enact legislation like unfair taxation, or quartering, and Moses [Kevin Williams], a young black man who works as an apprentice for Benjamin Franklin – and has first-hand experience with slavery.
Now, Shout!Factory has released the series on DVD and, as usual, have done a very nice job of it.
The twenty-eight episodes begin with The Boston Tea Party and carry through to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The writing is crisp and efficient; the viewpoint characters have sufficiently different backgrounds that each grows in different directions – while influencing each other; the animation is solid television work, and the various major historical figures are paired up with well known actors and newsmen.
Among the celebrity cast are Walter Cronkite [Benjamin Franklin], Annette Bening [Abigail Adams], Billy Crystal [John Adams], Michael Douglas [Patrick Henry], Dustin Hoffman [Benedict Arnold] and Sylvester Stallone [Paul Revere] – to name a few.
Features: All discs: Midnight Ride Original Pencil Test; Ben Franklin’s Newsbytes; Continental Cartoons; Now and Then, and Mystery Guest Game; Disc 1: Midnight Ride Original Pencil Test; Disc 4: A Look Back at Liberty’s Kids With The Creators. Also included is a forty-page booklet that give episode titles and summaries, plus guest cast credits and the bonus features on each disc – and a two-sided fold-out poster [one side is a poster of the kids with Benjamin Franklin, the other a map of The Colonies alongside a list of the episode titles, the sites for which are marked on the map.
Grade: Liberty’s Kids – A
Grade: Features – B+
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