VHS Review (Posted on 05-09-2013)
Apparently, having done research for the information of this movie, tons of others have remembered this during their youth. Looks like I'm not the only one who admired these films as a kid, having to watch this over and over again (along with The Real Story of the Three Little Kittens
which many don't recall). As a child, I found this to be a joy compared to the other kid shows I would watch, like Sesame Street
. Over twenty years later, nostalgia never felt so touching. Choose the Vimeo membership that’s right for you.
The one I personally own is the VHS version by The Little Red Schoolhouse. Over the years, I remembered my mom bringing home these tapes, one by one—volume by volume. In fact, it was Volume IV she picked up first so I didn't watch the first volume until she got it later. Over the years, having relocated occasionally, I nearly lost these. Now after having to gather all my goodies for myself, it was a miracle I found all four volumes and put them in one place. And what better than to review these memorable pieces of entertainment that you and I have enjoyed since (you can tell by the wear on the tape covers, shown on the pictures).
The movie opens with a musical intro of "Dear Mother Goose" featuring actors and actresses dressed as various characters of various children's stories and rhymes. Quite a catchy tune, if you ask me, making you want to hum along. Mother Goose flies with her beloved goose named Bertram, and the opening scene are the kids (puppeteering) wanting Mother Goose to read them a story. Mother Goose lost both her book and eye-glasses, until Bertram guides and tells her where they are. Mother Goose then reads to the kids about Old King Cole, which is operatically performed in the next scene. As you may have guessed, it was performed in the style of a musical with very good choreography and the entire song was sung lyrically (I barely knew the whole songs of these popular stories as a kid, only being familiar with the first verses). Afterward, Mother Goose says she had to run to the village to whip up Bertram's favorite meal: Swiss Chard
, as Bertram wanted more like cheese, peanut butter and strawberry jam.
As Mother Goose and Bertram stroll along, they run into Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall reminding Mother Goose that he'll be okay and won't fall. As the duo enter the village, Jack pops up and happily greets Mother Goose as Mother Goose sets a candle on the floor, and Jack, with little effort, jumps over the candlestick. Suddenly, the guys in purple, Mitch and Matt, play a little game of Dare with Jack betting that he wouldn't be able to jump over a taller candlestick, which they go on to build. Meanwhile, on the school playground are the students, played by cast members of this series, musically performing "Ring Around The Rosy" with what appears to be Mary in the middle. Mother Goose runs in and Mary asks her to read her infamous story: Mary Had a Little Lamb, which is also sung and acted out by the cast members. After that, Mitch and Matt just finished building a candlestick nearly twice their height as Jack runs in and tries to jump over...successfully! Mitch and Matt then carry the candlestick out to build a large one, as Bertram walks in and grows hungry.
While Bertram walks by the village, he witnesses an old lady in a basket reciting the story about her. Bertram is getting very hungry and the folks guide Bertram to Peter's garden, where Mother Goose went deciding to pick some peppers for Bertram's meal. With a simple, clean choreography, the song "Peter Piper" was performed and sung while Bertram sings along. Those folks find out that Bertram is on his way home as they wave goodbye. Bertram walks and walks, then bumps into Mother Goose. The kids appear and wanted another story until a mystery voice is heard. That voice is Tom Thumb, who lives in Mother Goose's pocket and sings a song about him while using her hands. You then witness one of the kids has a huge chin, and as Mother Goose also heads back home with Bertram, one of the kids looked at each other as if to ask, "So..what are you doin' tonight?" Anyway, Mitch and Matt are at it one last time to bet Jack he couldn't jump over their candlestick which is more than three times as tall as them. The kids appear and root for Jack to jump over the candlestick...and does! Walking by Mother Goose and Bertram walking their way home, was Crooked Man, thus sang a song about him (I was unfamiliar with this story when I was a kid). On the way home, Humpty Dumpty still sits on the wall reminding others it's not a big deal...until he falls and cracks. Mother Goose and Bertram run back to help Humpty.
"We don't like sad endings."
- Mother Goose
Mother Goose then fills Humpty's face with bandaids, while Humpty finally learns his lesson. After the song was sung about him, Bertram had this to say:
"I always knew you were a hard-boiled egg."
Finally, Mother Goose, Bertram and Tom Thumb arrive home as it's getting dark. Lastly, Mother Goose sings discreetly "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and ends the scene by blowing a kiss (yeah!). The movie ends with the intro song and credits.
On the absolute last part of the movie is Bertram talking about Gooseberry Glen which is a village named after Mother Goose and where many characters and the stories about them live. Bertram then switches to pitchman mode promoting the other three volumes available in the series and the songs/scenes performed in them.
"There nothing like a good story on a rainy day."
With a simple plot and great acting, you'll always run into a new song in every scene (sometimes a recital). The look on Humpty Dumpty was quite creepy, as I recalled always looking away when the shot focused on him covered in band-aids when I was young. The songs performed and the costumes worn were very much the exact same way one would imagine them being. Come to think of it: the woman who played Mary—Rebecca Birney—was incredibly pretty, and who didn't
want to be in the lamb's place as she was petting it?
For the cinematography, a TON of green screen (chroma key) was used. A lot of background and the buildings were made, by hand, in miniature sizes taken up close then blown up to create a realistic background large enough to compensate the height of the performers. The scene with Jack jumping over the candlestick also used chroma key (keyframing) helping Jack jump over the candlestick. As a kid, I thought jumping over the candlestick that high was possible, until I noticed the reality of it and the laws of gravity. Tom Thumb was also another chroma-keyed scene while dancing with Mother Goose's pretty hands. The part where the folks at Peter's garden waved goodbye to Bertram on his way home, looking like the same scene used in the introduction.
In case I haven't mentioned this before, I'm a huge TV game show geek. With that said, as Mother Goose introduced Tom Thumb as the smallest man she's ever met, the kids respond "how small is he?" This may sound far, but I feel this may have been a reference to the audience's rhetorical response to the hilarious introductory statements read on the hit game show Match Game [PM]
hosted by Gene Rayburn. For those unfamiliar with the show, contestants must fill in the blanks hoping the celebrities would match their answer. It's best for those who understand clichés, irony and more. On the show, there are times Gene would read a statement that starts with an "adjective-meets-verb," say, "Weird Wanda is really weird," then the audience have been trained to respond to such statements, in this case they'd respond, "how weird is she?!" as Gene would finish the blank statement. On this example it was, "Weird Wanda is so weird, she doesn't have a belly button, she has a belly (blank)
." Nevertheless, Match Game [PM]
was popular and had quite a tenure during the decade of the seventies, but the Mother Goose
series was originally done back in the late eighties, so I felt it may have been a reference to the hit game show (even if that originally wasn't the intent).
Any proud parents out there looking to entertain your child(ren), I would strongly recommend this series.
Much to my surprise, volumes 1 and 2 are available on DVD (what about volumes 3 and 4?). A cheaper investment would be on VHS but they're becoming much more difficult to find. Only reason I recommend VHS is the third and fourth volumes, which according to my research, hasn't been released on DVD. (UPDATE (05-19-2013): volumes 3 and 4 are stuffed into one volume—labeled Volume Two—on DVD, as volumes 1 and 2 are stuffed onto DVD as well, labeled as "Volume One." It does sound confusing so keep an eye out.)
Your child will have a lot of fun singing along, the characters are lovable and the cast members perform extremely well. Also if you, or someone you know, practices musical performance, this looks like a great place to start.
I'll end this review with one last thought: what happened to these actors and actresses? Are they still working to this day? It's quite funny when you notice an actor/actress you particularly admire then realize they suddenly disappear as if show business was too big for them (that's understandable), or they made a change in career. Because I loved this series so much as a kid and admired the effort done, it's time I do something about it:
If you are one of the cast members, backstage crew, and/or producers of this series, I would like to interview you on this website
. Please provide full details and proof that it is you, making sure I'm talking to the right person (word from your manager/agent will help out a lot). You may use the Contact form
on the contact page, or you can email me: kris *at* showsotros.com
. The questions I ask you and your answers will be posted here for fans to see. I look forward to hearing from one of you!
UPDATE: Check out our interview with the star of the Mother Goose series, Mother Goose herself, Cheryl Rhoads!
Also for you proud parents: entertain your kids with the amazing classics on DVD at Warner Bros Online Shop
© 2008-2019 written and reviewed personally by Kris Caballero.
Norman Merrill, Jr.
Old King Cole
Townspeople of Gooseberry Glen
"Dear Mother Goose" written by
Kristin Nelson Willauer
Bertram Constructed by
Production Stage Crew
Cynthia Romo Heltsley
Post Production Sound
Assistant to the Producers
Written and Produced by