Anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s has a soft spot for the educational cartoons Schoolhouse Rock! Now that complete sets of all the original shorts have been packaged and re-packaged for Gen X consumption, the powers that be have cleverly gone a step further, appealing to the modern green movement. The latest collection Schoolhouse Rock! Earth has a created a bunch brand-new songs to share with the kiddies and to make their parents smile in nostalgia.
Like most Schoolhouse Rock! shorts, the songs are hit and miss (everyone remembers “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction” for instance, but would be hard pressed to quote, say “$7.50 Once a Week”). Earth includes a dozen songs, the last of which is a live action music video “The Three Rs” by Disney popster Michael Musso (dear lord, give that kid a haircut!!!). I know I’m not his audience, by Musso is horrifically hammy to the camera, like he’s making rock-star faces in the bedroom mirror, but dammit if the song didn’t stick in my head (“Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!”).
The new tunes includes cute lyrics: “Instead of turning up the thermostat I can put on a sweater and hug my cat.” (from “The Little Things We do”), and catchy tunes that stick in your head, like “You Oughta be Saving Water”: “If you’re not conserving water, you oughta, you oughta, you oughta” (sung by a water drop who wants to break up with you because you don’t appreciate your relationship with him). “FatCat Blue: The Clean Rivers Song” made me smile, because the singing voice of the cat reminded me of that bluesy singer that sang so many of the original songs (is it the same guy? I don’t know!).
Most of the cartoons are in the original style of Schoolhouse Rock!: bulbous cartoon characters, bright solid colors. But on Earth, there is one that breaks from that rule, called “Rain Forest”. I have to admit the different animation looked cool (if a little scary), but the song was complicated and not very catchy (“Understory layer”? “Emergent layer”???). And fans of the old toons will recognize the classic “Energy Blues” as well as the return of Interplanet Janet in “Solar Power to the People”.
The whole disc runs about an hour, and should entertain the kiddies, preferably in short bursts. The reason that the original Schoolhouse Rock! toons stuck in your craw is that they came on during commercials during your regular Saturday morning cartoons or Afterschool Specials. Watching a whole bunch of these in a row can admittedly be kind of taxing, but at least education is the end result!