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Teddy Ruxpin's "Journey Begins": A Fantastic Flashback

imageThe 1980’s were the decade of decadence. Hair was big, music was big, and almost every animated series had a matching toy line. Landing somewhere between the gender divide of G.I. Joe and My Little Pony, The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin emerged as an all-ages cartoon for both boys and girls. Although some can contribute the success of the animated series to the talking doll and storybooks, this animated series not only adapted preexisting stories, but significantly expanded on their plots. Unlike many cartoons of its era, the show had a serialized story that ran through its entire 65 episode run.

This brings us to volume one, “The Journey Begins.” The DVD starts with one of Teddy’s most fantastic adventures, “The Treasure of Grundo.” In the story, an Illop named Teddy Ruxpin and his octapede friend Grubby travel from their homeland of Rillonia to the land of Grundo. Teddy is entrusted with an ancient map leading to a legendary treasure in the Hard-To-Find City (irony at its best!). Along their journey, they meet inventor Newton Gimmick who convinces Teddy and Grubby to use his latest invention, the airship, as a means to find the treasure. The trio begin to pack for the trip while onlooker Tweeg, Gimmick’s nemesis, hears of the treasure. He gets his bouncing monster henchman, LB, to pull his wagon as he follows the airship.

imageThe adventure continues through the four additional episodes on this disc as Teddy, Grubby and Gimmick encounter a furry mammoth named Wooly What’s-It (irony again!) and the colorful bird-like creatures called the Fobs. They also meet Leota the woodsprite who helps Gimmick refine the airship’s controls. On their way to the treasure they meet Prince Aaron, who is in search of his kidnapped sister, Princess Arusia. By chance, she’s being held captive in the same location as the treasure. Guarded by masked warriors, the Gutangs, our heroes attempt to rescue the princess and nab the treasure in one fail swoop.

Other episodes include the introduction of the laid back locals of Grundo, the Grunges. Not all creatures are nice with the underground dwellers, the Mudblups, jailing Gimmick and Teddy. As if that wasn’t enough, M.A.V.O. (Monsters and Villains Organization) has discovered Teddy’s arrival and attempts to stop Teddy from discovering the meaning of the treasure. The rest of the cast is as diverse as any fantasy series.

All of the episodes may start with the loving theme song “Come Dream With Me Tonight,” but not all episodes carry such a toddler-safe mentality. The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin is geared towards children looking for a sense of action with a touch of comedy. Each episode delivers a positive message without talking down to the viewer. Rather, the audience is submerged into the world of Grundo, forced to find bits of themselves in the fantastic creatures. Anyone that can recall some of the high-concept fantasy of the 80’s, such as Dungeons and Dragons or Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal will appreciate the character and background design. With a supporting cast of over a dozen species and lands that range from deserts to ancient ruins and forests, the show certainly expands the imagination. Unfortunately the animation does show its age when compared to today’s computer-aided cartooins, but that does not seem to stop the pacing or storytelling from being effective.

imageThe specifics of the discs are notable. First, the box art is a nice mix of design and stock character art. Bright colors and use of a map motif nicely display the upbeat feel of the series. Five episodes are contained which seems to coincide with the minor story arcs of the series. This disc’s bonus material includes 4 music videos of another series, Baby Felix, also distributed by First National Pictures. While it may seem like an odd bonus, it adds a bit of filler to an otherwise barren disc. Audio language tracks are in English or Spanish, with the Spanish voice actors sounding a bit off from the originals. Fans of the original series will remember a talking Teddy Ruxpin animatronic mascot before and after the series that talked about the show’s message. These public service announcement bumpers are kept off the disc entirely. Although they do seem cumbersome, outdated and preachy, it would be nice to see these as a bonus feature in future discs.

Overall, the first volume of The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin provides some of the best action adventure of the entire series. Each episode on this disc is an adaptation of the storybooks that were sold with the doll, but each does a wonderful job of converting those few pages into full 22-minute episodes. Whether you enjoyed the animated series as a child or just remembered having the toy, The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin is a fun escape on the lighter side of fantasy and perfect for children or those with inner children.

Episodes on The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin Volume One: The Journey Begins:
Episode One: The Treasure of Grundo
Episode Two: Beward of the Mudblups
Episode Three: Guest of the Grunges
Episode Four: In the Fortress of the Wizard
Episode Five: Escape from the Treacherous Mountain

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