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Lil Horrors: Volume 1 - The Spacemen Cometh
Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 63 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It was in an attempt to fill the lack of quality programming available for children ages around 5-8 that the Li'l Horrors series was born. The program is a live-action puppet performance, and the basic format of the episodes revolve around the adventures of the staff, students and general inhabitants of Maug Stone Hall and the Monstersori School for Li'l Horrors.

Whilst the show is by no means an educational program, it does has very positive themes and is constantly placing the characters into situations that always result in a lesson learned. At the same time however, the program maintains some truly razor-sharp wit and bizarre humour that has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience. Since the program is generally aimed at a fairly specific audience, the episodes are always based around the child inhabitants of Maug Stone Hall, excluding any adult involvement. The creators have also done a magnificent job of providing a program that never treats its young viewers like idiots.

The characters are a mixed bag of horror film leads from Dracula to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Something like a miniature Addams Family.

They are:
Vladamir 'Vlad' Bloode - Blue-skinned vampire boy. He's cool, confident and loves to get into a bit of the old mischief. Generally considered as the leader of the group.

Medusilla Venimski - She of the snake hair. She's vain and has an attitude that would even put Madonna in her place. She thinks that she's the boss, not Vlad.

Duncan Stein - A miniature Frankenstein, Duncan is big for his age, but he is also a very kind and gentle soul who just wants fit in. Naive and quite simple, Duncan is constantly prone to accidents. Always asking wether it is lunchtime.

Cleo Patra - Cleo might be one of the oldest things in the world, but that doesn't stop her from enthusiastically embracing 'new age' ideals such as crystals, Feng Shui and aura readings. Comes across as a bit of a weirdo.

Webster Swampson - The creature from the lagoon, or swamp if you will. Webster is the brains of the Li'l Horrors, he has an answer for just about everything, although he's also terrified of just about everything, including water.

Claudia Howell - The she-wolf, Claudia is hairy and playful like a newborn puppy. Claudia is a tomboy and spends more time playing with the lads of Maug Stone Hall.

Abercrombie - Abercrombie the zombie, he loves to watch TV, talk about TV (although his conversations consist almost entirely of TV catchphrases) and, well anything else relating to TV really. He's got the TV 'bug-eyes'.

Quasi - The man from Notre Dame, Quasi is Maug Stone Hall's resident caretaker, fix-it man and most importantly, bell ringer. He's often the subject of pranks.

Each volume of Li'l Horrors contains five episodes that run for around 12 minutes each. Volume 1, entitled The Spaceman Cometh, features the following:

The Spaceman Cometh - The alien Zork crashes into the school grounds and soon befriends Quasi, who soon convinces Zork to play some silly tricks on all the kids. The boys continually say "Aardvark" and start cleaning everything they see. The girls grow beards, time reverses and the kids have to take a math test three times in one day.

Ghost of a Chance - It's a rainy day and the kids decide to pass the time with a game of hide and seek. Whilst hiding in the attic, Abercrombie stumbles upon what appears to be a g-g-g-ghost! Could it be a real ghost? Vlad investigates.

Now You See Me, Now You Don't - Experimenting with a new type of paint, Webster accidentally creates invisible paint. Vlad paints himself and thinks it will be great fun, until everyone starts to ignore him.

The Cubby House War - Gangs are formed and the school is divided. Not even innocents are safe in The Great Cubby House War.

Time Out! - Webster's new television remote is like cheese to a mouse for Abercrombie. Unfortunately, it turns out to be more powerful than he thought, powerful enough even to disobey the laws of time and space.

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

The fact that the makers of this disc went to all the trouble of providing a 16:9 anamorphic transfer is simply mind-blowing, and it just goes to show you how well even video can look in widescreen.

Overall, the transfer is very clean indeed. The colours are all very rich and come across beautifully on DVD. The image is sharp and detailed and artifacting is never a problem.

While the audio is only presented in Dolby Digital Stereo, it is nonetheless very effective. The sound is quite full for the most part and dialogue is very clear. There were even a few small surround effects.

The extras available on Li'l Horrors Vol.1 are where your child has really been spoilt. This disc provides irrefutable proof that the format of DVD holds just as much for children as it does for adults.

First of all, after each episode there is the option to participate in a short quiz based on the happenings of that episode. Answer a question right and you will be treated with footage of the Li'l Horrors production team dancing around the studio celebrating. Should you answer a question wrong, you have the option of viewing the section of the episode to which the question relates.

The general extras section consists of several headings, under which there are features such as video introductions and interviews with each of the Li'l Horrors, character music themes and website access.

Just when you thought this was a pretty damn handsome set of extras for the kids (or even yourself) to play around with, it is then that you discover that the disc is absolutely littered with Easter eggs. These are not just little audio bites either. Each egg contains video footage of behind-the-scenes production outtakes, in-jokes and various other humorous character interactions. Just use the directional arrows or wave your cursor over the borders of almost any page and you will find at least 2 or 3 eggs at any given time.

Li'l Horrors is superb value and provides some truly excellent entertainment for the kids. Not only is the program itself extremely clever and entertaining, but the DVD itself should be considered a benchmark for companies wishing to enter the children's entertainment market.


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  •   And I quote...
    "This disc provides irrefutable proof that the format of DVD holds just as much for children as it does for adults."
    - Ben Pollock
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Omni SL-P2000KD
    • TV:
          Palsonic 71cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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