VeggieTales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Cuke matched up fairly well with prior VeggieTales releases, though I thought it marked a slight decline.
The main change came from sharpness. For the most part, the show looked crisp and detailed. However, the image was a little fuzzy at the edges on occasion and lacked the terrific clarity of past shows. Some jagged edges appeared, and a few examples of moiré effects occurred as well; these were minor but occasionally noticeable. Edge enhancement caused no concerns. Print flaws also appeared absent during this clean image.
The world of VeggieTales offered a very bright and varied palette, and Cuke followed with a strong batch of colors. The tones went with a more pastel look than usual, and the DVD replicated these well. The hues were clear and distinctive. Black levels were also nicely deep and rich, and though shadow detail was only a minor consideration, all of those sorts of shots came across as appropriately clean and visible. Ultimately, Minnesota Cuke provided a very satisfying visual experience.
Also fairly strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Minnesota Cuke. For the most part, this soundfield stayed with an emphasis on the forward spectrum, where it offered nicely broad and engaging audio. Cuke provided relatively active audio when compared with most other VeggieTales. Elements moved nicely across the front and formed a good feeling of environment. The effects meshed together well, especially during the show’s action sequences. For example, the Cuke adventures showed lots of material created a solid sense of adventure.
The surrounds also added a fair amount to the mix. The rear speakers kicked in some good material at times. Again, the Cuke action sequences worked best and contributed a fun feel.
Sound quality seemed consistent with prior releases. Audio quality seemed to be fine across the board. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and it showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and when appropriate they came to life quite vividly. Bass response was loud and deep. Actually, low-end became a little heavy at times, as those elements tended to slightly overwhelm the rest of the mix. Nonetheless, this was a good track that contributed to the effectiveness of the piece.
This release of Minnesota Cuke contains a broad roster of supplements. We start in the “Bonus Features” area with an audio commentary from director Tim Hodge, producer David Pitts and actor/co-creator Mike Nawrocki, all of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. At the start, they discuss the program’s origins and some influences, and they also talk about the voice actors, the visuals, and the themes.
Unfortunately, most of this doesn’t add up to much. Frankly, it’s difficult to recall many intriguing details, as the participants mostly talked about what they liked and praised various folks. They do give us occasional trivia about the production, but I can’t say I feel like I learned a whole lot here.
A brief Veggie Commentary shows up as well. This includes in-character remarks from Mr. Lunt, Princess Petunia and Larry the Cucumber and lasts dshadsad as we watch “Cuke” scenes. As one might expect, they play it for laughs. Too bad not many chuckles arise from this fairly dull discussion. Inevitably, the Veggies pretend that they shot the movie on location and make most of their cracks in that vein. The jokes miss the mark. That’s too bad, as the character commentary for Jonah was pretty entertaining.
Next we find a quick glimpse Behind the Scenes. This five-minute and 56-second program shows clips from the movie and includes interviews with Hodge, Nawrocki, Pitts, story artist Brian Roberts, concept artist Joe Spadaford, and musical director Kurt Heinecke. They go into the roots of the “Cuke” short, the filmmakers’ personal connection with bullies and the way the stories approach that theme, music, some sets, secondary characters, the concept behind “Pizza Angel”, and teaching lessons. Some of the information repeats elements from the commentary, and too many silly remarks appear like discussions of favorite foods. “Scenes” offers a decent overview of the project but fails to deliver much depth.
A music video appears for “Minnesota Cuke’s Theme” by Charlie Daniels. The piece just shows shots of Daniels and band in the studio intercut with shots from the show. It’s a weak song and a lame video.
Speaking of the performer, we also get an Interview with Charlie Daniels. This lasts a mere 61 seconds as Daniels discusses coming onto the project, writing the song, and recording the music. Due to the brevity of the piece, Daniels doesn’t get into these issues with any detail, so this acts as a fairly pointless clip.
The Audio Progression Reel fills seven minutes, 39 seconds and comes with remarks from Heinecke. We watch a portion of “Cuke” at various stages of completion. First we hear the scene without music and then check it out with nothing other than the score. Finally we get the score-only version with comments from Heinecke as he explains his work. This offers a decent little piece, though only the final segment with the composer’s remarks turns into anything particularly worthwhile.
The Bonus “Features” area finishes with an Art Gallery. It features 26 images and comes with commentary from Spadaford and others I didn’t recognize. You can skip through the art at will, but if you let it run with the commentary, it’ll go for seven minutes, 45 seconds. We see concept and character drawings while we learn about the various design topics. I like the art and think the notes offer good explanations of the choices.
Previews boasts a whole bunch of ads. We get promos for The Lord of the Beans, Sheerluck Holmes, Larryboy ‘06, Duke and the Great Pie War, Sing Along CDs and Veggie Classics.
More extras appear in the “Family Fun” section. Fans can try the Veggie Trivia at either “easy” or “hard” levels. Actually, both seem equally difficult. Some of the questions are pretty tough, especially you don’t know many other VeggieTales shows. You receive no reward for correct completion, unfortunately, and the same questions appear if you replay the game.
Next we get a Sing-Along presentation for “Pizza Angel”. This three-minute, 37-second clip shows Larry as he croons the song. It displays the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, and the audio button allows you to turn on or off the vocals.
After this we locate an Interactive Storybook for A Knight to Remember. This allows you to read the tale independently or have it read to you. The presentation seems somewhat static but at least it offers the voice of Bob the Tomato to narrate.
The Catacombs Game requires you to make choices to send Minnesota Cuke after Professor Rattan. Since it’s meant for kids, it’s a surprisingly unforgiving contest that quickly becomes tedious.
For the Worm Pit Family Activity, we see a two minute and nine-second clip. It offers directions for a game to be played with parents and kiddies. Petunia’s Worm Recipe tells us how to make “Worms in the Mud”, a fairly disgusting looking dessert.
Next we learn How to Draw two characters. This teaches how to make Gourdon (six minutes, 45 seconds) and Minnesota Cuke (10:48). Both offer reasonably informative and fun tutorials.
In addition, a few Easter Eggs appear on the DVD. From the main menu, click left from “Favorite Scenes” and hit enter. This reveals “Tim and Mike Introducing the Duke Spectacular”. It offers a 95-second compilation of bloopers. Go to the “Bonus Features” menu and click to the left from “Studio Commentary”. Press “enter” and you’ll watch Kurt Heinecke do backup for “Pizza Angel” in a 38-second clip.
If you go to the “Family Fun” domain, click left from “Catacombs Game”. When you hit enter, you’ll see Tim go geocaching in an 88-second snippet.
In the “Previews” menu, click right from The Toy That Saved Christmas. Yes, this activates another star. When you hit enter, you’ll get to see the “Wanted” poster for Charles Pincher.
An average VeggieTales program, Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush only occasionally hits the target. To be sure, it includes more than a smattering of fun moments, but it lacks the consistent cleverness and humor of the better VeggieTales shows. The DVD offers typically good picture and audio. The disc includes a lot of supplements, but most of them are superficial. This is a project worth a look for established VeggieTales fans, but those new to the series should start elsewhere.