Blu-ray Review: The Jackson 5ive – The Complete Animated Series

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jan 22, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

Classic Media has revived a true gem for fans of The Jackson

Now available on Blu-ray is The
Jackson 5ive
, an animated series produced by Rankin/Bass (best known for
their stop-motion holiday specials) that ran for two seasons in 1971-72. All 23
episodes (17 from season one, the remaining six from season two) are included
on two discs. The set also includes the episodes on a pair of standard DVDs.
Keep in mind, participation by the actual Jacksons was nil. Professional actors
provided their voices, but two Jackson 5 songs are featured per episode. The template
for this type of animated series based on a real band was set by King Features
in the ‘60s with the animated series The
. The overall approach was continued in the early ‘70s by Rankin/Bass
with The Osmonds.

The plotlines are all rooted in the depiction of The Jackson
Five as a working singing group. They aren’t a team of superheroes or anything
like that. While some episodes send the boys off on fantastical adventures,
others are grounded in more or less realistic scenarios. “It All Started With…”
kicks off the series with Michael (voiced by Donald Fullilove) quickly introducing
his brothers Marlon (Edmund Sylvers), Jermaine (Joel Cooper), Tito (Mike
Martinez), and Jackie (Craig Grandy). As it happens, Michael’s pet snake Rosie has
gone missing and wound up in none other than Diana Ross’ dressing room. Miss
Ross is in town for a concert and is quite taken by Michael and his brothers
when they go to rescue Rosie. The episode perpetuates the real-life,
Motown-created myth that Ross discovered the group. Berry Gordy (Paul Frees)
signs the boys to a recording contract at the episodes’ conclusion.

Jackson 5ive with Gordy (350x256).jpg

In addition to Rosie the snake, Michael also has a pair of
pet rats (it should be noted, the earliest episodes actually precede his number
one hit, “Ben,” an ode to a pet rat) named Ray and Charles. While the pets are
prominently featured on a regular basis, Ray and Charles’ involvement peaks
with episode 11, “Ray Charles: Superstars,” when a producer seeks to make
matinee idols out of the rats. Some of the more outrageous plots include “The
Wizard of Soul,” a spoof on The Wizard of
, and “Michael in Wonderland,” which borrows liberally from Alice in Wonderland. Maybe cleverest of
all is “Rasho-Jackson,” a creative take on Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon in which the group has broken
up, resulting in five new groups “all called The Jackson One.” They all recount
conflicting versions of why the split occurred. With the shorter second season came
a title change, the final six episodes are called The New Jackson 5ive Show.

The highlights of each episode are, quite understandably,
the songs. Not just because the tunes themselves are such a kick, but the
accompanying animation is endlessly creative. Each number functions as a music
video, with inventive, kinetic, often psychedelic visuals that are a real
pleasure to watch. One of my favorites is the “(Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One
You Need” segment from episode 11, which has some fun deconstructing the animation
process itself as it shows an artist bringing storyboards to life.

Jackson 5ive outside (350x233).jpg

Even though the songs are all pulled from the earliest J5
albums (naturally, given the years in which the show was produced), with 46
songs total, the choices obviously go well beyond the group’s biggest hits. Of course
we hear “ABC,” ”I’ll Be There,” and “I Want You Back” (within the first three
episodes in fact), but lesser known gems such as “The Young Folks,” “Nobody,” and
the stellar “2-4-6-8” might be new to those who don’t own those early albums.
Even a few early Michael Jackson solo tunes (“Rockin’ Robin,” “Got to Be There,”)
find their way into the series.

Visually the vintage animation actually looks really good on
Blu-ray. Aside from occasional imperfections in the source material (white and
black specs, minor print damage), the transfers are reasonably clean. Where the
visual presentation really shines is in its ultra-bold colors. After doing some
spot checking against the included standard DVDs, it’s rather obvious that the
high definition format definitely makes the most of the hyper-colorful

Jackson 5ive cloud (350x262).jpg

Now for a sobering disappointment, the audio is not
lossless. The only option here is 2.0 Dolby Digital. While I would’ve loved a full
5.1 remix, even the original broadcast mono would’ve been fine so long as it
was presented in a lossless format. The Blu-ray cover boasts “46 Remastered
Songs!” and while that may be, the lossy soundtrack is a distinct letdown. That
said the audio is basically acceptable and never less than listenable. The dialogue
and effects (including an ever-present laugh track) are clean. The music is
fine too. I just know I speak for the majority of J5 fans when I say that the
high definition capabilities of Blu-ray should’ve been employed for this release.

There are no extras included here, which doesn’t really come
as a surprise (though it’s too bad nothing could be dug up, promos or something perhaps). With almost eight and half hours of content, this release offers
a good value. The Jackson 5ive – The Complete
Animated Series
is available in a DVD-only configuration too. Given the
audio situation, it’s up to the buyer whether the extra few bucks is worth it
for the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Either way, this set will almost certainly be
on any Jackson 5 fan’s must-have list.

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