The Saddle Club-Friends Forever (2001)

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Released 5-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 89:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Arnie Custo
Stephen Mann
Chris Martin-Jones
Karinda Parkinson
Studio
Distributor
Crawfords Australia
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Keenan MacWilliam
Sophie Bennett
Lara Jean Marshall
Heli Simpson
Kia Luby
Brett Tucker
Catherine Wilkin
Marisa Siketa
Glenn Meldrum
Nathan Phillips
Maggie King
Cathy Godbold
Sophie Hensser
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Saddle Club - Friends Forever is the latest release in the highly popular children's' television series based on the stories of Bonnie Bryant. Ms Bryant has now penned over 100 titles in the series and her books have sold an incredible 13 million copies. This is the fourth DVD release which I have had the pleasure (thanks to a horse-obsessed daughter) of reviewing. As always it features several episodes from the television series, stitched together into one movie-length feature. There is some discontinuity in the order of DVD releases (or in the receipt of review discs at least), as on this disc Max is still at Pine Hollow, not yet having been offered a chance to work in France. In the earlier release, The Saddle Club - Storm, Max had already headed overseas and had been replaced by "the younger, less talented and amazingly DiCaprio-esque Drew (the fantastically named Nikolai Nikolaeff)" to quote from my own review.

    Anyway...the main characters of Stevie (Sophie Bennett), Carole (Keenan MacWilliam) and Lisa (Lara Jean Marshall) - the three founding members of the Saddle Club - are once again back in the titular seating contraption. Of course, the girl we all love to hate - the snobby Veronica (Heli Simpson) - is also back to provide a welcome relief from the saccharine sweetness of the three main heroines.

    This time around the young ladies of Pine Hollow Stables are given the opportunity to gain some Master class tuition from a visiting French champion - Dorothee Douty (Matylda Buezko, complete with lousy French accent). As ever, Dorothee has a secret, in that she was thrown from her horse and now doubts her ability to get "back into the saddle". Meanwhile, the very future of Pine Hollow hangs in the balance as a viral infection threatens to strike down the girls' horses, which will result in them having to be put down. When Comanche shows all the signs of being infected, Stevie is at her wits end.

    Love once again puts in a guest appearance as Red (James O'Dea) and Dorothee are smitten by each other. When Dorothee is given the chance to participate in the Olympic Training Squad it looks as if this love will be of the unrequited sort. When Stevie loses control of the ailing Comanche, and he runs off, it looks as if the local shooter is going to have to track him down and put an end to him...

    I seem to repeat myself rather a lot in these reviews - but yet again the girls all put in a very solid performance. There is even more singing from the girls than usual in this outing, as the Club continue in their attempts to get a recording contract. The girls are looking a little older nowadays, and their singing voices are maturing along with them. As I mentioned in my review of The Saddle Club - Storm they do seem to behave a little too young for their age - I fear it won't be long before they are simply too old for the roles. Nevertheless, Friends Forever will undoubtedly be a must-buy for dedicated fans of the series. Once again the ABC have returned to a widescreen format (16x9 enhanced) for this release (The Saddle Club - Horse Crazy was presented cropped at 1.33:1). The widescreen format definitely suits the impressive expanses of the Yarra Valley very well.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer of this disc is fairly impressive for a locally made children's program.

    The feature is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It looks pretty d*** spiffy.

    The transfer is occasionally a touch soft in middle-distance shots but the close-ups are wonderfully sharp in the main. This is certainly as sharp a transfer as I have seen in the Saddle Club DVD releases to date.

    Black levels are solid enough and without low level noise. There are few dark scenes present to really test shadow detail, but where needed it is perfectly adequate. Colours are solid and vibrant with quite a fresh feel. There is no colour bleeding on show, even from the more striking primaries. Skin tones are alright but they do occasionally look a little over made-up.

    The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. There is some aliasing apparent on straight edges from time-to-time and some quite noticeable edge enhancement creeps in on occasion. Neither of these is overly distracting, and will be of no concern at all to the intended pre-teen female audience, I'm sure.

    The DVD is free from significant film (video) artefacts in what is a very clean transfer.

    Shame on the ABC - inexplicably the normally excellent English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are totally absent. For hard of hearing viewers this will be a major problem.

    This is a single sided, single layered (DVD 5) disc, so there is no layer change to detect.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality of this disc is, as ever, technically adequate with no significant audio defects.

    As with the previous releases, there is a single English audio track available in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo encoded at 224 kbps. The surround flag is not set.

    Dialogue was clear throughout and I noticed no problems with audio sync.

    Music is this time credited to Jack Lenz. There are quite a few pop songs scattered through this outing, and most interestingly, that great theme song performance is this time credited to Robbie James - to me it still sounds like it is being sung by the three main actors (Bennett, MacWilliam and Marshall). Go figure.

    As always, the soundstage is predominantly frontal. As in previous releases, the surrounds do see a little use with Dolby Pro Logic II enabled. If you make use of this feature, your amp will direct some minor ambience and music to the surround speakers.

    The subwoofer has little to do, but depending on your bass management set-up, there may be some support for the score - the pop songs sung by the girls in the final reel have a bit of funky bass action goin' on. There is however nothing approaching true LFE on offer - and it isn't really needed to be sure.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are absolutely no extras on the disc.

Menu

    The menu is a static but colourful affair featuring polaroids of the girls and a loop of the toe-tapping theme song. It allows the slim choice of playing the feature or selecting one of twelve chapter stops.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD does not appear to be available in Region 1 yet.

Summary

    The Saddle Club - Friends Forever will be another must-buy disc for the multitudinous fans of the series. There are tales of unrequited love, poppy musical performances, sophisticated foreign visitors and endless opportunities to see horses in all their glory. What young girl could ask for more?

    The video quality is solid.

    The audio quality is technically fine.

    The extras have galloped off into the distance.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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