Like every bit of American history, it’s good to know that “Liberty’s Kids” tells its core audience only one part of the story and never the full details on what, when, and why. For one thing, the series focuses on only a quarter of American history with a sometimes artful dodging of aspects like slavery, illness, and the bloody events that were the wars. However there is a considerable acknowledging of slavery as one of our main characters, an African American, battles on the forefront of the Civil War in order to escape slavery. Sadly, the episode that focuses on the Native American experience only depicts us as inadvertent dominators of the land, not the evil villainous barons who strong armed a race out of their motherland.
But then again I’m getting serious over a kids show, right? Well, for us to prevent repeating history, we have to learn from it, and I think brutal honesty is the swiftest form of education. “Liberty’s Kids” was a show I barely remember hearing about upon its introduction on kid’s educational television here in America. Lasting only forty episodes total, it’s a show about history unfolding through the eyes of three young children living through the period to witness some of the greatest events of American history. With collective celebrity voices like Ben Stiller, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walter Cronkite, the characters, as well as the audience, are able to experience what really occurred in these society forming events. The animation is pretty up to par for a show that really never had flashy animators to do the series justice, and the voice work is also quite strong with some great acting from the likes of D. Kevin Williams, and Kathleen Barr, to name a few.
It’s a strong series that makes a case for itself after a few episodes, and I suggest it to teachers wanting for infotainment in their Social Studies classes. As for the DVD, we’re given a prize: a collective poster that sports the characters on one side, and the locations of the episodes on the other. We’re also given a 40-page booklet with a look at the individual episodes as well as small historical facts and some darn good art from the series depicting the historical events. One Disc One we’re shown the three and a half minute original pencil test for “The Midnight Ride” along with the creators explaining the process of storyboards and bringing it all in to motion. “Benjamin Franklin’s Newsbytes” is a fun seven minute look at Walter Cronkite as Franklin reporting the local news; it’s a fun little in joke for folks who know what Cronkite’s reputation entails. “Continental Cartoons” is a seven minute is a trivia game for the audience that works as pictionary and hangman. It’s sure to test the memory of young fans of the series.
There are also more interactive games like “Now and Then” that explores the difference between traveling by horse and by car, as well as “Mystery Guest Game” a twenty questions game that tests how much we were paying attention. I love it. All of the discs have the same extras but more in a topical manner in reference to the episodes we’d just seen. On Disc six though, there’s the twenty seven minute look back at “Liberty’s Kids” with the creators that seals the deal on the intent of the series and how much they were looking to expose both sides of history. How the series started began with a little girl, and it’s a fascinating origin tale. Dic’s DVD set works not just as an entertaining series on three actual youths living through the world’s biggest events that changed the way we think and conduct politcs, but it also serves a purpose as a instructional tool for learning historical facts. It’s a solid set all around.