Wizards Of Waverly Place: Supernaturally Stylin'
Let’s face it; magic is cool. I sincerely doubt that there are a whole lot of people who haven’t had day dreams about the ability to conjure up your hearts desire or fly through the air. It has been noted that any technology sufficiently advanced of a culture would be discerned as magic. If you could go back in time only a couple of decades it would seem like magic to consider a three inch thick television or thousands of songs that could be summoned to you at the push of a button. It should come as no surprise that magic has been the central theme of literature, television and movies for as long as there were such things. In many cases magic is seen as demonic and evil but there is also a light hearted side to it. Many shows on television have used magic as a plot device from ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ to ‘Charmed’. On all the incarnations magic has had on TV one of the more delightful is ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’. There should be one name that comes to mind when you think magic in entertainment; Walt Disney. He just about invented in back in the late thirties and his studio has maintained this legacy ever since. Those of us who are in the baby boomer generation grew up with Disney magic. Tinkerbell, the most famous fairy in history was ‘born’ as a animated character in 1953 making her one of us. There is another thing about a Disney project; parents can feel safe letting their kids watch. Then again the shows are so entertaining that you just might sit down with the children and find yourself getting into the show yourself. In the case of ‘Wizards’ the series is light hearted fun that is great for the proverbial children of all ages. Okay, older teens may be too cool to admit it in public but I am sure that they will like it as well. Lately the Disney Channel has been releasing DVD sets of their most popular tween series in four episode packs. This gives the parents a cost effective way to entertain their kids. Four episodes make for a solid afternoon but judging by how kids traditionally react to Disney magic this will be extended time and time again. When my daughter was growing up twenty years ago I went through several video tapes of the ‘Little Mermaid’ so be thankful you live in the age of DVDs that are not prone to wear and tear. So pop this into the DVD player, pop some corn and gather the kids around for a really good time.
This series, like much of the late afternoon and weekend faire on the Disney Channel, is targeted at the ever growing tween demographic. These are kids roughly between the ages of eight and fourteen and they are an increasingly forceful group in the marketplace. In the fifties and sixties when people my age were growing up the as of yet unnamed tweens were the forgotten age group; there were cartoon for the younger children and live action series for the older kids and adults but little if anything specifically for the tweens. Several cable networks have moved in to help fill this vacuum but known have do so with the quality that is a trademark for Disney. ‘Wizards’ is a fantasy based family sit-com that has everything the modern tween could want. There are energetic cast members their own age and parents that are solid role models; understanding but still very much in charge. At the heart of any Disney live action production is the way their brought their stars along. They have returned to a kinder, gentler form of the old Hollywood studio system that was popular in the forties. Under this system a promising young star would be cultivated slowly while receiving training in song, dance, acting and comedy. In the case of the main starlet here, Selena Gomez, she is one of Disney’s hottest young talents. Before getting this series she was given a featured role on ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ followed by a recurring character on the flagship of the Disney tween series, ‘Hannah Montana’. Recently Ms Gomez has received one of Disney’s greatest honors, playing the lead in their latest incarnation of ‘Cinderella’.
The series is concerned with the Russo family who live upstairs from their sandwich shop located in New York City’s Waverly Place. The Dad, Jerry (David DeLuise) was a wizard as a child but there is arule that only one in the family can keep their powers. He abdicated his in order to marry a mortal, his wife Theresa (Maria Canals-Barrera). Together they have three children; Justin (David Henrie), Alex (Selena Gomez) and the youngest Max (Jake T. Austin). At this point all three have magical powers and are being trained by their dad but eventually only one will be able to keep them. Justin is the goody two shoes type who always follows the rules. Alex is the typically free spirited young teen who is crazy about fashion and boys; not necessarily in that order. Max is like every youngest child in sit com history whose main function is to get in as much trouble as possible. The fight and get mad at each other but when one of the Russo kids is in trouble the entire family is there pulling together. Typically Alex messes up a spell and Justin has to save the day. Usually Dad teaches the kids a new spell or incantation and Alex figures out some way to try to use it for her own gain and things go wry.
Season 1 episode 18 July 2, 2008
Alex gets an internship at one of the leading fashion magazines. This is exciting not only to Alex but also her best friend Harper (Jennifer Stone). Harper wants too be a fashion designer but her fashion sense is not one appreciated on this planet. Her designs are far out there and typically include fruit as part of the ensemble. Alex comes up with some great ideas but they are immediately stolen by the boss. Alex decides to get even and uses some of Harper’s designs in the plan. Meanwhile back at the sub shop Jerry and Teresa hire a beautiful new waitress to cover for Alex and Justin falls deep in love.
Season 2 episode 1 September 12, 2008
Yet another spell backfires for Alex when she uses magic to get the highest mark in her class on a difficult test. She is forced to join an academic challenge team with Harper and is very upset when it brands her as a nerd with the school. Compounding this is the fact that she has her eyes set on one of the coolest boys in the school. Harper is angry at Alex for taking away the one thing that she is good at, the challenge. Max is on one of his many get rich quick schemes by selling bottled water from the most popular fountain in school.
Season 2 episode 2 September 21, 2008
This episode centers a bit more on Justin than usual. He meets a girl on the World Wide Wiz-Web and sets up a real life date with her. Things seem to be going great until he discovers that she is a werewolf. Not only that she is militant for werewolf rights and acceptance. She winds up turning Justin into a werewolf with a kiss and he is very tempted to let things stay that way but Alex is determined to change him back.
Season 2 episode 3 October 5, 2008
It is only natural for a fifteen year old girl to keep a diary but when you just happen to be a wizard you can write out your fantasies and pull yourself into them. This is the case with Alex’s magic dairy and trouble starts when Justin and Max steal it. The enchanted book falls into the hands of Gigi (Skyler Samuels) who is Alex’s arch enemy. Justin and Max inadvertently push Gigi into a princess fairy tale fantasy in the book and Alex has to go in and bring her out.
The video for these episodes is uncharacteristically grainy but still acceptable. The sound mix is great and the episodes are well chosen. There is a trademark Disney behind the scenes featurette called ‘Fashionista Presto Chango’ that takes the viewers backstage to the wardrobe and costume design area; hosted by Ms Gomez. This is fun for the whole family and in these times that is something special.