Saturday, September 5, 2015

DVD Review: Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last summer's road trip to visit many of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites left me with a renewed sense of awe over how much she experienced in her lifetime. So, imagine my delight when, earlier this year, I was approached by Friendly Family Productions to review Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This special new edition includes not only a 56-minute documentary on my favorite writer, it also includes 35 minutes of bonus features that are narrated, directed, and co-produced by Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder on the classic Little House on the Prairie television series. Butler's Legacy Documentaries banner also brought Wilder fans, Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, which we reviewed here.

This documentary does not journey through Laura's entire life. Staying true to the Legacy Documentaries brand, it captures the defining moments of Wilder's life, and does so in a touching way that only those who have been part of Wilder's legacy can accomplish. While Laura's early life and marriage to Almanzo are mentioned, they only serve to sharpen the focus of the documentary, which remains strongly on Wilder's writing career: how the loss of her family, along with the concern that the pioneering era was slipping away, inspired her to put pen to paper; how farm life inspired her journalism work for the Missouri Ruralist; how the sometimes tense relationship with her daughter, Rose, shaped her writing, and how through that experience Wilder grew as a writer; the creation of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the series' continued popularity with young readers.

As was done with the Almanzo Wilder production, historical photographs, book excerpts, reenactments, and expert insights give viewers a glimpse into the life of one of America's most beloved writers. While many of the photographs are ones Wilder aficionados have seen before, they have been used in new ways to bring a special touch to Laura's story. The artwork of illustrator Cheryl Harness captures the essence of Wilder's Little House series and brings this legacy to life through animation. Discussions with Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer, John E. Miller, and Pamela Smith Hill, editor of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, add depth to this engaging story covering Wilder's legacy.

Bonus features include topics on Native Americans and African Americans on the prairie, the beautiful work of American artist Harvey Dunn, and the Morgan Horse. Viewers are encouraged to travel behind the scenes with director Dean Butler as he chronicles his work on this documentary, and there is a discussion with illustrator Cheryl Harness on her contributions.

Produced in association with Friendly Family Productions, Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must have for any Wilder fan.

Directors: Dean Butler
Producers: Dean Butler, Robin Bernheim-Burger, Trip Friendly (Executive Producer)
Format: Color, Closed-captioned
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Friendly Family Productions, LLC
Run Time: 91 minutes

I received a free copy of this DVD from Friendly Family Productions. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

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