Sony // 2004 // 63 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Lacey Worrell (Retired) // August 27th, 2004
"I wish, I wish with all my heart...to fly with dragons, in a land apart."
Dragon Tales is one of those shows parents of small children live for. The characters don't sock each other over the head, curse, or forget to wear helmets while skateboarding.
Dragon Tales: Believe in Yourself features five episodes from the perennially popular PBS Kids series about a brother and sister, Max and Emmy, who wish on a magic stone and are transported to Dragon Land. Dragon Land is populated by a motley crew of dragons in various shapes, sizes, and colors. There is goofy Ord; pink, feminine Cassie; the two-headed Zak and Wheezie; and my favorite, the gigantic, paternal Quetzal, who is to Dragon Tales what Eeyore is to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. He isn't a central character, but his gentle, kind nature is a balm for all the out-there, wackier personalities featured on the show.
Emmy is your typical know-it-all big sister, eager to explain things to the sometimes clueless Max. In the five tales featured here, both Emmy and Max and their dragon friends must overcome various fears, like falling while ice-skating, losing good-luck charms, and even outwitting a mean little troll. They learn that with the support of their friends and loved ones, life feels less scary.
It's nice to see a children's DVD that will appeal to both boys and girls; children will easily relate to the central characters, the element of fantasy, and the fact that because Max and Emmy's parents are practically invisible, it is up to the two protagonists to solve problems themselves. The happenings in Dragon Land -- in this DVD, self-doubt, fear, and encouragement -- often mirror real-life challenges children face.
The animation is nothing spectacular, but the vivid colors and appropriate pacing will engage kids nonetheless. The characters, with the exception of Ord and Quetzal, speak in an ear-shatteringly high pitch. It's sure to delight the kiddies but may at the same time send parents running for cover.
I was interested in the packaging, which boasted a QuickStart auto-play feature that "makes it easy for your children to watch this DVD"! Now I assumed -- and what do I know after several years of post-graduate education -- that this means the story begins playing immediately upon placing it in the DVD player. Aha, my friends. Was I wrong. What QuickStart means is that the commercials for other DVDs begin a little sooner than usual. The story only starts after you've waded through inducements to buy Berenstein Bears, The Swan Princess, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, and Bear in the Big Blue House! Then there are the ubiquitous, always threatening FBI and Interpol warnings in English and French that are second only in scariness to the warnings that are attached to bed pillows. So, if that's the definition of a quick start, then I guess every children's DVD in the free world should carry the same description.
There are also no extras to be had here, which is a crying shame for a DVD that only runs an hour. The producers could have taken a page out of the Thomas the Tank Engine releases, which feature songs, games, and read-along stories. On the Dragon Tales shows that run on PBS, the episodes are separated by little songs featuring the characters that encourage kids to get up and dance, so it's difficult to understand why some wouldn't be included here. Check out www.pbskids.org, which features a wealth of games including not only the Dragon Tales characters, but those from other popular shows as well. It's a nice site because the games are relatively simple, and any child with even very basic mouse skills can play independently.
The continuous loop feature is nice, especially for those of you who rely on the magic of DVD technology to lull your kids into a contented stupor so that you can actually take a shower or get dinner on the table. In that same vein, I highly recommend the episode of Scooby Doo where the creepy clown ghost hypnotizes Daphne. Of course, then you have to deal with the inevitable clown-induced nightmares that will keep the kids up all night. Okay, okay, nix the whole Scooby Doo idea. I don't want a bunch of angry emails from sleep-deprived parents whose kids have developed coulrophobia thanks to a bad recommendation on my part.
Before you buy this DVD, tune into PBS to determine whether your kids will be interested in the show. The lack of special features and relatively short length of the DVD makes it a questionable buy, especially when the show runs frequently on television.
Nice, wholesome storylines, but save yourself a few dollars and catch this on TV.
Review content copyright © 2004 Lacey Worrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 63 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* PBS Kids