Koch Vision // 1997 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Lacey Worrell (Retired) // November 17th, 2004
You'll brave some of the world's fastest roller coasters, learn how to fly on the circus trapeze, and even step into the ring with a real WCW wrestler!
Popular Mechanics for Kids: Rip-Roaring Roller Coasters and All Access to Fun is a departure from some of the other titles in the series that have concentrated on topics such as automotive engineering and oceanography. This four-episode collection encourages its young viewers to focus instead on the technology behind beloved childhood pastimes, from roller coasters, to the circus, to pro wrestling and rock concerts. The individual episodes are as follows:
* "Roller Coasters": Host Elisha fearlessly braves the roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California while highlighting the differences between wooden and steel roller coasters and the different varieties of turns, drops, and loops. There is special emphasis placed on the care and maintenance of tracks and individual cars, topped off with Elisha's successful mission to ride the same roller coaster 45 times in a row.
* "Ticket to Ride": Elisha and Tyler visit Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida for a behind-the-scenes look at more roller coasters and the methodology of how special effects such as fire and water are created for the live shows. Elisha explores how IMAX technology differs from traditional films, while Tyler gets up close to a lifelike triceratops from the creators of Jurassic Park.
* "Under the Big Top": Elisha tests her sense of balance and tumbling ability when she trains on the trapeze and the high wire at the National Circus School. Tyler explores all aspects of the circus, from setting up the circus tents to interacting with clowns and even training the tigers used in the show. Elisha visits and interacts with the members of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, and animated characters Nix and Tix make an appearance to demonstrate how principles of inertia and gravity contribute to the high-wire act.
* "Behind the Scenes at Big Events": Tyler is given the opportunity to participate in the workings behind a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, from practice to the big match-up. He also assists in the setup of a World Championship Wrestling match, where he explores everything from pyrotechnics to lighting to the heady feeling of entering the ring with real-life wrestlers who are only too happy to show him what it feels like to be in a headlock. This episode also takes a look at the technique of lighting concerts and movie sets, as well as the science behind soundproofing a room.
Out of all the Popular Mechanics for Kids DVDs I've viewed, this one has the most commercial feel, which kids may love, but for which parents may feel some disdain. Given the fact that the rather questionable animal training methods used by circuses have come under fire in recent years, some parents may not be thrilled with the episode entitled "Under the Big Top," which features the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The episode on Universal's Islands of Adventure comes off feeling like an extended infomercial for the theme park's various attractions, but one of its merits is the fact that this is a place most viewers have heard about and may even have visited. It still feels like a special one might expect to see on The Travel Channel, however.
As in previous Popular Mechanics for Kids releases, fans of the television show 24 will recognize a preteen Elisha Cuthbert. The picture quality of this release is about the same as one might experience viewing it on television; there does not appear to be a significant improvement over what one might expect on videotape, but the sound quality is remarkably good. There are no extras to be had, but considering the fairly generous running time of 92 minutes as well as the fact that this DVD contains four episodes of Popular Mechanics for Kids, you shouldn't be turned off by the lack of special features. The focus on exciting diversions like roller coasters and circuses will likely have young viewers clamoring to watch this DVD again and again.
Although pure science is less of a focus in the episodes included on this DVD, this, or any of the other titles in the series, is an excellent investment. The hosts maintain a remarkable amount of energy and professionalism, and the overall production is of the highest quality. Given its focus on sporting events, the circus, and live shows, this particular entry into the series will be of special interest to its intended audience, making it a worthy investment.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Popular Mechanics