Koch Vision // 2001 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Packard (Retired) // August 26th, 2004
The science behind all the fun!
Many moons ago, I used to swipe my old man's magazine on a regular basis and retreat to my bedroom. I couldn't help myself, as those beautiful images on the cover called out to me. I'd flip through each issue, eyes agog at the stuff within and yet not understanding any of it. It was years later that I finally got around to reading the articles that went with those pictures. Suddenly, the pictures within were illuminated with new meaning and understanding. I could actually learn from this magazine!
Somewhat pathetically, the magazine was not Playboy, Penthouse, or any other magazine usually kept behind the retail counter and away from the prying eyes of hormone-ravaged teens. The magazine of which I speak is Popular Mechanics. I was always drawn to those covers splashed with depictions of futuristic technology in land, sea, and air. Inside the magazine, I learned of the scientific principles driving these great designs. Every issue was both entertaining and educational.
This unique brand of informing in an entertaining fashion was fused with the natural curiosity that kids have of learning how things work to create the award-winning Popular Mechanics for Kids television series. Hosted by a quartet of affable youngsters (including a pre-24 Elisha Cuthbert!), each episode delves into a variety of topics related to a central theme. Information is delivered at a rapid pace, but computer graphics and traditional animation often supplement the footage to aid in illustrating the science behind the segments.
This particular title, Popular Mechanics for Kids: Slither & Slime and Other Yucky Things, deals with things that wrinkle most people's noses in disgust.
The four episodes on this disc are as follows:
* "Underground" (1997)
The episode starts off with a great topic: where do things go after you flush them down the crapper? With the help of a modern-day Ed Norton, the kids use a ping pong ball and green dye to address the question that many toddlers have attempted to answer for years. Unfortunately, that's the best part of this episode. That's not to say the rest of the episode is necessarily weak: While the other topics fit the "underground" theme, they don't fit in with the overall theme of this DVD. Learning about how a subway train is powered, the responsibilities of a subway system's central control, seeing co-host Jay try his hand at driving a subway train, and the scientific principles that explain the power of a digging machine are just not particularly slithery, slimy, or yucky. Easily the weakest episode on the disc.
* "Garbage" (1997)
This episode revs things up a bit by delving into a topic most find repulsive: trash. A bit on recycling illustrates what happens to the paper, glass, and cans that we toss into our recycling bins. Other segments include how plastic bottles are turned into fabric, how we can create our own compost heaps, and observing who indulges in a meal made of a repulsive mixture of old bread and rancid milk. One of the kids takes a trip to a landfill with a "Garbage Archaeologist" to study trash from the past. Only in an episode like this can you indulge in a fashion show where the models sport dresses made of things like old light bulbs, garbage bags, and Astroturf.
* "Creepy Crawlers" (1999)
Now we're getting into the really good stuff, kids! Elisha and Tyler kick off this episode with a visit to a Montreal insectarium where they get some hands-on experience with a millipede and a tarantula. Next up is a trip to a leech farm, followed by a look at termites and silkworms. With the help of a beekeeper, the kids see how honey goes from the beehive to the store shelf. The flinch factor is upped thanks to a live bee sting, an overview of parasites such as tapeworms and head lice, and an amazing, close-up beheading of a cockroach to explain how the little bastards can live up to a week after losing their noggins. Charlie, the lone grown-up among the cast, shows us various ways to find bugs on our own (note to self: do not go around shaking trees anytime soon). Of particular note is Elisha Cuthbert appearing perfectly calm while huge walking sticks traverse her face and hair. Best episode on the disc.
* "Slimy and Slithery" (1999)
While perhaps not quite as disturbing or graphic as "Creepy Crawlers," this episode is a worthy one to round out the disc's offerings. We start off by seeing a wood frog tossed into the freezer, frozen, then thawed back to life. Next, a Reticulated Python, on a diet of one 30 pound pig per month, is prepared for a medical check-up. The science behind how snails move on their slime trails is examined, and an overview of mucus explains why stomach acid doesn't eat away our own guts. Other bits focus on a Giant Pacific Octopus, some jellyfish, and a live bait supplier proudly showing off his warehouse full of worms. I found Charlie's segment on how to make your own homemade slime particularly enjoyable, as did my four year old son -- he's already asking me to make some of the gooey slop at home.
Overall, I was very impressed with this disc. The title of the series might suggest it's for the kiddies, but adults are sure to learn at least a few fascinating tidbits (I certainly didn't know that hot dogs take years to fully decompose due to the amount of preservatives they contain!) I also appreciated that a real-world application was given for some of the segments (for example, scientists are studying the wood frog's ability to freeze and thaw back to life in an effort to learn how human organs can be safely frozen without dying before implantation).
The video is presented in the original full frame aspect ratio and is appropriate for this type of programming. Overall, the video quality is excellent, although some segments do feature older video footage that, understandably, isn't as sharp. The audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo offering which, again, is appropriate for this material.
Educational, entertaining, and often deliciously disgusting, Popular Mechanics for Kids: Slither & Slime and Other Yucky Things lives up to its title. The "Creepy Crawlers" and "Slimy and Slithery" episodes more than make up for the lackluster "Underground" episode. If you can find a better resource to explain to little Junior what happened to his sister's Strawberry Shortcake after he flushed her down the john, I'd love to know about it. Not guilty! Court adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Packard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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