Koch Vision // 1998 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // April 20th, 2005
The science behind all the fun!
What a pleasant surprise Popular Mechanics for Kids: Gators & Dragons turned out to be! This collection of four episodes from the popular Discover Channel series Popular Mechanics for Kids follows through on its tagline promise by making science and nature a fun, quirky, edge-of-your-seat adventure of exploration for adolescents and adults. Gators & Dragons includes the following wildlife-based episodes:
"Zoos": During a tour of major North American zoos, young hosts Elisha Cuthbert and Jay Baruchel file an elephant's nails, watch a gorilla have a tumor removed, and feed penguins, polar bears and gigantic bats. Popular Mechanics' home project guru, Charlie Powell, is on hand to teach us how to make an iguana habitat.
"Swamps & Gators": Cuthbert and Tyler Kyte visit the Louisiana bayou and Florida's Everglades and Gatorland. Along the way, they learn about Louisiana's swamp restoration project, how to survive in quicksand, how to make a tadpole home, and even how to wrestle a live alligator (because, you know, the dead ones offer much less of a challenge).
"Talk to the Animals": Cuthbert and Kyte learn how people communicate with certain types of animals and teach them useful skills. They take us to an airport to see how falcons are trained to chase off smaller birds so those birds won't get sucked into plane engines. Afterward, it's viva Las Vegas as they visit The Mirage Hotel and Casino to learn how dolphins are trained. Cuthbert and Kyte also teach viewers how to toilet-train a housecat (my cat just recently mastered the bidet), and Powell is back for a little dog obedience training.
"Killer Creatures": Gators & Dragons saves the best for last with an episode that finds the dauntless kids feeding a deadly Komodo dragon, making friends with a somewhat domesticated Siberian tiger in the Carolinas, and catching and releasing a polar bear in Manitoba.
Following the footsteps of earlier live-action, science/nature-based shows such as Big Blue Marble, 3-2-1 Contact and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, Popular Mechanics is silly but never pandering, intelligent but easily digestible. Sure, there's some monkeying around (sorry), but, for the most part, education is the primary directive.
The four squeaky-clean hosts are professional, accessible and appealing, and it's not surprising to learn that at least two of them went on to successful acting careers in television and films (Cuthbert in 24 and The Girl Next Door; Baruchel in Million Dollar Baby). What is surprising is how cheerfully and unquestioningly gung-ho this fearless foursome is, especially considering some of the tasks they're handed. Stand within eight feet of a quick and deadly Komodo dragon? Alrighty. Sit on top of the business end of a six-foot-long gator? Not a problem. Take a Siberian tiger for a little stroll on a leash? Sure thing. Let a full-grown elephant lift you onto its back using its trunk? Wheeeeee!
However, unlike, say, The Crocodile Hunter, Popular Mechanics for Kids is much more than a pointless and exploitative game of Truth or Dare with fangs. In addition to learning about the feeding habits of a wide range of animals, this viewer discovered that quicksand is not quite the hazard the movies make it out to be, that a normal looking horse can give birth to a zebra, and that tadpoles would make a fascinating home science project for kids. In short, Gators & Dragons is must-see TV for anyone interested in the wonderful creatures that make the world snarl and growl.
Popular Mechanics for Kids: Gators & Dragons is presented in its original full-screen format, and the picture looks as good as it did on television. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo works well for this program. The package does not include any extras.
Review content copyright © 2005 Bryan Pope; 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: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated