NCircle // 2008 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // July 27th, 2009
Hey, Sid! Whaddaya say? Watcha wanna learn today?
Sid the Science Kid is a half-hour television show for preschoolers produced by the creative minds at The Jim Henson Company. The show's technologically innovative 3D animation is realized at the Henson Digital Performance Studio, which means that instead of people sitting at computers animating Sid and the other characters, puppeteers perform the show live in a motion capture environment. Each character is played by two puppeteers simultaneously, one who performs body movements and one who does the voice acting and facial movements. The result is a look that falls somewhere between computer animation and traditional muppetry. Whether you find Sid the Science Kid visually beautiful or the stuff of nightmares will largely depend on whether you consider Henson's The Dark Crystal a stunning and whimsical tale of fantasy adventure or a horror show slightly more frightening than Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Honestly, I gravitate toward the latter camp, but can still appreciate Sid the Science Kid for being a show that challenges young children with a little intellectual heft.
Debuting on PBSKids in the fall of 2008, the show follows the day-to-day adventures of inquisitive 4-year-old Sid. The curious tyke begins each day with a science-based question, like "What makes leaves special?" or "What makes dirt so dirty?" After discussing the question with his parents, he grabs his toy microphone and heads off to preschool where he interviews his friends Gabriela, Gerald, and May to gather their opinions (hypotheses) about the episode's "big idea." Then the four kids explore and test the topic with the guidance of their teacher, Susie, in the Super Fab Lab. After the kids share their conclusions and observations, Susie sings a song, and then the kids tell a series of corny jokes in a Laugh-In-style segment called "Good Laughternoon." The day ends when Sid is picked up from school by his grandmother, and recaps the day's discoveries with the audience while dressed in his footy pajamas and ready for bed.
The initial season of the show was a run of 40 episodes divided into eight topically similar five-episode groups so that an entire week of shows is thematically related. Sid the Science Kid: The Bug Club collects four of the five episodes about backyard science (oddly, the episode entitled "The Bug Club" is omitted, probably due to space limitations on the disc).
* "Hello Doggie"
Do dogs talk? Sid and his friends investigate the many ways that animals communicate.
* "Home Tweet Home"
Sid, Gabriela, Gerald, and May examine birds' nests, bee hives, and other homes built by animals.
* "The Dirt on Dirt"
What's up with dirt? Susie teaches Sid and the other children about dirt's vital role in helping plants grow and providing a home for bugs.
* "Don't Forget the Leaves"
Sid and his friends explore how leaves help flowers blossom as well as providing food and shade for insects.
The show is presented in its original 16:9 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen displays. The image is slightly softer than I'd expected, but blessedly free of digital artifacts. Color reproduction is reasonably accurate, but not quite as vivid as it should be. Audio is a straight-up Dolby stereo mix -- clean, effective, and unremarkable.
"Susie's Songs" is the only extra on this disc. It provides a menu from which you can jump straight to the songs that Susie sings in each of the episodes: "Busy Busy Busy," "A Lot of Little Things to Do," "I Dig This Town," and "Bistro le Leaf."
A second sampler disc labeled "Front Row Fun" contains a whopping 134 minutes of episodes from other NCircle programs including WordWorld, Dive Olly Dive!, Hurray for Huckle!, Tiny Planets, Will & Dewitt, Animal Atlas, Hermie and Friends, Pocoyo, and Hopla. Aside from the fact that the transfers are a mix of full frame and anamorphic and non-anamorphic widescreen, the disc offers a great collection of shows custom made for long trips in a minivan.
Sid the Science Kid is excellent children's edutainment, offering a predictable formula (young children thrive on predictability) while also challenging its audience with age-appropriate science. The Bug Club is a decent DVD release, marred slightly by a mediocre transfer and the presentation of only four episodes in a five-episode cycle.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Susie's Songs
* Official Site
* Henson Digital Puppetry Wiki