A hilarious new DVD filled with faith, fun and flightless birds.
Twins siblings Jason and Michelle are off to visit their British Grandmum while Mom and Dad are out of town. The eccentric old woman lives in a wonderfully wacky cottage built by her late husband, himself an equally unconventional individual. After discovering that their new video game system won't work on Grandmum's ancient television, their mutual boredom leads to Grandpa's old study, where a huge telescope and a collection of space junk exits. Along the way, Michelle picks up some toy penguins that Grandmum collected, and together with a model spaceship that Jason finds, the 3-2-1 Penguins are brought to imaginary life. Their goal: to travel the galaxy, children in tow, to resolve problems among the planets. On this very first mission, Zidgel the Captain, Midgel the pilot, Fidgel the scientist and Kevin the…umm…Kevin answer a distress call on the Planet Wait-Your-Turn, which has been overrun by a wave of line-cutting and impatient behavior. Can this motley crew of space cadets teach the planet and its inhabitants about patience, or will Jason have to help show the way?
Every once in a great while, someone gets it right. Someone applies their God-given talent and devises a clever means of matching their message to the medium and walks away a huge, smiling winner. Such is the case with Phil Vischer and his Big Idea empire. Almost a decade ago, he started the company in his bedroom with a computer and an idea: to devise family-oriented, Christian themed entertainment. His first creation, the CG animated VeggieTales, became a runaway commercial success, selling more titles than any other faith based video release in the history of the market. Several tapes, books, toys, films, and video games later and Big Idea has become a name brand, one accepted by religious and secular folk alike for its whimsical brand of ethical amusement, perfectly suitable for children of all ages. And now they have a new product, a computer-animated saga about those tuxedoed birds from the Southern Hemisphere called 3-2-1 Penguins, and it is close to genius. This DVD is without a doubt one of the best, most original, and effortless pieces of children's entertainment to come out in a very long time. Replacing the mushy minimal market flooding merchandise of pinch-penny Disney and clearly more interested in a kid's well-being than the couldn't-care-less concepts of Fox or Warner Bros., Big Idea has created a total package, filled with games, guided tours, instructional video essays, and even recipes and cook-a-longs. Yes, there is a very Christian and pro-morality tenor to the shows. And Big Time is up front about it. But they also recognize that this is playtime not propaganda. There is more treacle than brimstone here.
And this is what really helps sells the message. It's refreshing when a dogma-based title wants to win you over with its joy and genuine entertainment value, not with preaching. The humor is genuinely comic, not the faux forced funny or the outrageous retardation you get from so many titles de' juvenilia. And the atmosphere is very honest and endearing. In a market that daily spews volumes of youth-oriented animated dreck directly at adults as the latest additive for the boob tube babysitter, this novel and original DVD product is an, excuse the pun, God send. When an adult can sit and listen to the commentary and be amused by the in-jokes and self-referencing wisecracks, or when the interactive games are intricate and interesting, not just means of selling additional units of product, the care and commitment really shows through. About the only place where the makers stretch the pleasantry factor is by turning our heroes into musicians as well and adding music video style moments of singing and dancing. Frankly, it's not needed, as the Penguins, and their pals make for such enjoyable company. Oddly, the show reminds one of Matt Groening's Futurama since, similarly, there is serious consideration given to creating imaginative and far-out gadgetry, incredible new worlds, and wacky alien species to populate them. But you won't find condescending, smart-ass wit or blatant sexual innuendo here. 3-2-1 Penguins wants to make its point in a wholesome, value-oriented fashion. And it works. With so many things to comfort, challenge and teach children, this series becomes that rarity in the home video market: an independently produced must have animated title.
There is so much going on with this DVD package that it's hard to fit it in to such a small review. The video transfer is just incredible, at times rivaling Hollywood titles like Shrek for CGI clarity and modeling. The colors are bright and bouncy, filling the full screen with enjoyable wonder. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is also unbelievable. The rumble of the rockets, the vacuum of space, the movements of the penguins, and the…"aliens" encountered create a highly realistic soundscape for one to get lost in. The full-length commentary features director Ron Smith as well as the Penguin heroes themselves, and while sparse at times, it's an intelligent hoot. There are trailers for other Big Idea titles (all of which seem inventive and interesting) and video essays on how to draw various characters from the film, as well as recipes and cook-a-longs (with step-by-step instructions). There is also a sing-along karaoke feature, an interactive storybook, courses from the Space Academy School, DVD-ROM games…the list goes on and on. For the price, this is one jam packed DVD, and it comes highly recommended. Even those without strong religious conviction will find 3-2-1 Penguins: Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn a wonderful addition to your child's (and your own personal) DVD library. It's interesting that a company named Big Idea would stumble across a very small and simple one for success. The notion of making entertainment…entertaining. And 3-2-1 Penguins certainly is.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Idea
• Penguin Audio Commentary
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