Judge Erich Asperschlager loves anything that includes a clever monkey flying a plane.
Swing, sway, play to a new beat!
I've been requesting more kids' DVDs than usual lately. That's because my wife and I are expecting our first child. Most of what I have so far falls into the age 5 and up category, but I was interested in checking out something designed for a significantly younger set. Arguably the biggest name in baby entertainment, Baby Einstein is a series of bright, simple, and arguably educational DVDs that cover everything from classical music to shapes, numbers, and colors. The latest entry, Baby Einstein: World Music is a toe-tapping puppet romp across the globe.
World Music is really more about global diversity than music. Hosted by a monkey puppet named Jane who travels around the world, the 34-minute program is divided by continent. Each segment begins with a simple-yet-fun "skit" involving the monkey and some region-specific animal puppet/instrument combo. North America is represented by a dog playing a Native American wood flute; Africa has a lion playing a djembe; for Australia, it's a kangaroo with a rain stick; South America has a maraca-playing parrot; Asia is a tiger with a pipa; and for Europe, a dragon playing a Celtic harp. If you're wondering what instrument best suits Antarctica, apparently so were they. That skit features a bundled up Jane with her drum and a penguin that dances with her until they get buried in a heap of "snow."
The bulk of World Music is montages of animals, scenic vistas, and people representative of each continent, backed by music meant to sound like wherever Jane is. The result is something like a Baby Planet Earth. The footage is beautifully shot and presented in widescreen. Chances are it will be just as interesting to you as your child.
Despite the name of the DVD, there's precious little "world music" here. The selection of instruments evokes the different continents, but the synthesized orchestration is pretty much the same throughout. The soundtrack heavily favors drums, which makes the whole thing stimulating but robs some of the more exotic musical cultures—especially Asia, the shortest section—of what makes them unique. The good news is that I doubt your baby is going to complain, and the mix is surprisingly rich for 2.0 stereo.
The nice thing about World Music is that it should still be interesting to your child when he or she grows up. The footage and music are fun for (almost) all ages, and Disney has added a second way to watch the feature—the slightly longer "Grow With Me" mode, which adds subtitles and spoken voice naming the instruments, animals, and activities as they appear, perfect for building vocabulary.
In addition to "Grow With Me," the disc also includes several other "Select-A-Segment" modes. Is your baby too fussy to sit through a full half hour? Try either the 5 or 10-minute edits. Does she prefer puppets to footage of mountains and lions? You can watch just the puppet segments, either individually or with a handy "Play All" option. There's also a two-minute collection of "World Music Songs," including "Shoo Fly," "Alouette," and "Arroz Con Leche."
Rounding out the extras are two remote-navigible photo galleries. "Discovery Cards" works like flash cards, showing a picture of a world instrument, then, after a few seconds, adding the name and a girl's voice describing the instrument and playing a sound clip. "Toy Chest" gives specific information about where to buy the toys and instruments shown in the feature, and would seem a lot more insidious if the toys they included weren't so darn cool.
I don't know that Baby Einstein: World Music is enough to convince me to pick up the rest of the DVDs, but if you're already invested in the series and want to add something that skews a little older, this is a safe bet. It looks and sounds great, has plenty of extras and options, and is the perfect way to prepare your child for the eventual overthrow of America by a foreign economic power.
Baaa! BA! (Adult translation: "Not guilty")
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