Judge Paul Pritchard finally got his wish to be a train conductor when he stepped on a live rail track.
"Chugga Chugga, Choo Choo!"
If the names Wilson, Brewster, and Koko mean nothing to you, then chances are you don't have any toddlers in the house. Lending a more modern feel to the similarly themed Thomas and Friends (repackaged as part of Shining Time Station in the US), Chuggington's success is proof that children's fascination with trains—something I admit to being flummoxed by—is as enduring as ever.
The setup is as simple as the day is long, and yet to anyone in diapers it's as addictive as crack. Set in the town of Chuggington, the series centers around three young "Chuggers"—or trains, as you and I might call them—named Wilson, Brewster and Koko. Each episode follows the same structure, with each of the trainees being given a new task, such as transporting animals to the zoo or doing mail runs. Along the way they'll learn lessons about friendship, telling the truth, and other important values. It's all been done a million times before, of course, but compared to other shows, like the asinine Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Chuggington manages to tread that fine line of being appealing to children without driving adults to despair. In fact, with a total lack of violence or potty-talk, Chuggington is a show you can safely leave a child to watch while you get a little housework done, or write reviews for DVD Verdict.
To be fair, Chuggington is a perfectly charming CGI-toon, whose visuals alone are an immediate draw for young children. The town of Chuggington—which is mysteriously devoid of roads—is a world of wonder for youngsters: not only is it full of colorful locales, but they are the type of places kids love. From the local farm and a safari park, to mysterious ghost towns, each episode incorporates a different destination in which to set its adventure.
There's a surprising eye for detail shown by the animators, with beautifully rendered characters. Each has their own distinctive look and characteristics, meaning that—with just a little attention—parents can easily distinguish between each chugger. Backgrounds, so often an afterthought, are surprisingly intricate and enhance the feeling that Chuggington is a polished product.
Unlike Pixar's Cars, Chuggington also features a small cast of human characters who frequently converse, and even work, with the trains. One of the best applications of the human characters comes in the episode "Clunky Wilson," in which an overzealous Wilson injured himself following a race. Morgan, the depot's senior mechanic, is effectively the doctor for the trains, and in the aforementioned episode the writers deliver a well-written story that revolves around a child's anxiety when visiting the doctors. The episode "Koko on Call" even teaches the importance of taking on responsibility. It's the little things like this—as well as the series' combination of morals and manners—that will make Chuggington a favorite for both children and parents.
Chuggington: Let's Ride the Rails combines six episodes taken from the first season:
• "Clunky Wilson"
The screener copy of Chuggington: Let's Ride the Rails sent for review contained no extras; in fact, it was devoid of even a menu. It did however contain a colorful, if slightly soft picture, with clear audio. A quick scour of the internet suggests the retail copy is due to contain various activities for children.
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