This Halloween, Judge Paul Pritchard is dressing up as Catwoman...which is really no different than most weekends.
It's always a treat to celebrate Halloween with your Nickelodeon friends!
With the summer months coming to an end, and the onslaught of autumn now as inevitable as tax hikes and budget cuts, thoughts begin to turn toward the next big holiday, Halloween. To help you and your little one's celebrate the occasion, Nick Jr. has bundled together six of its most popular shows onto one DVD. Helping me (hopefully) with this review will be my 18-month old son.
• Dora the
This being my first real viewing of Dora the Explorer, it was interesting to see the contrast in the way that both my son and I experienced the show. While I found the show unbelievably repetitive—particularly Map, a.k.a. the most annoying character ever—my son sat happily transfixed for the show's twenty minute running time; that being said, there's still plenty for parents to like about the show. Dora is frequently asking the viewer questions, and it's always good to see a show try and teach kids a little something.
Where the episode falls down most, however, is that the Halloween aspect feels rather tacked on. Sure, Dora and co. bump into a menagerie of characters (including Diego) dressed in their Halloween costumes, but this could easily be replaced by pretty much any other holiday and still require little re-writing. Although to be fair, many of the episodes on this disc suffer from the same problem.
Two final observations on this episode: Firstly, am I the only one who finds it bizarre that nobody questions the appearance of a giant chicken, particularly when it's dressed up as a pig? And second, monsters or not, what parents let their young children go out on a 6-hour round trip on Halloween, and only set a midnight curfew?
• Go, Diego, Go!—"Freddie the Fruit Bat Saves
Hmm, so according to Go, Diego, Go! a fruit bat, small as they are, is capable of lifting a bridge. And this show is educational you say? Putting aside the laws of physics for a moment, this episode closely follows the same formula as the Dora episode that precedes it. Where Diego differs, is in its focus on educating children about the animal world. While Go, Diego, Go! is certainly a little livelier than Dora, it's still repetitive, although I did find the show's educational aspect far more interesting and integrated far more successfully into the episodes plot; the section on how bats use sonar was especially well done. Again, the Halloween aspect is really only window dressing for the episode, which loses it a few points.
Pets!—"Save the Bat/Save the Donkey"
Perhaps it's just me, but this actually felt like an improvement over Dora and Diego. The combination of the show's photo-pupperty, and (mostly) sung dialogue helped the episode fly by, and let's be honest, a turtle in a little sailor's hat is just plain adorable. The episode really pushes the importance of teamwork, so much so that it's easy to forget that nothing at all happens relating to Halloween. Again, my son loved the episode, most likely in part to it reminding him of Third and Bird, which uses the same visual style and is from the same creator (Josh Selig).
• Yo Gabba
Yeah, now we're talking! With it's cast of oddball characters, musical numbers, and a commitment to being fun first, educational second, Yo Gabba Gabba! is the highlight of this set. DJ Lance Rock, who looks like he's just walked out of a Dee-Lite music video, makes for an entertaining host and manages to still be cool despite the shows obvious goofiness. The constant shifting between segments, including a performance by indie band Shiny Toy Guns (renamed "The Shinies," for obvious reasons), reminded me of The Muppet Show which I grew up with, and highlights the dearth of similar family based variety shows on TV nowadays.
This episode, more so than any other on the disc, manages to best capture the fun of Halloween. Shiny Toy Guns perform the catchy, and thematically appropriate "House of Spooks," while DJ Lance Rock, Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee and Plex all have fun wearing their Halloween costumes. In fact, the episode was so good that my son refused to settle for his afternoon nap until it had finished.
Clues—"What is Blue Afraid Of?"
Though not directly related to Halloween, this episode of Blue's Clues at least deals in a relevant subject matter: fear.
The interactive element, whereby host Steve asks viewers questions to help solve the mystery, is good fun for little ones. What marks the episode out for praise, however, is in the way it cleverly deals with the subject of fear, and may just help with young children who are afraid of the dark. Sadly, none of this was enough to keep my son's interest, and he was now cuddled up and ready for sleepy time.
• Ni Hao,
Kai-lan—"Ni Hao, Halloween"
I'm sure it's already been said, but isn't Ni Hao, Kai-lan just Dora the Explorer with a young Chinese girl teaching us Mandarin instead of Spanish? The show is certainly more visually appealing than Dora, but follows the Dora format so closely as to be rendered almost unnecessary. Still, the show is aimed primarily at young girls, and so my son (who had by now fallen asleep) and I are not really the intended audience. I will say one thing in defense of Ni Hao, Kai-lan though, at least it doesn't have Map, who I swear will haunt my dreams for weeks.
Apart from the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!, there's little for parents to enjoy here; although you could (and should) argue that the entertainment this set undoubtedly provides for little ones is what's really important. The Halloween theme is tenuous at best, but what is there is extremely child-friendly and won't result in any sleepless nights.
Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and is sharp and colorful for the most part. Obviously an older show, like Dora, lacks the same picture quality of the more recent Yo Gabba Gabba or Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, which really stand out visually. The 2.0 stereo soundtrack rarely offers anything exciting, but does its job. The set is totally lacking in extras, but with over two hours of entertainment and a fairly reasonable price if you shop online, parents shouldn't feel they've been fleeced if they stump up the cash for the DVD.
Overall, Nick Jr. Favorites: Happy Halloween kept my son entertained, and really his verdict on this DVD should be of more value to you than mine. Though he has a limited vocabulary, I asked what score he would give the set; he gurgled what sounded like 92, until I pointed out the lack of extras and so we agreed on a score of 80 and a not guilty verdict.
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