Judge Dan Mancini once jailed a monkey for calling in a false alarm to the fire department.
This is George. He was a good little monkey and always very curious…
Curious George combines the fluid character design from the 2006 animated feature film with the storybook sensibilities of H.A. and Margret Ray's original books, then adds lessons about rudimentary science concepts to produce a colorful edutainment series with heaps of production value. Each episode of the show is a brief 12 to 13 minutes in length. During ten of those minutes, the good-natured but mischievous titular monkey accidentally creates some havoc that must be resolved through the application of basic science concepts. For example, George learns a little about aeronautics when a runaway kite pulls him high into the air in "Curious George Flies a Kite," while George's dawdling while eating ice cream in "Curious George Gets a Trophy" provides an opportunity to learn about liquids and solids. Each episode of the show offers a similar lesson, built on George's curiosity. The final two or three minutes of each show is live-action footage of children putting the episode's science to the test. In "Wonder Buoy," for example, the children experiment with buoyancy by testing whether a series of objects from rocks to Styrofoam bowls will float in a pool. It's all basic stuff, but perfectly suited to the show's intended audience of preschoolers.
Curious George: Monkey Collection, Volume 1 gathers together the first four DVD collections of the show (originally released between February and December of 2007). The discs are housed in their original, full-sized keepcases, which are in turn housed in a thin cardboard slipcover with a Velcro clasp on the front flap and a white plastic handle on the top. Each disc contains eight episodes from the series' first season, all narrated by William H. Macy (Fargo):
Zoo Night and Other Animal Stories!
Rocket Ride and Other Adventures!
Takes a Job and More Monkey Business!
Plays in the Snow and Other Awesome Activities!
Curious George: Monkey Collection, Volume 1 impresses with its sheer volume. Thirty-two episodes of the show provide plenty of action with George and his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat. Given the show's simplicity, the episodes are of uniform quality. There aren't a lot of ups and downs in this set—the show's producers are clear about their mission and they execute it with as much style and wit as their budget allows. The good news is that Curious George is less repetitive than similar kids' shows like Dora the Explorer and Little Einsteins. Each episode adheres to the same basic structure, but there's a fairly large cast of characters with whom George interacts, and enough variety in the plots to keep the show fresh.
Curious George is produced in high definition, and it shows. Video quality is excellent across the board, offering consistently bright colors. Detail is limited only by the animation. My only gripe is that the transfers match PBS's 4:3 presentation of the show, instead of its original 1.78:1. It's clear, however, that the show is designed to work in both formats—compositions aren't cramped or otherwise compromised. Audio is a no-frills two-channel stereo that gets the job done.
Each of the four discs in this set comes with some lame remote control-based games and access to DVD-ROM content like coloring and connect-the-dots pages. Kids won't be wowed by the extras, but they'll enjoy the show itself.
Curious George: Monkey Collection, Volume 1 may be nothing more than a repackage of some old releases in new, flimsy packaging, but with an MSRP under forty bucks, it's a steal for parents who want to give their kids a heaping helping of everyone's favorite trouble-making simian.
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