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Frightening to parents, mesmerizing to children, the Teletubbies have lost some of their cultural impact, but still remain hypnotically popular programming for children.
Parents like the show because children remain absolutely motionless as they watch the Teletubbies, allowing adults to do other things, like sleep. On the other hand, children like them because…because…Okay. Let's be honest. Nobody is sure what children see in the undulating, nonsensical ramblings of gigantic freaky looking alien things. But never knock a good thing, I say.
This is a double-review, tackling two separate Teletubbies releases. The first deals with shapes, the second deals with exercise.
Look! Playful Patterns and Simple Shapes
Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po explore patterns and shapes throughout the exciting world of Teletubbyland, apparently having gotten bored of running around doing nothing.
The main feature of this disc is two new "Teletubbies Everywhere" segments—ten-minute segments where the Teletubbies literally bounce up and down in front of a solid color, while a sleepy narrator says things like "One, one, one, one, one, two, two, two, two," teaching children the invaluable skill of playing the "repeating everything someone says" game—a big hit at weddings.
Emphasis is placed on physical shapes and colors, as one can surmise, and since learning is stressed, so is repetition. The segments stretch on for what seems like an actual eternity, droning in the same voice over and over, pounding numbers into the children. The "Teletubbies Everywhere" segments are ridiculous, plain and simple.
Thankfully, they comprise the minority of the disc's content. The actual episodes of the television show are much more interesting—mainly because more is going on. The Teletubbies leave their vaguely spacecraft-esque home to dance in the meadow, count things like: each other, flowers, the rabbits, et cetera, play dress-up in front of a mirror, and other vaguely entertaining things. Live-action segments punctuate the show, showing various children dancing and (strangely) getting photos developed.
As exotic and entertaining as the Teletubbies is, or rather, would be, to a two-year old child, the quality of this disc is slightly less than its counterpart, reviewed below. The segments are slower and duller, and offer less entertainment value in exchange for a minimal of educational value.
The special feature on Look! Playful Patters and Simple Shapes is a featurette entitled "Little Bo Beep," in which the misspelled character of the same name visits Teletubbyland in search of her sheep (or is that beep?) in a visual feat of stop-motion animation unmatched since the heyday of Harryhausen himself.
After Little Bo Beep starts singing, stop-motion skeletons rise out of the ground and start attacking Little Bo Beep, to stop her from singing, I presume, and the sheep…well, it wasn't pretty.
But then I woke up, and shut the terrible segment off for good. Avoid it, because it stinks.
Go! Exercise with the Teletubbies
Exercise is important for children, and exercise can be fun! So claims the packaging for Go! Exercise with the Teletubbies, and as a critical reviewer, one can't simply pass over a statement like that and not take it to task.
So, in an effort to provide the most comprehensive, cohesive, and complete review that I can, I accepted the invitation to skip with Laa-Laa, dance with Dipsy, march with Tinky Winky, and crawl with Po. Darned if I wasn't going to sit around and watch a bunch of freaky creatures dance for me without getting in on the act.
"Heck," I said, "if a kid can do this, so can I."
How did the exercising go, you may ask? I'll let you know when my back slips into place again, and somebody shuts up that guy who keeps screaming i—oh, wait; that's me.
No, I'm okay. Really.
But seriously, the exercise is fairly mundane. The Teletubbies undulate and gyrate and do things like stand on one leg, fall over, giggling incessantly, stand up, and sit down while making farting noises, get commands barked at them by a giant metal speaker that grows out of the ground, hop up and down, and are rewarded by the sun, which has the face of a baby, who gives an appreciative baby squeal.
Not having any children, and probably being closer to one myself than I am to having one myself, I can appreciate the beauty of such a scheme. Exercising with the Teletubbies is a good idea—generations of children raised by television are going to need exercise, and it is a clever idea to use the same medium that hypnotizes them into sloth and apathy to get them to jump around and sweat off the baby fat.
Of course, having an image on screen that says, "take your kids to the park" would probably be as effective.
Still, the disc is relatively (and by "relatively," I mean, "adults need to be hella drunk") entertaining, offering a respectable level of entertainment. The disc is frighteningly repetitive, but then again, the show is frighteningly repetitive, and children like things that are repetitive. The disc is frighteningly repetitive, but then again, the show is frighteningly repetitive, and children like things that are repetitive. The d --
Sorry, I got stuck there. Watching this much Teletubbies can do that to a full-grown adult.
Two special features are included on Go! Exercise with the
Teletubbies; the first is a featurette of "Baton Twirling," which
is a small live-action video of a young squad of baton twirling girls, watched,
of course, on a Teletubby
The second, entitled "Supposed to be Asleep," chronicles the exciting adventures of the Teletubbies as they supposedly are asleep, but then shockingly, aren't. They get up to mischief like riding around on scooters, and their antics are narrated by a soothing-voiced fellow who sounds drugged, or at the very least, incredibly boring.
Now, to talk about the technical specifics of both discs:
In the Language Selection section, rather than choosing specific language tracks, one has the option of selecting between an American flag and a Canadian flag.
Now, being a Canadian, this confused me. At first, I thought the second option merely added the word "eh" to the end of every sentence, but in fact, this selects the original British audio track. The American selection plays the re-dubbed American voice version that aired on PBS, replacing the vaguely British accents with something slightly less vague.
The suggestion could be that Canadians are more British than Americans, and can understand British people better. Or, Canadian children are more inherently sophisticated, and like watching Fawlty Towers, drinking Earl Grey, and checking out Page 3 girls.
Or, maybe because we spell "grey" like "grey," and not "gray."
The video quality of both discs is excellent. Presented in their native full screen aspect ratio, the transfer from television to DVD is a pleasantly sharp and crisp one, with colors being exceptionally vivid and bright—the skies are an eerie shade of blue that would startle you tremendously if you ever went outside and saw the sky that particular color; the neon Teletubbies practically leap off the screen in terms of contrast. There are no visual defects to speak of—the discs look quite excellent.
The sound is also excellent, though there is some distinction between the American audio track and the Canadian/British track. The American track has clearly been remixed and punched up, with a nice tonal range, good bass, and dialogue emphasized. The Canadian/British audio track is slightly more subdued, slightly less bright, less bass, and slightly muddier dialogue. Still, the distinction is negligible for the most part, and both offer enjoyable presentations. Suffice it to say, children will certainly not complain—unless they are sophisticated Canadian children drinking Earl Grey tea.
Both discs offer a level of comparable quality. There is no distinct difference in production values or entertainment quality—it really depends if you want your children sitting quietly, learning about shapes, or hopping around on one leg, putting their heads through your new glass coffee table.
Were the court pressed into making a decision betwixt the two, go with Go! Exercise with the Teletubbies—the content is more entertaining, varied, and offers more in the way of supplementary material.
If your children are mesmerized by the Teletubbies, they offer unmatched value, completely occupying the attention of whatever carbon-based life form you place in front of your television. Possible alternative uses include rowdy pets and visiting mother-in-laws, but the packaging is deliberately vague on this issue.
In summation: excellent value is offered for parents wishing to occupy their children's time while providing a paltry level of intellectual stimulation and moderate level of hyperactivity. The DVD quality is excellent and the discs can be recommended with thumbs raised to both prospective and penny-pinching parents alike.
The court's final decision: that freaky baby sun sure scares me.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Look! Playful Patterns and Simple Shapes Extras: Little Bo Beep Featurette, Sneak Previews
Review content copyright © 2003 Adam Arseneau; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.