Judge Bryan Pope has been working on the railroad all the livelong day to bring you this review.
We're trainees. We're making tracks. Wheels to the rain! Clackety clack!
Chuggington, the British computer-animated program now making the morning rounds on Disney Junior, shares DNA with Bob the Builder, Handy Manny, and (of course) Thomas the Tank Engine. In other words, it's a visual marvel, with its rich, shiny, plastic-like design; but the characters aren't distinctive, and the stories aren't emotionally complex.
For the neophytes, a quick primer: Six young locomotives—cutely called "trainees"—learn the value of honesty, friendship, patience, etc, etc. while racing around the big, bustling metropolis of Chuggington, a city with an alarmingly small human populace (two notable exceptions this outing are Eddie the mechanic and Dr. Ling the scientist). This begs the same questions that spring to mind while watching Pixar's far superior Cars…but never mind.
Chuggington: Traintastic Adventures arrives with six shorts. In "Brewster Booster," Dr. Ling has trainee Brewster test out a new turbo booster, with mixed results. Zephie and Koko have jealousy issues following a makeover in "Koko's New Look." Brewster goes Hollywood and saves the day not once but twice in "Lights, Camera, Action Chugger" and "Stunt Brewster." Meanwhile, Wilson learns a lesson about teamwork, sportsmanship and chug-of-war in "Wilson and the Steam Team." Finally, Hodge gets off track thanks to a malfunctioning GPS device in "Hodge and the Chugnav."
The show is tailor-made for the short attention span of the average preschooler. Each ten-minute episode moves along briskly, bolstered by vibrant character design, and energetic soundtrack, and colorful busy backgrounds. If Chuggington lacks the storybook pastoral quality of Thomas' the Island of Sodor, at least its talking locomotives have moveable mouths, the absence of which has always been one of Thomas' creepier aspects.
Adults and older kids will likely grow bored after 15 minutes in Chuggington, making this less-than-stellar family viewing. It is, however, perfectly harmless fun for preschool-age children with enough teachable moments to make it worth the parent's hard-earned dime.
Chuggington: Traintastic Adventures is presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it looks wonderful. Colors are bold, the picture crisp. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is appropriate for this release. Music, dialogue and sound effects are nicely balanced for a pleasant listening experience.
Special features strike me as unnecessary, on a release geared toward such a young audience, but Anchor Bay has included a few. There's a bonus Badge Quest episode, "Emergency Emery," that's roughly half as long as a standard Chuggington episode. There are also a couple of "Chugger Spotlight" shorts that run a minute or so each. One highlights the derring-do of film star Action Chugger, while the other shines on twin engines Hoot and Toot.
If you have a computer with DVD-ROM drive handy, you can slip in the disc and print off coloring and activity sheets. This may sound like filler to some. Myself, I thought it quite cool. Or, rather, my child did, and that's what matters.
This court invites Pre-K children to hop aboard. All others are advised to
stand back and watch your toes while the train leaves the station.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Bonus Episode
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