Judge William Lee may be ready for some song and dance, but he'd better throw something over his gray skivvies.
Our reviews of Hot Potatoes! The Best Of The Wiggles (published July 1st, 2010), The Wiggles: Pop Go The Wiggles (published March 19th, 2008), and The Wiggles: Ukulele Baby (published August 28th, 2011) are also available.
Get your kids happily, healthfully dancing with The Wiggles!
The Wiggles are not merely a group of children's entertainers; they are an international phenomenon. Australia's highest-earning entertainers three years in a row, they have their own television show, have sold more than 17 million DVDs, continue to perform to sold-out crowds in various countries and now have a presence in amusement parks in Australia and the United States. Quite impressive for a foursome of middle-aged men in brightly colored skivvies (what they call skivvies in Australia, we call long-sleeve shirts in North America).
Formed in 1991 when three of the original members were studying early childhood education, the Wiggles connect with their preschool audience using light humor, simple songs with interesting lyrics, and lively dance steps. The supporting cast of characters includes a pirate named Captain Feathersword, Wags the Dog, Dorothy the Dinosaur, and Henry the Octopus.
The Wiggles: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing features twenty musical numbers performed by the quartet and special guests. The majority are original songs but they also cover variations on "Day-O (a.k.a. The Banana Boat Song," "(Are You Ready?) Do the Bus Stop," "La Bamba," and Duke Ellington's "The Mooche." The four Wiggles are enthusiastic performers with an infectious, friendly energy. Maintaining a constant connection with the viewer, they are always smiling and even when delivering lines to each other they are looking at the camera. In each of these songs there is a troupe of dancers who use a range of ballet, Spanish dance, disco, and contemporary moves to complement the scenes.
For each song-and-dance number the performers were shot in front of a green screen and the live-action elements are superimposed over bright CGI backdrops. The editing style is generally quick, though not frenetic, and some silly video effects spice things up too. There are a couple of numbers where the camera is more static; I enjoyed these moments more just for being able to enjoy the performances as a whole. Of course, I do not represent the intended audience for this DVD so I sat down to watch it with Kaitlyn, my 20-month-old niece, who instantly recognized the group she refers to as the "waa-goo" when the title screen came up.
The DVD held Kaitlyn's focused attention for about 25 minutes and after certain numbers, she called for a repeat of the song. During some of the more moderately paced scenes, she was inspired to get up and move her arms and legs in a rough approximation to the dancing on screen. However, she seemed a little stunned when the dancing or editing was too quick for her to follow the movements. I think the mix of music videos is meant to appeal to children at various stages of cognition so perhaps Kaitlyn will grow into those other numbers. Maybe she'll appreciate the mix of genres and pop culture references in later years.
Now for some grown-up talk which won't interest Kaitlyn at all. The whole program is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The bright colors of the costumes and backgrounds made my eyes tired after a few numbers. There is constant motion on-screen but the picture looks soft. As the actors are all superimposed over fake sets, you can easily see a sharp edge or halo around the performers. The soundtrack has a pleasing, strong surround mix. After a while it does feel like the program is a little "loud" as even the slower tracks sound fully produced.
Optional English subtitles accompany the program. There is also a second "sing-along" subtitle option that displays the lyrics to the songs one word at a time as they are sung. The most interesting extras on this DVD are two bonus episodes: "Henry the Octopus Visits Gawa" and "Henry Returns to Gawa." In these eight-minute segments, the purple octopus takes a trip to the small island of Gawa, north of Australia, to visit a Warramirri community where the children show Henry around their village. Other extras are: a photo gallery, a "Thank You Message from Anthony Wiggle" delivered in a text crawl, "Safety Tips For Around the House" and a promo for Wiggles World at Six Flags.
The Wiggles have the energy and enthusiasm to bring a smile to children, and parents could do a lot worse for kid-friendly entertainment. Any video that encourages kids to move is a good thing and the variety of musical numbers contained on this disc should translate into lots of future viewings. They do not pose a risk to the community so the Wiggles are free to go. Not guilty.
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