Help! Rescue Judge Gordon Sullivan from this DVD!
"The phone, the phone is ringing!"
For those not in the know, Wonder Pets is a Nick Jr. show that follows a team of baby animals (a chick, a hamster, and a turtle) who live in a classroom and have the job of rescuing animals whenever someone calls their big red (can) phone. Wonder Pets Join the Circus collects four episodes of this kids' show on one DVD:
• "Join the Circus"
For the children, Wonder Pets offers lots of solid lessons on friendship, loyalty, and hard work, much of it delivered in rhyming song. The three heroes have a variety of adventures and learn all about shapes, colors, numbers, and other bits of sound educationally appropriate stuff as the trio go about their business of rescuing other animals. Although the basic plots are fairly similar (get a call, rescue an animal), the variety of cute animals on display is sure to keep toddlers engrossed for the duration of each episode, while parents don't have to wonder about the appropriateness of the show's content.
For the adults, Wonder Pets is like a special kind of torture. I'm sure some parents are going to disagree with my assessment, but I stand by the claim that these episodes of Wonder Pets took years off my life. First, the show is created with "photo-puppetry," which means that still photos of our heroes are animated along with drawn backgrounds to create a sickening video effect. Imagine the crude animation of South Park with photos instead of drawings and you have an idea. I couldn't watch more than about 10 minutes at a time without getting sick. But the pain doesn't stop with the video. The voice acting is an overly cutesy, lisping affair for many of the characters, and the songs they sing couldn't get more banal. Between the twee voices and inane lyrics, I wanted to hit mute about once every 10 seconds—or every time the trio burst into song.
Although I can't say I ever want to be in the same room with the Wonder Pets again, I do have to give the show's creators credit for willingness to expand the boundaries of the show. The first episode, "Join the Circus," opens with a mini-existential crisis on the part of two of the Wonder Pets. Although they're happy rescuing animals, they long for another world, and joining the circus seems like the perfect solution. Never mind that they end up rescuing animals at the circus as well; at least they try to get away for a while. Also, the last episode is interesting because the trio is out to save a tree in the middle of the city instead of a cute baby animal. Highlighting the downside of urbanization is an interesting thing for a kids' show to tackle.
Despite the nausea-inducing animation style, the full-frame presentation of the show looks fine, with no compression or print difficulties. The audio reproduces the Pets' happy songs with no hiss or distortion. The one disappointment of this disc is the lack of bonus features. All we get is an extended "City Garden Rap" music video. Yes, the Pets rap. The less said about it, the better. While the lack of extras is great for me, I'm sure Wonder Pets fans would appreciate more.
For kids in the target age group, Wonder Pets Join the Circus is a fine way to learn valuable lessons about teamwork. For adults, the show represents 23 minutes in which you could be elsewhere. Not guilty.
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