Judge Sandra Dozier isn't so good with the rhyming, but Oh! the Things you can Think Up, if only you'd give this live action children's show a try.
"Come on along, get up, and let's shout HOORAY, now!"
The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss is what you would call a crowd-pleaser, as long as your crowd is a bunch of three to eight-year-old kids with attention span issues. If you like The Muppet Show and appreciate the style of current children's shows like Blue's Clues, you will love The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, a live-action television show for kids that ran from 1996-1999. The Cat in the Hat himself is the host, and several characters from or inspired by the Seuss universe show up to give him a hand. Adults will be delighted by the positive, productive messages and the way the show will keep kids entertained for hours and through repeated viewings.
Facts of the Case
If having the Cat in the Hat as host isn't enough, he's got his own posse of little Cats (with letters on their hats and names like "Cat Z") to keep him company. Horton, that famous elephant with an ear for Whos, also visits with his son, and there's a nervous little bird named Terrence for kids to identify with. From time to time, other characters pop in an out, to help tell stories or just say hello.
Here are the episodes on this disc:
"The Cat in The Hat's First First-Day"
"The Cat in The Hat's Flower Power"
"Oh, The People You'll Meet"
The first thing I noticed was that this live-action show lacks all the sophisticated humor of the classic animated shorts and the original book—there is no merry prankster action and double-entendre for adults to giggle at. The second thing I noticed was that this is not at all a bad thing. WWDS is definitely for kids and all about kids, and it has a lot of fun with this idea. There are lots of characters, lots of color and action, and an effective blending of quality puppetry with computer animation to keep the stories fresh and engaging. Did I mention the songs? They're great—short, catchy, and easy for kids to sing along to. It really is a treat to watch a show that was made for the childrens market that so obviously was made with care and a lot of attention to detail.
There's actually a lot of science backing up the writing and pacing for each of these shows. To the untrained eye, the episodes appear repetitive and overly simple—not much happens…how are kids going to be entertained? However, recent research with young children has shown that this is the perfect recipe for keeping kids interested. Kids have active attention spans, and repetition doesn't seem monotonous to them (they wouldn't watch shows over and over if it did). The approach is very similar to the extremely successful Blues Clues series (which pioneered this "new" style), but WWDS tends to lean more toward a lot of action and fun gallivanting, which will tend to keep energy levels up—perfect for that before-nap crankiness.
Aside from a bare-bones DVD-ROM menu of web links and some previews for other DVDs, there are no extras on this volume. It really doesn't need any, since the episodes themselves are the draw (at least, for kids). The picture quality is crisp and vibrant, showing off the colorful set and characters, and the stereo soundtrack is clear and distinct, if not very lively. I am amazed at how consistent the voice actors are with these challenging characters—they are always on, bordering on manic in their enthusiasm, but not crazy enough to be a cliché of all-over-the-place acting that sometimes puts the fly in the soup of other kid-oriented works.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's really not much to say against this show, and it should come as no surprise to know that it was nominated for five Daytime Emmy Awards during its run. About the only thing that can be said is that this is not really a family show—it is aimed squarely at younger kids, so older children and adults may find watching a challenge. However, since young kids often want parents to watch with them once or twice, adults can take refuge in the idea that it is easy to blissfully zone out while watching with Junior, unlike with other children's entertainment that is not so forgiving.
One item of note: the episodes in the DVD releases are shown out of order, for some reason, so fans who bought the VHS series (released in broadcast order) may be a little confused by this set, or by the lack of volume numbers on the packaging to help them sort it out. However, if you are new to the series, don't worry about it—each episode stands on its own without relying on any backstory already established.
At an asking price of around $10-$13 for each volume of three episodes, the Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss series offers a lot of bang-for-your-buck. Kids will want to watch each episode repeated times to catch all of the action, listen to the songs, and sing along with the characters. With interesting, engaging stories that aren't at all preachy, kids can learn and have fun at the same time.
The cast and crew are found Not Guilty of sending parents into a purple rage over The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss.
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