Neighborhood Animals, World Animals
Review by Michael Jacobson
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Family Home Entertainment/Artisan
Features: See Review
Length: Neighborhood Animals 66 Minutes, World Animals 71 Minutes
Release Date: July 24, 2001
Programs **** (for young children)
With the Baby Dolittle series, the reputed Baby Einstein Company marks its first venture into the DVD medium, and they seem to be a good match for each other. Their first two disc titles, Neighborhood Animals and World Animals are remarkable programs aimed specifically at children from about 1-4 years of age. Both DVDs are colorful, musical, and help bring the animal world to life for wide-eyed youngsters with combinations of live footage, drawings, puppets, and other media.
Neighborhood Animals is a good starting disc, because it deals with animals your children may have already encountered, such as dogs and cats and other household pets, squirrels, farm animals, and so on. The program emphasizes the diversity of each animal, so if you happen to have a pet cocker, for example, your child will begin to appreciate that there are other kinds of dogs as well, and that they come in all shapes and sizes. Each animal is introduced by Pavlov the Dog, a puppet who starts the video segments by pulling on a chain. The repetition is something that will keep your child interested: they will recognize the chain at the beginning of each part and eagerly wait for Pavlov to pull it to see what happens next.
World Animals is a good follow up disc, taking the child out of the neighborhood and into the jungle, or the sea, or the desert to learn about animals in the wild. This program follows the same formula, so children will find this program a very comfortable fit after the first disc. Your curious child will more than likely be ready for his or her first trip to the zoo after seeing World Animals.
Both discs encourage parent participation. There is a minimal of spoken words during the program, other than sounding the animals names once or twice each. If you watch the videos with your kids, youll find plenty of opportunities for discussion you might want to talk about your own pets, for example, or encourage your child to draw some of the animals he or she liked (the programs include seeing crayon drawings come to life), or, as suggested, tell your child about your local zoo and plan for a trip.
Its necessary to emphasize that these programs are for very young children. They are not National Geographic programs that go into details about how the animals live, interact or such. The Baby Dolittle films are designed to introduce the animals to young children, to awaken their curiosity, and to open their young minds to the world around them. Both Neighborhood Animals and World Animals can serve to ease your child into learning. Best of all, unlike other programming aimed at small children like the Teletubbies, these videos arent designed with a commercial undercurrent to sell your child toys. All parents will appreciate that.
As scientific and psychological studies have confirmed, the very earliest years of childrens lives are the most crucial in terms of the development of their minds, and how they will process information for the rest of their lives. Most researchers agree that exposing young children to the right kind of positive stimuli can establish positive attitudes toward learning and inspire healthy curiosity. Thats what makes the Baby Dolittle programs special, because they were created and designed for that specific end. These discs will make worthwhile investments, and help introduce your kids to a world of learning that will be both fun and rewarding for them.
The video quality is passable, but you can tell these programs were created with videotape in mind and not DVD. There is some grain and some faint horizontal lines noticeable from time to time, particularly when the images are dark, but its not distracting, merely noticeable. The live action footage of the animals looks quite good, with bright vibrant colors and less grain. I have a hunch now that the Baby Einstein Company has experimented with its first DVDs that future ones will make better use of the formats capability for video quality.
These stereo soundtracks are perfectly fine, if unspectacular by nature. Most of the audio consists of renderings of classical pieces of music from the likes of Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov and others, and they sound quite good. Both discs are surprisingly loud, though, not only with music, but with the spoken words and sound effects.
The extras, like the programs, are designed for the little ones, and they include optional automatic replays for both the video and music segments. There are also interactive flash cards for you to use with your child, to help him or her learn to identify animals by sight and by their sounds. You can also opt to watch just the puppet show segments of the video with a click of the remote. Finally, if you have DVD ROM capabilities, the discs include printable coloring books.
The Baby Dolittle Neighborhood Animals and World Animals DVDs are programs you can share with your little ones and feel confident that theyre getting a positive and stimulating introduction to learning about the world of animals all around them, and not have to worry that your children are getting brainwashed into wanting the latest doll or toy. With entertaining video clips, puppetry, music, and drawings coming to life, young kids should be delighted by these programs, while being exposed to something positive and mindfully healthy at the same tame.