This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to frolicking in the summer sun. I hope your family is finding every opportunity to get outside and have fun. But I’ve got you covered when you need a video fix.
My video suggestions for this month are great for slumber parties, road trips and rainy day entertainment. The three productions show how a big dog, big deal company such as Disney can stay relevant, and also how underdog, independent companies contribute to quality viewing options.
So get ready to explore the world with Mickey, get down and funky with the Bzots and experience a new take on TV with Puppet News Network.
BZOTS GOTTA GET A GIG, not rated, December 2004, $9.99 DVD, www.bzots.com; ages 2-10.
Bzots are back. Here’s another robot-powered adventure with charm and personality to spare. The story is simple, but I can’t take my eyes off the weird and wonderful world of Bzots. The robots are once again in trouble with the boss of their factory. They want a new house, or in their lingo, a “fly crib.” While reaching this goal, the trio performs catchy tunes and is aided by the friendly townspeople of Phantburg. Bzots look like a cross between Monty Python and Barney. Younger kids will love the gadgets, vivid colors and silly songs. Older viewers will appreciate the hip robots—each with a vibrant personality—and a mean CEO worthy of Enron. The music is a mix of styles that all have one thing in common: fun. Look for this locally made production at Virgin Megastores or online.
Sylvia says: A. I like the happy feel and the tone. Don’t miss the DVD extra—it’s a break dancing lesson from Dave Bermudez.
MICKEY’S AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, not rated, March 2005, $14.99 VHS, $19.99 DVD, www.disneystore.go.com; ages 2-6.
This is the big name among this month’s selections and is the usual Disney re-take on a classic story. “Mickey’s Around the World in 80 Days” is part of the Disney Learning Adventure package, a series that deserves a new look. As Mickey travels around the world, youngsters are exposed to an educational and exciting journey.
I believe it is important to learn a few words in another language. This DVD gives your kids a start by teaching them how to greet and say goodbye in several languages. What makes this a vicarious vacation and a nice bit of summer education is the look into the homes and lives of people in faraway places.
Thanks to the high-quality Disney production, the DVD offers lots of extra features. I think it is a super value that will hold children’s attention even after repeated viewing.
Sylvia says: A. This is fun—and it’s a nice way to sneak in some education over the summer for youngsters heading to kindergarten this fall.
PUPPET NEWS NETWORK: BOOM, not rated, February 2005, $11.99 DVD, www.puppetnewsnetwork.com; ages 6-9.
TV news magazines have sprung up like mushrooms all over the dial, but you’ve never seen anything like this. Think “Dateline NBC”—or even the “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”—but replace the adult humans with cute puppet reporters and you have the basis for the Puppet News Network (PNN).
This TV crew ranges from a dragon to a firefly. CM, the dragon, is the Dan Rather of the network. I think he is a little creepy, but I love the Clam sisters; the tough interviewer, Great White Shark; and my favorite, the spunky intern, Flash Firefly.
This episode is the third in the series and it is all about Independence Day. It provides an accessible and fun look not only at history, but also at what it means to be a citizen—just in time for the Fourth of July.
My bias as a former TV producer may be showing, but I applaud seeing the newsroom as a setting for children’s programming since so much of their world will be impacted by TV. This is also an opportunity to teach young viewers about the role of TV news and the importance of choosing well rather than just turning off the tube.
Sylvia says: a big B. The production is not as awesome as this month’s other selections, but tight writing and useful lessons stand out on this award-winning DVD.
Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.