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|Kevin Krock, editor|
I would guess that most children and parents have had at least casual contact with the Teletubbies over the last few years, either through media reports, public television, videotapes, or the toy store. Imported from British television, the show stars four brightly colored main characters named Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, and it features them having fun in a peaceful, friendly environment and strengthening the language and cognitive skills of the preschool viewers through various activities. It is a show created specifically for children from babies to preschoolers, and while a bit odd to adults, children around the world love it.
The Teletubbies TV shows have been released on VHS tapes for a while, but this is the first Teletubbies DVD release. The main portion of the disc is essentially a 70-minute long Teletubbies TV show featuring baby animals. Over the course of the show, the four Teletubbies are shown caring for a little lamb, a butterfly, and a dog. There are also four live- action vignettes featuring children around the world watching and playing with puppies, elephants, swans and penguins.
The variety of animals helps keep children’s interest, and the pacing of the show is such that each section is just about the right length to keep a child’s attention. They probably will not sit through all 70 minutes in one sitting, but there is enough interesting material to keep them watching for a while.
The disc has a somewhat interesting mix of extras for both parents and children. For the adults, there is a short but interesting interview with the creators of the Teletubbies, Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport. It has the two of them discussing the show’s curricular areas, such as movement, patterns, language, music, etc. If you are not familiar with a baby’s or preschooler’s educational capacity, the interview is a nice introduction to why this show is so popular with children. The other advertised "parent and caregiver" bonus feature is a series of scenes from other Teletubbies home videos. It is not really much of a bonus feature, but I guess if you are looking to buy the other tapes, it might help you narrow your choices.
For the children, there are a couple of bonuses to mention. First, there are four additional live- action sections totaling about 15 minutes worth of video on a newborn calf, lambs, piglets and chicks. The animals are shown interacting with the children helping to raise them on the farm, helping young viewers get a sense of the size and demeanor of several common farm animals.
The second bonus feature is a brief musical montage of the Teletubbyland rabbits, and at less than five minutes, perfect for a baby or toddler. Also available is a menu screen that allows a viewer to select from five favorite show scenes. Overall, the disc does not contain a ton of bonus material for either adults or children, but the approximately 39 minutes of material is considerably more than what you would get on the VHS tape.
The Video, Audio and Interface
There is not a lot to say about the video or audio except they are quite acceptable for the intended audience. The video is clean, and the colors are vibrant throughout the disc. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 (stereo) audio is more than enough for most toddlers. The main advantage of the DVD over the VHS tape, in this case, is the long lasting quality of these aspects of the show. Videotapes eventually degrade, and both the video and audio can become muddled and distorted. On the other hand, a DVD will reproduce a virtually perfect signal for years.
The standout feature of this disc is the user interface. Every screen has both upbeat music from the show and some degree of animation. A cute animated cut scene featuring the spinning pinwheel follows every menu selection. The text is easy to read, and the menu selections are simple. Everyone in the family, with the obvious exception of babies and toddlers, should be able to navigate this disc. I was glad to see such a fun interface on a children’s title, and I hope the folks at PBS Home Video, itsy bitsy Entertainment, and Ragdoll continue the good work on future releases.
The Final Evaluation
If you have preschoolers and they enjoy the Teletubbies, this disc is definitely worth looking at, especially if you are considering buying the VHS tape. The long lasting quality of the video and audio combined with the excellent user interface and bonus material make the DVD a pretty good deal at $15 - $20.
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