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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Of the profuse number of animated television shows that pervade network, cable, and satellite programming today, there are relatively few that I, as an adult, can stand to watch with my preschooler. One of the more enjoyable and educational ones is Stanley. Stanley is a curious little boy who loves animals and loves to take his friends and viewers on wonderfully fun and educational jaunts into his Great Big Book of Everything. The animation is simple, bright, and colorful, and the characters are easy for preschoolers to relate to. For the adults, the educational aspect is a definite plus, and the stories are enjoyable and interesting enough to prevent the show from grating too much on your nerves.
Each episode uses a particular animal to teach an everyday life lesson that preschoolers can relate to. For example, in one show Stanley needs to clean his room, and he tries to figure out the best way to go about doing that. After thinking about it for a while, he thinks about how useful it would be if he had a pouch to put things in while he picks up the room. This leads Stanley and his friend Dennis the goldfish to explore kangaroos in Great Big Book of Everything, and while inside the book, they learn all sorts of facts about kangaroos like how they use their pouches.
After learning all about kangaroos, Stanley decides to tie a pillowcase to himself to help him clean his room, and he quickly cleans his room by hopping around and stuffing his pouch full of toys. Children watching the show learn about creative problemsolving, the relationship between animals and humans, animal habitats and behaviors, and the lessons we can learn from animals.
Each disc contains four stories, and each story is about 11 minutes long. Hop To It contains stories featuring kangaroos, ants, sloths, and anteaters. Spring Fever features groundhogs, caterpillars, butterflies, and bluebirds.
Since the titles are targeted for preschoolers, the bonus material is limited and specifically for children. The music video is just a music video, but my 4½yearold son really enjoys the Great Big Book of Everything activity, which asks questions about several pictured animals. The viewer selects which animal corresponds to the question, then a brief video clip is played that provides some information about the animal. It is not much for adults, but it keeps the children busy for a little while.
The Video, Audio and Interface
The video and audio are nothing more than what you get from cable or satellite, so there is nothing surprising or special there. The interface is nicely done, with character animation and instructional narration. This makes it easy, with a little practice, for your youngsters to navigate the menus and participate in the activities.
The Final Evaluation
If you have a preschooler who loves either Stanley or animals, these discs warrant your consideration. The shows are smart and entertaining, and the contents make learning fun. Granted, you can catch Stanley on the Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney block, but I have to admit, having the convenience of being able to randomly pick episodes makes the discs a better choice than VHS anytime. Additionally, they are priced lower than most other Disney DVDs ($19.99 SRP), so even though the discs are relatively short (46 minutes) and are a bit low on bonus material, they are still a pretty decent deal.
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