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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Recently, Disney added another title to its growing line of Baby Einstein DVDs with Baby Neptune. This disc follows the same formula as the others, with an emphasis on discovering water. Targeted at children ages 9 months and up, this 30-minute show features video clips of sea life, bathtub toys, rivers, lakes, and more set to the music of Handel, Telemann, Beethoven, and Strauss. Also on the disc are an on-screen aquarium, discovery cards, and a toy chest showing where to get the featured toys.
If you have the others in the collection, you may want to add this one. Just keep in mind that at 30 minutes, it is pretty short relative to some of the other Baby Einstein DVDs, so keep your eyes open for a good sale.
For some reason, I have never been a huge fan of the Disney Sing Along Songs videotapes. The video picture tends to be iffy, and the audio always seemed to be lacking. To top it off, you always had to fast forward to find the songs you liked, which is always a pain. And then I received the two new Sing Along DVDs.
I popped the DVDs into my player expecting the same relatively low production quality, but was pleasantly surprised by the animated and musically accompanied menus, children's activities, multiple languages, and the ability to directly select the songs my children or I wanted to hear. The chapter-skip ability is also a nice parental convenience feature over the old videotapes.
The first disc I took a look at was The Lion King - Circle of Life, which features 13 songs, including songs from Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Jungle Book 2, and Pinocchio. The video is a simple full-screen transfer, and the picture is good but not any noticeably better than what you would see on a videotape.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 (DD 5.1) surround sound, it is noticeably clearer and more enveloping than the old videotapes, but I think it also has to do with the age of the source material. For example, When You Wish Upon A Star from Pinocchio is not going to sound as dynamic in DD 5.1 as W-I-L-D from the recent theatrical release, Jungle Book 2. At the very least, it is nice that they made the effort to make the sound a bit more of a priority.
Additionally, you can listen to all of the songs in English, Spanish, or French. It was a bit funny watching my 4-year-old son watch the Spanish versions of the Jungle Book 2 songs, as the music sounded familiar, but they were, singing the wrong words! Finally, the vocabulary and rhythm activities, while of no particular interest to me, kept my son busy for a while, and proved to extend the time the disc spent in the DVD player.
As for the Sing A Song With Pooh Bear And Piglet Too disc, it, too, followed the same formula as the Lion King disc, and it met with the same youngster approval. This disc features 15 songs, all from one of the many movie and television incarnations of Pooh, including the upcoming theatrical release, Piglet's BIG Movie. The video and audio are similar to the other disc, but on this one, the songs are available in English and Spanish, and Italian instead of French.
For some good, clean parental fun, start up Heffalumps and Woozles in Italian and see what your children do. I got the funniest look from my son as he tried to figure out what in the world he was listening to. Spanish he somewhat recognizes, but Italian was just outside his zone of familiarity. It is also fun just to listen to Pooh sing in Italian for some odd reason. Why did Disney include Italian on this disc and not French? I am not sure, but it is definitely something different.
Compared to the rest of Disney's DVD lineup, these discs have a somewhat limited audience, but the variety of songs and the convenience of DVD make these more appealing than they once did. My children enjoy the combination of music and familiar animated characters, and these discs cater to that demographic. As a parent, I also enjoy having the value-added material over the videotapes. Then there are those of you who do not want to have to sit through an entire feature film to enjoy a few of your favorite songs, and these discs may be a relatively inexpensive solution. Fortunately, they are priced lower than other Disney DVDs, so you should be able to find them for about $15, which is about the same as a music CD but with quite a bit more content.
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