I'm a little surprised that it took five decades for Gerald McBoing Boing to come back to us. The character, who cannot talk but instead communicates by sound effects, was created in 1950 by Dr. Seuss for a whimsical cartoon short that went on to win an Oscar. Three follow-up cartoons were made (including a final effort that experimented with the widescreen process), which then led to "The Gerald McBoing Boing Show," a series that featured not only Gerald but a handful of other UPA properties, such as Mr. Magoo, as well. That show lasted one season, Gerald would appear in two early-60s Magoo TV specials, and then… nothing.
In fact, for decades, the original Gerald cartoons were hard to find; only lately, with a DVD compilation (as well as an appearance in the special features corner of the "Hellboy" DVD), had the films become widely available again. Which is odd - Gerald is as delightful a character as has ever appeared in animation, and the cartoons are downright brilliant. But unlike so many other cartoon characters that kept coming back, Gerald never saw the slightest hint of a revival.
That's finally changed, thanks to the Cartoon Network's new morning line of shows aimed at a preschool audience (created in part to compete with rival kid-centric cable channels Noggin and Nick Jr.). "Gerald McBoing Boing" debuted in August 2005, and the new series - made up of ten-minute episodes that sail through its multiple vignettes at a rocket's pace - reveals a genuine affection for the source material. The animation, while updated with modern technology, retains the original films' basic, bold cartoon style. This is a design that lovingly screams "retro" in all the right ways; while junior's busy giggling at Gerald's antics, parents can wow to the lush color schemes and eye-catching character designs.
Each episode is a collage of skits and sound games presented with a rapid-fire editing designed to keep young viewers' attention, but, fortunately, without overdoing it. Several "Sound Check" games appear throughout, bite-sized nuggets that tune into tykes' playful nature as they first learn about what sounds go where in the world and the hmor that comes with mixing it all up. (Each Sound Check features, say, a duck mooing or a fly ribbitting.) A basic skit involving Gerald and his hapless dad and/or brilliant mom delivers some quick laughs, then it's off to the main attraction, an adventure that finds Gerald, his talking pals Janine and Jacob, and a dog named Burp playing within familiar fairy tales, or in outer space, etc. These segments are narrated in the same Seussian sing-song rhyme featured in the original film.
As preschooler entertainment goes, this new Gerald is simply wonderful, engaging children with a playful tone. It's designed for ages two and up, although even older kids who have outgrown guessing games like the Sound Checks will still find some giggles to be had - while parents will find plenty of smiles, too.
Sony Wonder has released two volumes of "Gerald" cartoons, compiled by theme. The title of "Gerald McBoing Boing Fairy Tales" is fairly self-explanatory, with gentle, enjoyable twists on Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and the like.
Included in this volume are the following episodes: "Ghosts, Owls, and an Evil Witch," "Hot Rod, Elevators, and Genie Meanie," "Hide-N-Seek, Escapes, and the Beanstalk," "Camping, Watchdogs, and Janinerella," "Tap-Dancing, Convertibles, and The Three Musketeers," and "Pinballs, Parks, and Princesses." A play all feature rolls through them all plus offers the series' opening and closing themes; selecting individual episodes omits the show's credits.
It's brand-new animation built around simple, bold colors and crisply designed characters; of course it's going to look amazing on DVD. Presented in the original 1.33:1 broadcast format.
The Dolby 2.0 stereo makes fine work of Gerald's aural talents. No subtitles are included.
"Your Own Personal Sound Check" is a very simple game, designed with toddlers in mind. (Click on a picture, hear the sound, that's about it.)
Included in the DVD's shrinkwrapping is a mini reprint of the Golden Book adaptation of the movie. The good news: it's a very cute book. The bad: Buy both "Gerald" DVDs, get stuck with two copies of the same book.
The sheer delight behind these cartoons combined with a bargain price is enough to make this one Recommended - with a bump up to Highly Recommended for those with preschoolers just entering the wonderful world of repeat viewing. Boing boing!