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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jakers: Sheep on the Loose
Jakers: Sheep on the Loose
Paramount // Unrated // October 31, 2006
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted December 8, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Show

I've always been fascinated by anthropomorphism. I find the idea of animals acting like, dressing like, and talking like humans to be delightful and I've always been drawn to movies, books, or TV shows which feature this. (And anyone who's ever visited my house can tell you about how I love to make the cat talk!) However, my pet peeve is selective anthropomorphism. This is where some, but not all, of the animals act like people. What's up with that? I was dismayed to find this practice present in the PBS show Jakers!: The Adventures of Piggley Winks, a collection of which has come to DVD as Jakers!: Sheep on the Loose. (I was also dismayed to find that the show isn't affiliated with Piggly Wiggly, but that's another story.)

Each episode of Jakers!: The Adventures of Piggley Winks begins in the present, as Piggley (voiced by Peadar Lamb) tells a story to his grandchildren, Sean (voiced by ???), Seamus (voiced by Nika Futterman), and Meg (voiced by Melissa Disney). These stories are meant to teach a lesson and they all refer to Piggley's childhood in Ireland. The show then shifts to the time when Piggley (now voiced by Maile Flanagan) was 8 years old. Piggley live with his parents (voiced by Russi Taylor & Charles Alder ) and his sister Molly (voiced by Tara Strong). He loves to spend time with his best friends, Ferny the bull (voiced by Russi Taylor) and Dannan the duck (voiced by Tara Strong). While Piggley loves to play and have fun, each of his stories teach a valuable life lesson.

The Jakers!: Sheep on the Loose DVD contains four episodes of the show, which are as follows:

"Sheep on the Loose" -- Piggley wants to have more responsibility on the farm, so his father agrees to let him supervise the feeding of the sheep. Dad explains that the sheep's feeding area has been divided into four sections and that the sheep must be moved every few days, lest they get restless. Piggley decides that if moving the sheep every few days makes one a good shepherd, then moving them more often will make one a great shepherd! However, all of this movement confuses the sheep, and Wiley the sheep (voiced by Mel Brooks) runs away. Now Piggley must find a way to get the flock under control.

"Waking Thor" -- Ferny is very upset because his goldfish Thor has died. Piggley and Dannan, being children, don't really understand how grief works, so they try to make Ferny forget about Thor. They are then told about the traditions of Irish wakes. So, they gather all of Ferny's friends and classmates to have a wake for Thor.

"Donkeys Into Racehorses" -- Piggley's teacher, Mr. Hornsby (voiced by Charles Adler), teaches the children the proverb, "You can't make a racehorse out of a donkey." and asks each student to do a project which defines this saying. But Piggley feels that the expression is wrong and decides that he can turn his Dad's old donkey into a racehorse. So, with the aid of Ferny and Dannan, Piggley attempts to train old Finnegan to stop being a lazy donkey and start being a fast racehorse.

"Molly Had a Little Lamb" -- Molly is jealous of the fact that Piggley gets to tend to the sheep and groom Finnegan. So, she asks her parents if she can take care of one of the farm animals. Mom and Dad are reluctant at first, but they give in and let Molly have a small lamb. But, Molly soon learns that taking care of an animal isn't as easy as it look and the lamb gets into all kinds of trouble.

Finding the pros and cons of Jakers!: The Adventures of Piggley Winks wasn't difficult at all. The show is produced in what the DVD box calls "state-of-the-art CGI animation". Well, it's certainly not on par with the likes of Pixar, as it falls closer to (and slightly below) the work of Mainframe. The characters look fine and the colors are very good, but some elements lack in detail. The stories presented in the show are easy to follow and the lessons are clear but not overbearing.

The show is aimed at children aged roughly from pre-school to early elementary. This age group should like the way in which the show uses animals, the nice mixture of male and female characters, and the occasional slapstick comedy. The problem with Jakers!: The Adventures of Piggley Winks is that the episodes are too long for this age group. Most shows of this ilk are broken up into shorter (7-10 minutes) segment. But, each episode of Jakers!: The Adventures of Piggley Winks runs for about 23 minutes. This includes a lot of slow moments. Every episode contains strange cutaways to Wiley the sheep performing some odd task which has little to do with the story. My children appeared to enjoy the show, but after about 15 minutes, they began to get bored with it, as every episode in this collection dragged in the middle. I also had a problem with the "Waking Thor" episode. It's great that the other episodes teach about personal responsibility, but the death of a loved one and how to handle that grief is a subject which many parents would like to address themselves, instead of having a show with a talking pig do it.

Video
Jakers!: Sheep on the Loose plants a cloven hoof on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The episodes contained on this DVD have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and are 16 x 9. As someone who's reviewed a lot of kid's DVDs, I was very surprised by this. I do not know if the shows were transferred directly from a digital source, but I can tell you that they look good. The image shows no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image doesn't appear to be compressed or stretched. When character move very quickly, I did notice some video noise, but otherwise the transfer if very nice.

Audio

The DVD features a Dolby stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While I noted some occasional stereo effects, most of the audio emanates from the center channel. This wasn't spectacular, but it served the purposes of this program.

Extras

The DVD contains a few extras, some of which I'm assuming come from the broadcast version of the show. "Piggley's Storyteller Playhouse" is a live-action segment in which an adult tells a brief story to a group of children. There are four of these segments and they each run about 3 1/2 minutes. Similarly, "Meet the Grandparents" is a live action short where children ask their grandparents a question about their childhood. There are four of these on the disc and they last about 1 minute each. The final extra is a Read-Along story, "Rain, Rain Go Away."


So let me get this straight -- the pigs, cows, ducks, and one sheep can talk, but the donkeys, chickens, and the bulk of sheep can't. How does that work? Well, insane animal politics aside, Jakers!: The Adventures of Piggley Winks which will appeal to a certain audience. It has interesting stories, but will be too long for some viewers.
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