OK, I hate to sound like a conspiracy theory nut, but something is going on here. In my recent review for Jakers: Sheep on the Loose , I pointed out the travesty that is selective anthropomorphism. This occurs in fiction where some animals walk and talk like humans, while others don't. Well, just a few weeks later, it's happened again in the newly released Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas. Is this how we want our children being raised? Why should the pigs get to wear all of the clothes and live in houses? What is this world coming to?
Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas is based on a series of children's books by Holly Hobbie, who apparently shouldn't be confused with the doll of the same name. Toot and Puddle are pigs and best friends, who live together in a small house in Woodcock Pocket, an area near Boston. (?) They have very specific Christmas traditions, but this year is going to be different. Toot has been invited to visit his Great-Great Aunt Peg in Scotland, while Puddle will be visited by his niece Opal. The friends don't want to be separated at this special time of year, but Toot promises to be home by Christmas Eve.
When Toot arrives in Scotland, he's greeted by his Uncle Bertie and taken to see Aunt Peg, who lives in a castle. Toot is outfitted with a kilt and learns many interesting things about Scotland -- and he also meets a litter of puppies who can't talk! Meanwhile, Puddle and Opal, with some help from Tulip the Parrot, are decorating for Christmas. They've selected a Christmas tree, made ornaments, and put lights on the house. Now, Puddle just wishes that Toot would get home. But, as Christmas Eve approaches, the weather grows worse. Will Toot be able to keep his promise?
Selective anthropomorphism aside, Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas is a fun and harmless show for children. The animation is very well-done and there is a lot of attention to detail. (Although I did have trouble with the scene where it is snowing so hard it's difficult to tell what is happening.) The characters are somewhat stereotypical, but they each have their own unique characteristics, and more importantly, everyone is pleasant and appealing -- there's no villain here, as we often see in children's animation. There's a nice emphasis on family, friendship, and loyalty, most notably the relationship between Toot and Puddle and Toot's struggle to keep his promises. The show offers educational information about Scotland and touches on multi-culturalism, but does both in a subtle way, so as to not beat the viewer over the head.
But, keep in mind that Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas is aimed at pre-school aged children -- most likely ages 3-6 -- and the action in the production reflects this. Things move very slowly at times (this may seem counter-intuitive, as one would think that shows for youngsters would be fast paced, but many are often very slow) and there is often a lag time between dialogue and actions. The story is very basic -- two friends are separated at Christmas and want to be together again. SPOILER ALERT! However, there is never any undue drama here. We know that Toot will make it home and the movie never lets us...well the adults in the audience at least...think that anything else will happen. Some of the scenes, such as where Opal and Puddle make ornaments or when Puddle goes caroling, may seem boring to adults, but children should enjoy them. If nothing else, it's nice to have a movie which doesn't involve any violence, inappropriate behavior, or overly sassy characters. Even the young Opal is only slightly precocious.
Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas makes it safely through the door on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video and National Geographic. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as it's incredibly sharp and clear. The movie's somewhat slow nature makes for some scenes that are almost stills, and even these shots look great, with no video noise or stuttering of the image. The colors are not overly bright but they have a nice warm tone and look fine.
The Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas DVD sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track isn't overwhelming and won't serve as a demo track for your sound system, but it certainly gets the job done. The stereo effects are nicely placed, and there are some notable, if not overly soft, surround sound effects, such as the sound of a plane. But, I detected no discernible subwoofer action.
The DVD contains two extra features. There is a SING-A-LONG for Opal's rendition of "Over the River and Through the Woods". Secondly, "Toot's Trip to Scotland" offers voice-over narration which supplies facts about five famous locales and landmarks in Scotland.
I had heard of "Toot & Puddle", but wasn't familiar with them until viewing the Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas DVD. I found the pair to be charming, if not a tad subdued. But, again, this product is not aimed at me, and it passed with flying colors in the most important department: my daughters watched the entire movie and have since asked to watch it again.