Toddworld, Vol.1: Being an Individual:
My 17-month-old and I love us some Todd Parr. The books at least. Ok, well, we like them and have two, so we jumped at the chance to get a look at Parr's animated series for the Discovery Kids Channel, Toddworld. As an aside, I should remember that this is my reviewing gig, not F-dog's, (the kid) and that ultimately it is I who makes the decisions. That said, Toddworld is pretty neat, but it sure isn't like the cartoons I remember from growing up.
Todd Parr started out as a fine artist, struggling until he managed to turn his creative talents toward product design, children's clothes, and then children's books, for which he is probably best known. The books inevitably spun off into a cartoon television series featuring his super-colorful kids, dogs and worms. Parr's style is reminiscent of Keith Haring, and his message is loud and clear, as shown in the title for Volume 1; being an individual and doing your own thing is A-OK!
Designed for preschoolers, most of Toddworld is lost on F-dog, who snuggles in her mom's arms, nursing a cold. Six 12-minute episodes sweetly and smartly hammer home the life lessons. Princess Pirate lets the tots know it's OK to act however they like, rough and tumble or girly and gentle, and that each gender type, if you will, has its own set of plusses. Dirt Day clears up any confusion the recently potty-trained might have about honoring all types of holidays. The collection is rounded out with Bark Like a Cat, Underwear Everywhere, Whatever Sways Your Swing, and Big Feet for just over an hour of fun.
As pedantic as Toddworld may seem, it's never heavy-handed and always light, fun and entertaining, even for the adults - at least on first viewing. Parr's ultra-saturated, mostly primary color scheme - kids have blue, green or yellow faces, for instance - matches the sweet air of matter-of-fact silliness that makes these little stories so refreshing. For instance, Underwear Everywhere follows the kids varying reasons for wearing underwear on their heads. Great stuff for a three-year-old!
Toddworld is presented in its original broadcast ratio, which sure looks like 1.33:1 to me. Animation isn't what it used to be though! No cells and paint now, just Flash animation (at least Toddworld is Flash) with its telltale vector graphics smoothness and scalability, thin lines are just thick lines scaled down, and vice-versa. Colors are ultra-bright - Flash animation and HDTV is a match made in heaven, even if I'm not looking through an HD DVD player or HDMI cable!
Dolby Digital Stereo audio is what you get, in English. It's clear, strong and seamless, but not flashy. I doubt the toddlers would appreciate advanced 3d home theater sound anyway.
Not only do you get six episodes of Toddworld, you can Meet The Gang, watching a static shot of one of six characters while the Todd character tells you what is special about them for about 20-seconds each. A fun (on a limited scale) interactive extra is Stella's Room, in which you can choose from three options on three different screens to decorate Stella's room. It gives you way more combinations than you'd think. The wife and I enjoyed it! There is a bonus 12-minute episode of Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks, a Pixar-styled CGI story about a monster truck who is scared to race. Way less interesting than Toddworld and a weird fit in general. For our money the best extra consists of three one-minute Karaoke Sing-A-Long songs that aren't too treacle-y and not too catchy either, so it will take the kiddies a few times to learn the songs. F-dog seemed to love this part, gleefully making the sign for 'more' and wiggling her shoulders after each video ended.
Toddworld will probably enthrall your 'Todd-ler' with bright colors, kid-styled silliness and eaaasy to follow stories. Meanwhile, it will teach them to have fun with the polka-dotted, three-eyed alien down the street and not think twice about it. It seems strange to me to expect or ask cartoons to teach kids life lessons, but someone's gotta do it, right? And Todd Parr seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Maybe the adults watching along can learn a thing or two also. If you have a toddler and the desire to carve a few stress free minutes from your day by plunking the kid down in front of the tube, I can Highly Recommend Toddworld, with lots of kid-friendly, adult-safe replay value.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com