Little Einsteins: Race For Space:
It's been dawning on me that a lot of the things I review here for the kiddies (Bob The Builder, Miss Spider etc.) are merely somewhat comprehensible eye-candy for my tiny tot. However, the simple wiles of Baby Einstein videos have re-emerged as something that holds her attention tightly. Seeking the missing link, Little Einsteins appeared, and while it too is for an older, preschool-aged crowd, I can certainly see the appeal.
The Little Einsteins are Leo, June, Quincy and Annie, four bigheaded, large-eyed tykes who fly about in a rocket ship solving simple problems. Little Einsteins does two unique things, the program combines the standard Einsteins focus on classical music with a kid-friendly look at fine art. For instance, the kids will use musical cues from the William Tell Overture to navigate through the world searching for an animated sea that resembles a Japanese wood-block print. It's a pretty sweet way to get young ones exposed to something other than the lame blandishments of Hannah Montana. Along the way, The Einsteins are often gently menaced by Big Jet, a fairly militaristic-looking plane (not sure about the subtext there) perennially unable to get the best of the kids.
That's because viewers are encouraged to help the Einsteins by patting their tummies in an adagio tempo to help Rocket, their trusty vehicle, fly at the appropriate speed (and other such musical prompts) or to answer pertinent questions. I'd guess it's quite compelling to join along singing, clapping and helping the cute cartoon characters. And before they know it, I bet the kids have learned a thing or two!
Animated in a clever and visually stimulating way, Little Einsteins will probably hold even the squirmiest kid's attention. Flash-type animation and others mix with photo-collage-looking bits and animation that resembles whatever art the kids are looking at in the particular episode. And of course the Little Einsteins themselves are cheery, chirpy and appealing too. All of which makes for a groovy little learning DVD that doesn't need to parlay the usual 'storyline' to keep kids interested, just set up a simple problem and let young viewers 'help' and 'participate' with the characters to solve it.
As with all types of television watching, even Little Einsteins should be kept to a minimum - there's just no substitute for real life - but with such a potent blend of problem-solving, audio and visual stimulation (plus the usual inclusions of positivity, happiness and emphasis on being friendly) Little Einsteins is a program you can feel totally happy about occasionally including in your preschooler's activities.
The three Little Einsteins episodes and Game Time extra included on this disc are in the fullscreen broadcast ratio of 1.33:1. Crystal clear and sharp in presentation, with bright, vibrant colors, this looks great on any set, from High Definition to ratty old CRT. Two Bonus Shorts seem to be presented in widescreen, but it could be that I'm just developing a penchant for animated kids with heads that look like footballs (ala Stewie from Family Guy).
Dolby Digital Audio is also well-defined, nicely balanced between music and dialog, and shows no deficiencies.
Assorted Previews for other Disney releases accompany the three Little Einsteins episodes. Disney's Fast Play means you can pop the DVD into your player and pretty much kick back and relax without pressing any other buttons. The Game Time feature is an interactive game (be sure your kids know their way around your DVD remote, or play along with them - probably the best idea) that helps kids explore how different tempos move the music as they drive Rocket and other vehicles through locales featured in the episodes. Two Bonus Shorts from the Lou and Lou: Safety Patrol animation series are about three minutes each, and teach safety concepts in a goofy/snarky way kids will love, and of course then ask for a Lou and Lou DVD too, so watch out! French and Spanish Language Audio Tracks are also included.
Mixing creative, stimulating animation with catchy snippets of classical music and both musical and artistic concepts as a way to teach kids not only about all the aforementioned stuff but also problem-solving too might seem like a pretty full agenda, but the Little Einsteins do it with charm, likeability and wholesome grace to spare. My daughter is maybe 8-months to a year away from really utilizing this DVD to its full potential, but it's the front-runner for totally allowable TV in our house (until Super Why gets the digital treatment). Little Einsteins is Highly Recommended if you don't have cable and want something at the ready for when kids and parents need a TV-break. Now if they'd start giving us an economic break and pack a few more episodes on each disc I'd be really happy.
- 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