In 10 Words or Less
Kids goofing off, singing, dancing and playing pretend
Loves: Animation, Noggin
Dislikes: Most kids programming
The Story So Far...
The Backyardigans are five animal-children (Austin the Kangaroo, Pablo the Penguin, Tyrone the Moose, Tasha the Hippo and Uniqua...the Uniqua) who share a backyard due to the positions of their families' homes and who play pretend, imagining grand adventures for episodes that air on Nickelodeon and Noggin. There have been 12 random episode collections released on DVD, including "Cave Party," which was reviewed by DVDTalk.
The Backyardigans concept is so simple that it's surprising it's taken so long to come to TV: a group of kids who get together and play make-believe. Of course, these kids, who are all anthropomorphic animals, have incredible imaginations, so their pretend play is as vivid as any movie, resulting in big adventures that take them far beyond the backyard they all eventually return to for snacks.
There's actually a lot I don't like about the series, especially the attitudes oft displayed by Uniqua and Tasha, an insect and a hippo respectively. To put it clearly, it would not be surprising to hear them yell "Oh no you didn't," as They are bitches with a capital B. But what's even more annoying is the lack of episodes of this series, since it enthralls my daughter. As a result, I've seen each show about 20 or 30 times. Thankfully, with "High Flying Adventures," we now have four new episodes, complete with new opening titles, for me to quickly burn-out on.
Once again, Austin fans get left out in the cold (he's not even on the cover) as the four episodes focus on the core four 'Yardigans (though Austin does get screentime in "Who Goes There?") The Uniqua lovefest starts in "Fly Girl," as she serves as a pilot/singing telegram girl, traveling around the world, including a visit to an annoyed queen (naturally portrayed by Tasha.) Each episode of the show has its own unique musical theme, and for this one it's an era-appropriate Fifties feel.
"Who Goes There?" And "What's Bugging You?" Are more traditional episodes, with lots of running around and yelling. "Who Goes There?" Positions Austin, Pablo and Uniqua as museum art that comes to life at night, while Tyrone has to try and keep order to a flamenco beat. "What's Bugging You?" Is a sillier story, as Lady Tasha (of course) desperately wants into an exclusive spiffy club, but as to hire Uniqua and Tyrone to solve her rumba-backed pest problem first. Slapstick is the key to the comedy, as all seems hopeless for the heroes, but things have a way of working out before cookie-time.
The final episode, "Chichen-Itza Pizza," is probably my favorite, because, for once, the girls are getting the short-end of the stick, serving as pizza-deliverers for a demanding Tyrone, who lives in a Mexican pyramid deep in the jungle. The music choice is a bit unusual this time, as college fight songs and marches don't seem to jive with the Mexican setting, but its catchy anyway, while the lush environment is beautifully rendered in CGI animation that raises the bar for the series.
I could tell you what I thought of the four stories, but my view of the simplistic stories and predictable dialogue doesn't really speak for the disc's target audience. That my daughter watched the four episodes back to back to back to back and happily hummed along is all that really matters. I just feel bad for Austin, and wish the two girls would cut out the attitude. It'd be a lot easier to sit through this show then.
A one-disc release, this DVD is packed in a standard keepcase, and features a static full-frame menu with options to watch all episodes, pick individual shows and check out the extras. There are no audio options, and no subtitles, though the episodes do have closed captioning.
The full-frame episode transfers look excellent, with vivid colors, capturing the bright look of the main characters, an overall sharp and detailed image and no noticeable dirt, damage or compression artifacts. Considering how most kid-targeted computer animation looks, this series is just great.
The audio is presented as a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, which is simple as pie, focusing mainly on clean dialogue and appropriate separation between music and speech, as there's nothing dynamic about the mix, befitting a kids cartoon.
The extras aren't all that extra on this DVD, as they are limited to two "music videos," which are just clips from the episodes on this disc, and a few previews. I can't imagine why'd you watch just the two songs, instead of the episodes they came from.
The Bottom Line
It's easy to see why kids enjoy "The Backyardigans," with such cute, colorful stars; catchy, bubbly music; and an easily relatable concept. But while the variety of musical style, focus on imagination and willingness to use big words is admirable, there are some negative role models at play here, which couldaggravate parents as much as it entertains kids. The DVDs are basic in most every way, so you're mainly getting this as insurance against a cable outage or as a travel aide. There are better options out there though.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.