In 10 Words or Less
More imagination time with Maggie and friends
Loves: Animation, Noggin
Dislikes: Most kids programming
Hates: Hamilton's personality
The Story So Far...
"Maggie and the Ferocious Beast," an animated Canadian production based on a series of children's books by Michael Paraskevas and his mother Betty, has been a part of the Nickelodeon TV lineup for years, aimed at the networks' youngest audience members. Shout! Factory has released several collections of the show's episodes, following earlier, smaller sets from Sony. DVDTalk has a review of two of the previous releases: "Let's Go to the Beach" | "Recipes for Trouble"
Here's the thing... you could take the 12 stories from "Recipes for Trouble" and the 12 from this DVD, toss them up in the air and split them between two discs, and no one would know the difference. There's no ongoing storyline, no character growth, and no plot progression. You just take each 7-minute adventure at face value, and then move on to the next. The problem lies in reviewing two almost indistinguishable DVDs of the same show. What do you say when there's nothing much new to comment on?
Well, one might note the subtle differences, like certain characters who appear on this set, like Rudy the Spanish-fashioned mouse and Nedley, the rhyming rabbit. Or you could note odd things, like the absence of one of the Jelly Bean Team in "Nedley's Glasses." Where did he go? Why not show his solo adventure? Maybe he just was visiting family, though that would hardly be less exciting than some of the series' less inspired entries. Seriously, there's no wit or spark to this series, making it a struggle to sit through for anyone not wearing a diaper. There are times when a story is winding down that I caught myself wondering what just happened, because I lost all sense of the episode as my brain gave up on trying to keep me involved.
That said, my little girl, who's two, can sit and watch Maggie for episodes on end, and laugh her tiny tush off, mostly at the amusing antics of the Jelly Bean Team, who really are adorable. There's something about the colorful animation, high-pitched voices and simplistic stories that speaks to her, and she beams when she's watching them play. It's worth noting though, that she's much more involved when she's watching a show like "Yo Gabba Gabba" or "Dora the Explorer," where there's direct address imploring her to respond. This really is veg-out material, where she sits back and enjoys, instead of learning something. Because of that, my wife and I limit her "Maggie" time, especially with Maggie's pal Hamilton about, as his whiny act is grating and nothing we want our little girl to imitate.
Like the other disc I reviewed, you get a full four episodes here, comprised of 12 stories, which means enough variety to provide a few spins without becoming utterly repetitive. Much like looking at the sun, directly observing these episodes is not suggested for the adults out there. When you watch a story like "Rainy Day" or "Beastly Picture," it's hard to not think, "This is so predictable and so saccharine that there's no way someone could enjoy it." But then you see your kid's face light up at the goofiness and you learn to deal with it...for a little while at least.
This 12-story (three per episode) collection is a one-disc release, packed in a clear keepcase with a reversible cover. The DVD has a minimally animated full-frame menu with options to watch all the episodes, select individual stories or adjust the audio. Audio options include Dolby Digital 2.0 English and Spanish tracks. There are no subtitles and no closed captioning available.
Like the other recent release, the full-frame episodes on these discs look vivid and bright, capturing the show's candy-colored look well. The animation once again looks great, without any dirt or damage, and a nice level of detail, displaying the delicate "brush strokes" well. The only negative, like the other disc, is the pixelation along thin black lines.
The audio is a TV-standard Dolby Digital 2.0, and it sounds as good as one would expect from a moderately budgeted kids animated series, delivering clean dialogue and good-sounding music. There's nothing challenging or dynamic about the mix, but there never was on the show.
The only "extra" included is the reversible cover on the case, which has a black and white version of the art for kids to color.
The Bottom Line
I don't think I could say it much better than I did last time, so here it goes again: "Maggie and the Ferocious Beast" is a cute, innocuous show that's light on messages or educational value, but loaded with colorful fun images and silliness that little kids can enjoy. It's not going to be a show parents will want to sit through though, putting it a notch below other adult-friendly kids shows, like "Johnny & the Sprites" or "Jack's Big Music Show." The DVDs feature clean, solid presentation, but no real extras, though at 90 minutes, it's longer than most other kids disc, which is helpful in not driving parents nuts when faced with repeated viewings.
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.