Little Einsteins: Flight of the Instrument Fairies:
The Little Einsteins are back for another DVD of fun and adventure perfect for preschoolers who want that something extra from their video entertainment. No Saturday morning slouches are these Einsteins - though their existence does serve to generate revenue for Disney through DVD and merchandise sales - these kids are here to teach, and not just hawk cereal. Where plenty of cartoons adopt an arch stance meant to dazzle young ones while making their parents marvel at hip pop-culture references, Little Einsteins tout the virtues of classical music and art, even while acting silly. Parents searching for some safe television viewing for their children can hardly do better than to have some moderately employed Einsteins on hand.
The Little Einsteins are a quartet of preschool-aged kids, ranging from four-year-old singer Annie through five-year-old musician Quincy, to six-year-olds Leo and June (a conductor and dancer respectively). From their clubhouse they are called to various adventures, aided by their magical vehicle Rocket - and Rocket's handy look-and-listen-scope - and often vexed by Big Jet. Using musical cues and iconic classic art images (which can be as up-to-date as Warhol lithographs) the Einsteins urge viewers to help them solve problems. Songs are sung to help Rocket fly or transform into other types of vehicles, patting and clapping combinations move things along, dancing gets kids off of their duffs, and art provides clues and motivations to solve problems. It's a heady mix that goes down easy when delivered by these cute, enthusiastic moppets.
Flight of the Instrument Fairies presents four fairy-tale themed stories, with the Instrument Fairies themselves being the most incongruous. (It must be a bit of work figuring out how to thematically package these discs.) An Instrument Fairy leads the Einsteins up North to free his comrades so that they might continue to create the beautiful Aurora Borealis. Next, The Puppet Princess has June literally take the lead as she helps three lost marionettes find their theater troupe. June is in focus again during The Glass Slipper Ball, as she must make it to the palace, try on the slipper, and teach us all to dance. She even teaches Rocket to dance, which is extra fun for kids to watch. Saving the best for last, we get Little Red Rockethood, as Rocket and crew attempt to get some yummy treats to Rocket's grandmother without Big Jet intervening. I know I've been totally sold over to the Little Einsteins as I was quite tickled to see Rocket's purple Rocket Grandmother.
At 22-minutes a pop, these stories push the limit of how long the super young should stare at the tube in one 'sitting,' and with their episodic, task-driven nature, they are light on narrative. Of course kids that age don't need much more narrative than "let's break the fairies out of the ice cave" anyway, but parents may find their patience stretched the second or third time around. On the plus side, the educational, participatory aspect of these cartoons is excellent, and with their unique flash-animation/ collage style, full of cute characters, realistic-looking animals and backgrounds, and lively music, they are a feast for anyone's eyes. The Little Einsteins are something like pure genius.
Flight of the Instrument Fairies is presented in the episodes' original TV broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colors are bright and vibrant, while the image is clear and very sharp. Image quality is as good as or better (depending on your set-up) than when originally broadcast. Some aliasing on sharp straight or curved edges, and edge-enhancement are the only image problems you might notice, but your kids won't mind.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is your audio option, (French and Spanish Mono Audio is there too) and it sounds fine. All elements are mixed nicely, so that dialog and music aren't fighting with each other, and sound effects don't seem excessively loud when compared to everything else. Dynamic range isn't incredibly broad, though this isn't exactly the type of disc you put in to test your home-theater speakers.
French and Spanish Audio Tracks are available, as well as English Subtitles. You can Register Your DVD for free replacement of a damaged disc, and for other notifications, plus get Sneak Peeks at five other Disney DVD releases for kids. Lastly there is a Game Time: Music Mix-Up feature with two difficulty levels, in which you match sounds to the proper instruments that played them. It should provide a few extra minutes of fun and learning.
Little Einsteins is a great viewing option for preschool-aged kids, for when their caretakers need a few free moments. Educational, involving and entertaining (a combination more rare than you might think) the Flight of the Instrument Fairies is a sure bet for the kids' DVD shelf. In the past I've thought that some kids' DVD releases were a bit light in terms of run-time, with some being only 40-minutes long. Not a problem here, with over 90 minutes of fun, you've got a few rainy afternoons covered, and at that, this is Highly Recommended for the proper crowd.
- 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