In 10 Words or Less
A trip to see musical bunny puppets
Likes: "Jack's Big Music Show"
Dislikes: Most kids shows
It's not often that my little girl watches the Disney Channel, outside of the occasional episode of "Johnny and the Sprites," but we've taken a peek once in a while, especially when we saw a commercial for "Bunnytown." The design of the fuzzy little bunny puppets was instantly recognizable as the work of Spiffy Pictures, the creators of Noggin's "Jack's Big Music Show," easily one of our shared favorites for it's use of music. So if they had created something new, we would be there to check it out. It didn't make a big impact on us though, and we haven't returned to Bunnytown, but now it's getting a second chance.
For Noggin fans like my family, one of the big things we value about the channel is the educational value, which is even defined clearly on a series by series basis, by a screen preceding each episode. While some of the benefits boasted by these screens are a stretch, for the most part, the series offer something for kids to absorb (the exceptions stick out like a sore thumb.) "Bunnytown" would be one of those injured appendages, as it's hard to identify anything educational about it. In fact, it feels a lot like an old variety show, mixing live-action comedy sketches with full-on puppet musical numbers, and peppering in short, humorous puppet stories. The resulting show is loaded with momentum and fun, but it's one of those TV treats kids have to enjoy in moderation.
If there's no educational value in "Bunnytown," it's because it's packed to the rafters with joyful fun, especially when it comes to the music, which is fantastic and fully realized. The songs in "Jack's Big Music Show" are great and varied, but in the end, they are really good kids songs. The music in Bunnytown is straight-up pop, with memorable tunes like "Making Music" and the staples "Bunnytown Hop" and "Bunnytown Life." The comedy is also a bit more advanced than the usual kiddie stuff, with live action bits that recall Laurel and Hardy and Monty Python, along with some Muppets-worthy sketches like the silly "Cave Bunnies." The good thing is the cute, colorful and sometimes hyperactive bunny puppets make sure the littler viewers aren't left out of the fun.
Most kids shows tends to be a bit formulaic, but "Bunnytown" is a bit slavish in its devotion to form, to the point where Saturday Night Live feels spontaneous in comparison. You can probably set your watch to the appearance of the "Bunnytown Hop" or "Bunnytown Life" song segments, which, as far as I can tell, don't change from episode to episode, while you'll get three similar one-gag bits per show, like a farmer growing odd flowers or a trio of offbeat races. Running jokes are fine, but the repeats are a bit annoying, especially when it's not just the show's pillars, but the song "Making Music" appears twice here, and with just four episodes, that means it appears in half the shows.
A one-disc release, the DVD is packed in a white, single-width keepcase, inside an embossed slipcover, with an insert that lets you send for a free plush Bunnytown bunny. The disc can be viewed with FastPlay, which will just run through the disc item by item, or you can use the animated full-frame menu and choose to play all episodes, select shows, adjust languages, view extras or check out previews. Audio options include English and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English SDH (therefore no closed captioning.)
The full-frame transfers on these episodes look terrific, with a crisp image loaded with bright, vivid color and a high level of detail. The clarity of the image is so high you can even see the nearly invisible lines used to control the puppets. There are no noticeable issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts.
This is a is a kids TV series, so clean Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is all you really need to do the job right, and that's what this DVD has, presenting clear dialogue and strong music in the center-focused mix.
The first extra is a set-top game "It's That Time Again," where the user chooses the appropriate item from two presented on-screen (for nine questions total.) Even little kids would have a hard time screwing this one up. The other extra is "Bunny Dance," which overlays dance steps over the video for "Bunnytown Hop" or you can choose to watch a quick dance lesson. For kids who like to cut a rug, why not do it with adorable rabbit puppets?
There are 10 promos included also, if commercials are your thing.
The Bottom Line
There are enough empty calories for kids out there in TV land, that a show like "Bunnytown" is piling on a bit, but when the fluff is fluffed as well as it is here, it can be excused. The DVD looks and sounds fine, and offers up some minor extras, but as is usually the case with kids discs, you're only getting a short set of episodes, so your mileage will vary.
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.