In 10 Words or Less
The letters gang up and form words
Likes: Leap Frog's educational toys
Dislikes: Simplistic kids DVDs
Hates: Getting little content
The Story So Far...
Leap Frog has built an impressive empire of educational toy offerings, adding fun to learning via various handheld and laptop units, and have expanded to include non-interactive material, using the characters from its traditional products in DVDs. A series of titles were released starting in 2003, and reissues have started in 2009. DVDTalk has a review of the May 2009 re-release of Letter Factory.
In Letter Factory Little Tad's dad, who runs a factory that creates talking letters, sold a major new client on his product, with help from Tad's brother Leap and sister Lilly, while Tad learned about letter sounds, with the help of eccentric Professor Quigley. This disc brings back that demanding customer, Mr. Websley, who brings in a massive order he needs the same day. Thus, it's back to the factory, for more face time with Professor Quigley, who has to help produce the massive amount of words needed to fill the Websley order. Along the way, there's some learning to do, as Tad is trying to complete an entry for a Best Dad contest, and needs words to fill in the blanks.
Professor Quigley shows the kids his Word Whammer 3000, which lets him call up letters from the factory's supplies to create words. The good Professor utilizes songs and rhymes to teach the froggy fellows, like a song that indicates the vowels are the glue of English, while the factory coats them in sticky substances like honey, peanut butter and bubble gum. It's certainly cute, and very easy to follow, as they build words that sound similar, like "pop" and "stop," and talk about blending sounds, like "st" in "best" or "step." The only thing hard to follow is the oddness of the blending song, where Prof. Quigley dresses like a mid-'70s Elton John to teach the kids about mixing sounds.
Like last time, the only thing that doesn't impress about this DVD is how short it is, clocking in at just over a half-hour in length. But also like last time, with all the repetition, any more of the same would just be too much. As they go over theconstruction of words like "pin," "cat" and "set" and so forth and so on, you start to say "I get the point." "P-O-I-N-T." But it wasn't just the person in the room with a functioning grasp of the English language. My little girl quickly lost interest in the words being discussed, despite theintroduction of the "Sound Slide." She's demanding when it comes to edutainment.
A one-disc release packaged in a green, single-width keepcase, the DVD features an animated full-frame menu, with options to watch the show, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The full-frame animation looks pretty nice, sporting bright, vibrant colors and a clean image, free of any dirt, damage or digital artifacts. The only obvious negative is the usual DVD issue with pixilation along thin black lines.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is the simple center-focused presentation you'd expect from a kids show, with clean, distortion-free dialogue and solid music.
The only real extra included is an alphabet game similar to the one on the previous release. All of the letters are displayed, and the user chooses a letter to fill out a word, based on a verbal clue given. Like last time, it's a cute little game and offers enough gameplay to make it worth a look for most kids.
Also included on this disc are a handful of promos for other Leap Frog and Lionsgate products.
The Bottom Line
If you haven't checked out the previous disc (or more specifically, if you haven't shown it to your kids, this isn't the place to start, as it builds off the ideas in Letter Factory,particularly the characters and the letters (including their sounds and personalities .) The disc does a good job of getting across the idea of combining sounds to make words, but it involves a good deal of repetition and lasts only a bit more than a half-hour. The quality is certainly fine, and the one limited extra is solid, but the small amount of content should give purchasers pause.
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.