I grew up watching Sesame Street as a kid. Later I moved on to the Muppets
and I still remember both shows fondly. Several years ago Elmo moved into Sesame
Street and I remember disliking him more than any character ever before. His
grating voice just rubbed me the wrong way. I vowed that I'd never let my kid(s)
watch him, when I have kids that is.
After watching Elmo's Wild West, I can't say that my attitude has completely
changed, but it's definitely the Sesame Street I remember as a child.
Elmo's Wild West is set up similar to an episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse.
Elmo lives in a computer generated set that has crayon renditions of all the
furniture and appliances. These all talk and interact with him as he chooses
what theme to explore that day.
As the Wild West is the theme, Elmo's dresses as a cowboy and various skits
with cowboy themes are show. The Noodle group (two men and a woman, including
Michael Jeter from The Green Mile) appear as cowboys trying to figure
out how to get on their horse. Marshal Grover and his horse appear to give Elmo
advice and Grover learns how to square dance. Also, a young Spanish girl is
shown saddling a horse and it's absolutely amazing. She's all of 8-10-years
old and she saddles and bridles the horse herself. You'd likely be hard pressed
to find many children that could do that now, seeing as the footage looks to
be old. These two skits were great and reminded me of the reason I watched Sesame
Street when I was a kid. There were the real sketches that followed kids and
their out of the ordinary experiences. I still find myself humming the "Me
and My Llama, Going to the Dentist Today" theme years later. Also, with
the exception of Snuffalupagus, Grover was one of my favorites and he was still
as funny as I remember.
The thing that still bothers me about the way Sesame Street and the
way some of the other children's programming has evolved. There seems to be
a feeling of condescension in them now. When watching the two extra skits included
on the DVD, Monster Clubhouse and Hero Guy, they both seemed more
silly and goofy than educational. I'm not expecting Shakespeare, but I feel
that children don't need to be talked down to in order to learn. Hear Guy has
an annoying habit of pronouncing his R's as W's, not something I'd want my young
child to learn.
Maybe I'm just getting older and maybe I'm getting grumpy, but I'd be hard
pressed to let my kids (when I have some) watch some of the stuff on TV now.
I know they're going to want to watch certain shows and I'll probably not be
able to stop that. But I'll definitely be following it up with some of the stuff
that I remember watching as a kid as well. I know that The Muppet Show
is available on DVD and the Baby Einstein series of DVDs that I've reviewed
also have several titles that educate your child and let them have fun without
looking down upon them.
Video: The video is a crisp and bright full frame 4:3 transfer. Evidently
it was made for TV and the computer production and audience that is be targeted
mean a brilliant, bright, and colorful transfer. There are a few areas of compression
and pixelation, but the kids aren't going to notice these things.
Audio: Elmo's Wild West is a stereo mix that comes across clean
and crisp. It's nothing impressive and it doesn't need to be.
Extras: There are several games that are available on the DVD. You can
dress Elmo as a cowboy and also pick the items that don't belong. Direct links
to the Monster's Clubhouse and Hero Guy episodes are also provided.
It's nothing lengthy or engaging, but young kids should enjoy it immensely.
Overall: It's not my favorite of the kids titles, but it not the worst
title out there, There are some classis skits from the old days of Sesame Street
on here and that alone is worth watching it for.