Merry Christmas Olivia:
Olivia is the weird looking girl pig from those children's books, but I'll assume you know that. I'll also assume that: A) you're familiar with the Olivia cartoon show from Nickelodeon, and B) that you like Olivia. As for myself, I've read my daughter some of the books, but was ignorant of facts 'A' and 'B' until picking up this disk, which packs four wintry tales from the Olivia show together with four more not-so-wintry tales, all about 10-minutes each. But wait, there's more! You get an additional bonus Olivia story about pirates! That's a lot of Olivia! And the majority of episodes don't have anything to do with Christmas!
Though the child enjoyed this disc, she expresses antipathy toward Olivia books. You can probably tell by my tone I'm even less of a fan. Olivia looks weird, for one thing - although she's slightly more palatable as a cartoon. I'm sure she must get up to more than we've seen in her board books, but she gets lost in the precocious girl-child crowd as a TV star. She's feisty, she's independent, and she takes charge, like any other six-dozen kindergarten-aged cartoon girls out there. As I'm a middle-aged man, I'll step down from my completely untenable soapbox now, but don't expect much more than faint praise.
Olivia presents a mostly positive role model, its animation is stylish and identical to creator Ian Falconer's art; and these gently-paced episodes are a fine antidote to any speedy, aggressive cartoons you may find, featuring Bratz or other such monstrosities. Yes, Olivia sports another kind-doofus for a father figure, but this is otherwise perfectly safe, inoffensive stuff. It's not terrifically educational, but I guess it's OK to not cram your kid's life full of nonstop learnin'.
Episodes included are:
Olivia Claus: Olivia's dog snatches her favorite stuffed monkey, (and just why does a pig have a dog for a pet?) leading her to fantasize about being a Santa who returns lost toys.
Olivia and the Family Photo: Hoping to shake things up for the annual Family Portrait, Olivia creates a little Christmas in July.
Olivia's Ice Spectacular: When 'Cinderella On Ice' is cancelled due to illness, Olivia creates a similar extravaganza in her own back yard.
Olivia's Snow Day: Whereas most kids would spend the day sledding and having snowball fights, Olivia uses a snow day to do a little investigative reporting, turning up none other than the Abominable Snowman.
Olivia Makes a Wedding Gift: Olivia's teacher makes the foolish mistake of inviting her entire class to her wedding. Olivia wants to give her a fabulous present, but will washing bikes for spare change give her enough dough?
Olivia and the Babies: When Olivia is forced to play babysitter for three little-'uns, she gains a tiny bit of insight into her own headstrong ways.
Olivia's Good Luck: Olivia and pig-nemesis Francine (or are they true friends?) get into a bit of a pig/girl-scout cookie selling competition.
I'm not enough of a scholar on media role models for young girls to understand what Olivia represents. Perhaps I'm over-thinking things. At any rate, somewhere between Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and Lindsey Lohan, resides Olivia. Olivia: plucky pig, precocious preschooler, star of a vaguely Christmas-themed DVD - 95 minutes of mild entertainment for your girl. (I challenge you to find a boy who likes Olivia.)
Olivia arrives in her Nickelodeon OAR of good old fullscreen 1.33:1 ratio, which was long ago formulated to fit the way TV screens used to look. The show's snappy animation looks just great; vibrant (but tasteful) color, sharp, crisp images and no aggravating authoring artifacts to enrage you. You certainly won't be disappointed by this disk's visual quality.
English Dolby Digital Stereo Audio sounds great too. It's mixed fine with mild music and chippy voice talent in perfect harmony. Nothing too active or exciting happens regarding stereo separation, but the kids probably aren't into that just yet.
Aside from Closed Captioning, the only extra offered is the previously mentioned Bonus Episode: "Olivia's Pirate Treasure".
I'm no fan of Olivia, but I thought my girl might like this disk. Since you're reading this review, you're probably in the same position. Should you buy this DVD for your child? You can certainly do a lot worse, while you can't deny that Olivia is an at least decent role model for little girls, and these chilled-out episodes are way less spastic than most modern cartoons - something that will stand your viewer in good stead when her contemporaries can't focus on anything for more than ten seconds. So, should you buy it? Why not? Recommended.
- 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