In 10 Words or Less
The "muppet" version of Dr. Seuss
Loves: Most of Dr. Seuss' books
Likes: Muppets, Stephanie D'Abruzzo
Dislikes: Most kids shows
Hates: Rhyme-less Seuss
The Story So Far...
Originally airing between 1996 and 2001 as part of the Nick Jr. line-up, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss put the beloved characters and ideas of the legendary kids author Dr. Seuss in the hands of the merry-makers of Jim Henson Television, resulting in a show that sported a look that was a beautiful blend of both creators' signature styles, with Seuss-inspired, but very Muppety puppets taking over for the frequently animated Seuss creations. There have been several small-scale DVD releases over the years, and DVDTalk has a review of one early release.
Though the packaging positions this DVD as a Halloween release, there's nothing directly related to that dark holiday, with the closest connection being the theme of fear at the center of two of the three episodes (with some scary stuff happening in the third.) Instead, you get a couple of moralistic fables and a story involving everyone's favorite Seussian villain, the Grinch, giving you a chance to see what he's up to when he's not stealing Christian holidays (because no one I know has ever seen Halloween Is Grinch Night or The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat.) It'd be easy to be annoyed by this false theme, but by not sticking to it at all, it somewhat makes it better.
The three episodes included on this disc are from the show's two seasons (two from the first season, one from the second.) Rarely has a show ever changed so dramatically between seasons while still remaining the same series. The first episode is from the second season, where the show was lightened up, integrating the Cat in the Hat with the show's stories, in this case making him a part of the story, while also changing his voice to something a touch friendlier. The resulting feel (and this episode) aren't particularly better than what came before, though if you like the Cat in the Hat and his army of smaller Cats in Hats (labeled from A to Z) this is much more likely to entertain, as he's far more involved with the show. That this one also features the Grinch (who looks far more adorable as a puppet than he probably should) makes it a definite keeper, as the Grinch gets his comeuppance for scaring the natives of Seussville.
The other two episodes are from the first season, where the Cat in the Hat served only as the host of the show, introducing the episode's story and then popping up in bumpers before and after commercials. The stars of the show are very much Seuss celebrities, with Yertle the Turtle taking the lead in "The Blag-Bludder Beast," while Norval the Goldfish (from The Cat in the Hat) is the center of "Norval the Great." These stories are more about lessons learned, with Yertle fooling people into thinking he's brave and Norval's owner spinning tall tales about his adventures, and it's easy to see where they are going. Unlike Seuss' books though, these stories lack rhymes, unless the Cat in the Hat is around to provide them. As a father who loves to get into the rhythm of Seuss' poetry when reading his books aloud (If I Ran the Circus being a personal favorite) this lack of rhyme is a bit of a downer.
No matter what you think of the stories (and they are told rather well), the real attraction here is seeing Seuss' unique art style adapted into a three-dimensional world of puppets, especially when those puppets are done by Jim Henson's company, and have that distinct Muppets feel to them. As noted before, the Grinch is an adorable green vision, while the rest of the characters are beautiful to behold, as are the sets they bound around in, wrists together and heads bouncing. Mixing these two childhood favorites wasn't without its risks, but the magicians at Henson pulled it through. It's worth watching the show if only to see the artistry involved (or even to enjoy the wonderful Stephanie D'Abruzzo (Avenue Q) who provides the voice and puppetry for several characters.
A 4-Year-Old's Take
"It was great. I loved the Cat in the Hat and Sarah. It was a lot of fun." -my daughter.
This DVD, which arrives in a standard keepcase held in a pointless slipcover that repeats the cover art, has three episodes, and features a static, full-frame menu offering options to watch all the episodes, select shows and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is available.
The disc presents the show with full-frame transfers that are appropriate for the show's time frame, but don't think they don't look good, as the series' bright colors and detailed sets and puppets are beautiful, without any noticeable dirt, damage or compression artifacts.
The audio is presented via Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are just fine for this series, with clean, clear dialogue and strong music, but there's nothing in terms of dynamic mixing. You wouldn't expect much from a 15-year-old basic-cable kids show.
The only extra included is a selection of trailers for other DVDS.
The Bottom Line
When I got this DVD, I had no idea the show was so old, thinking I was getting a look at something new. But even though it's over 15 years old at this point, it feels as fresh as the majority of kids TV today, and it certainly doesn't show its age. There's not a lot in the series for older viewers watching alongside the target audience, even though the artistry on display is impressive, so it's not going to be a family DVD, and with just three episodes and no extras, there's not a lot of content included, so you'd really need a big little Seuss fan to make it worth a purchase.
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.