Themed kids' show DVDs aren't always a great idea, but they're often designed to be convenient...and if Nickelodeon's Into the Snow We Go has one thing in the "pro" column, it's good timing. After all, the network's vast library of popular shows (some of which are aimed squarely at preschoolers) should undoubtedly yield plenty of great snowy-themed episodes to ring in the cold weather, right? Some, like Dora the Explorer or Spongebob Squarepants, have been going strong for well over a decade, yielding multiple holiday specials...or at the very least, a few loosely related to winter.
So this collection sounds like an easy layup, right? A cheap and entertaining stocking stuffer for that starry-eyed tyke in your life? Nope, it's actually a weak attempt at dumping three meager cartoons onto a DVD for $15 and hoping parents don't notice. What's even worse is that the packaging vaguely implies that the main attraction (the Bubble Guppies' "Happy Holidays, Mr. Grumpfish") runs for a full hour and the two bonus episodes (Team Umizoomi's "A Sledding Snow Day" and "City of Lost Penguins") are just gravy; after all, most Nick themed collections run for at least an hour and a half. Nope, they're each 23 minutes and they'll probably be over before you can finish a single batch of cookies.
Actually, scratch that: what's even worse is that only two of these three episodes are actually snow-themed. The best of the lot, "Happy Holidays, Mr. Grumpfish", is a fun little adventure that follows the gang as they cheer up Mr. Grumpfish by building him a full-sized gingerbread house. "A Sledding Snow Day" is at least a fun and snowy outdoor episode where the pint-sized team offers their unique blend of math education in a colorful, mildly irritating manner. The last of the bunch, "City of Lost Penguins" has...uh, penguins at a zoo, and they get lost and need to be rescued. Aside from their cold habitat (which they're at for all of three minutes), there's nothing snow-related about this episode. Umizoomi isn't all that great of a series to begin with, but "City of Lost Penguins" really feels out of place here.
As for the DVD itself, it follows Nickelodeon's typically lazy formula of a cropped, watered-down A/V presentation and no bonus features. The total package feels like something we'd had gotten over a decade ago: painfully light on material and formatted for 4:3 televisions. Even most grandparents have at least one widescreen TV or display in their condo.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Those with a library of newer kid's DVDs have undoubtedly gotten used to crisp, colorful animation, bold line quality and an aspect ratio that fits the newer 16x9 standard. Well, here's some bad news: not only are most Nickeodeon DVDs cropped to 1.33:1, but they don't look all that great to begin with. Perhaps it's a source material issue, but the overall image quality is definitely on the soft side...and while colors are generally vivid, they're lost in a haze of inconsistent black levels and occasional digital eyesores like banding, compression artifacts and interlacing. Sure, some will argue that kids won't care about any of these problems, but the cropping is pretty confusing in this day and age.
The audio is also watered down, as the source 5.1 mix has been compressed into a plain-wrap Dolby Digital 2.0 track. This odd compromise is more forgivable, since the spoken-word elements of the series are the most important thing. Dialogue is clean and crisp, while the music sounds a little flat in direct comparison. Channel separation is fine, although the surround effects are obviously missed on occasion. Optional Closed Captions are included, but no subtitles.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menu designs are easy to navigate. Each episode is presented with multiple chapter stops and no obvious layer change was detected during playback. Annoyingly, a static advertisement is displayed before the menu and forces the viewer to click "OK" to bypass it. This one-disc release is housed in a silly eco-friendly keepcase and includes a not-so-eco-friendly matching slipcover. The disc art is plain gray and no bonus features are included.
$15 for 60 minutes worth of cartoons? What is this, 1999? Into the Snow We Go is a weak attempt at a vaguely winter-themed collection, serving up one holiday special, one generic snowy adventure and...well, one with penguins at a zoo. The inferior Team Umizoomi takes up 2/3 of the running time as well, and the lack of other cartoons doesn't exactly make this a disc you'll return to very often. Nickelodeon's DVD is nothing special either, serving up a compromised A/V presentation, no bonus features...and did I mention only 60 minutes of cartoons for $15? Rent It at the very most.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.