Curious George has been a staple of kids' entertainment for over 70 years...and for the most part, even the more recent tales of this spunky monkey and his yellow-garbed owner have retained an old-fashioned sensibility. Since 2009, a handful of direct-to-DVD features has been produced including A Very Monkey Christmas, A Halloween Boo Fest and Curious George Swings Into Spring...but youngsters are probably the most familiar with PBS' ongoing animated series that debuted in 2006, is currently in its eighth season, and just passed the 100-episode mark back in May. Themed collections and miscellaneous volumes (including the four-disc Monkey Collection) have been available for years...but starting with Season 6, Curious George has been collected in proper season sets. Likewise, the recently released Season 7 serves up all 6 episodes (12 shorts total) that originally aired between December 2012 and April 2013.
Like Clifford and other recent adaptations of old-fashioned classics, Curious George fits within the modern era without resorting to quick editing, gaudy character designs or loud, obnoxious music. For that alone, I'd imagine that most parents of preschool and kindergarten age---if not slightly beyond---will enjoy Curious George and, by extension, this seventh season. Not much has changed since the series' debut almost a decade ago, save for a few voices and slightly more refined visuals. Like a comfy hammock, those drawn towards Curious George will have no problem settling in.
Running just 11 minutes each, these 12 episodes offer a nic mix of entertainment and education with Curious George's familiar cast of characters and the terrific voice actors that represent them: George himself (the incomparable Frank Welker), The Man With the Yellow Hat (Jeff Bennett), the hotel doorman and his faithful dachshund patrolling the lobby where George and his owner live (Lex Lang), Chef Pisghetti (Jim Cummings) and, of course, the nameless Narrator (Rino Romano) who guides the story along. Occasionally, George and his owner travel out to the country; main characters there include farm owners the Renkins (Jeff Bennett and Kath Soucie), their granddaughter Allie (Lara Jill Miller), and young neighbor Bill (Annie Mumolo), who are usually happy to see their city friends. These two locales give certin episodes of Curious George a nice change of scenery; through some involve special events or and flights of fancy, most of these 11-minute adventures them simply revolve around ordinary, everyday interaction between unique characters.
Episodes Include: "Monkey Down Under", "Bright Lights, Little Monkey", "We Otter Be Friends", "Sir George and the Dragon", "Hundley, Jr.", "Curious George Gets Winded", "Where's the Firedog?", "Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye", "Honey of a Monkey", "Curious George's Egg Hunt", "George and Allie's Lawn Service", and "Curious George's Scavenger Hunt"
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
The 480p, 1.78:1 transfer offers bright colors, decent image detail, solid black levels and very few digital imperfections. There's a pleasing texture to many backgrounds and landscapes, as well as no signs of excessive DNR or other digital eyesores. I did notice a bit of softness, some mild banding and several stray jagged edges...but the latter are almost expected with animated releases, especially on DVD. Overall, this is another good effort that fans will appreciate, although the existence of HD digital-only versions via Amazon makes the lack of a Blu-ray all the more disappointing.
DISCLAIMER: These screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this release's native 480p resolution.
The audio is definitely a bit more reserved, though it's not necessarily a problem. This Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation offers crisp dialogue, robust music cues and even a bit of channel separation. Surrounds are limited to music cues and background ambiance, though a little more effort in this area would've some made moments more enjoyable. Overall, though, I doubt kids or parents are going to complain. English SDH subtitles are also included during these episodes.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the static menu interface offers smooth navigation and, thankfully enough, the pre-show ads and warning screens are easily bypassed. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes a matching slipcover. No inserts have been included, but an episode list is printed on the back.
Though a little shorter than its name might imply, this 2.5 hour collection serves up a collection of sweet, entertaining and subtly educational adventures that runs circles around most flavor-of-the-month kids' shows. What's more is that even the newest fan of Curious George can jump right in to pretty much any episode and not feel left out. Universal's one-disc package offers a suitably strong A/V presentation that preserves the series' soft, simple atmosphere...and while the complete lack of bonus features is definitely a little disappointing, Curious George: Season 7 is still a good value and one that parents and kids can enjoy in equal measure. Firmly Recommended for new and old fans alike.
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.