Nick Jr.'s Peter Rabbit is based on Beatrix Potter's popular series of children's books; he's so popular, in fact, that our heroic hare is actually the oldest licensed character. This show premiered in late 2012 as a holiday special that drew over three million viewers and, months later, continued as a regular animated series. A second season has already been ordered...but for now, 18 episodes (containing two 11-minute stories apiece) were originally aired through October of last year. It took almost six months for a wide DVD release of these episodes and, disappointingly enough, this self-titled first volume contains less than a quarter of Season One's content. This won't come as a surprise to most parents, but such a shrewd release strategy all but ensures that (a) some of these episodes may never be released on home video, and (b) you'll pay through the nose by the time you're done. In the long run, only Star Trek fans have it worse.
Some parents may take issue with Peter Rabbit's mantra of "take what you can get"; after all, this little fella (along with his pals Benjamin Bunny and Lily Bobtail) lies, cheats and steals more than Eddie Guerrero. Of course, Potter's source material never shied away from the fact that yes, these are animals that can't help but scavenge for their dinner of crunchy, delicious radishes. But I can see their point: Peter Rabbit's characters are anthropomorphized more than ever here, boasting a slick sheen of CGI and a sassy, sarcastic vocabulary that doesn't always feel like a good fit. Still, the stories are rarely anything less than sweet and (mostly) innocent...but considering this show is aimed at the preschool set, it seems just a little out of bounds in certain regards. In any case, lessons are usually learned and no real harm is ever done, but I'd imagine most kids and their parents would probably get more enjoyment out of DVDs like this one.
Eight stories on this DVD include "The Tale of the Radish Robber", "The Tale of Two Enemies", "The Tale of the Greedy Fox", "The Tale of the Secret Treehouse", "The Tale of Benjamin's Strawberry Raid", "The Tale of the Lying Fox", , "The Tale of the Angry Cat" and "The Tale of Mr. Tod's Trap". All together, this accounts for the first four episodes of Season One, although the 2012 pilot special ""Peter Rabbit's Christmas Tale" is not included for obvious reasons. Paramount's DVD package predictably arrives without bonus features, though at least the original widescreen format is preserved.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in the show's original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Peter Rabbit looks good with mild reservations. The textured CGI artwork leans on the soft side (more an issue with standard definition or the source material than a transfer problem), while colors are accurate and no edge enhancement is apparent. Modest but regular amounts of interlacing are present, however, which weakens the already-soft image just a little bit more. Peter Rabbit still looks OK and most kids won't pick up on any problems, but there's certainly a little room for improvement here.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio doesn't suffer from any technical problems, as this Dolby Digital 2.0 mix offers clean dialogue, background details and a fair amount of channel separation. The music is definitely mixed on the loud side (especially the opening and closing credits), although this may very well be a source material issue. Any complaints with the voice acting, of course, also shouldn't put the DVD rating at fault. Either way, Peter Rabbit generally sounds good and, considering the occasional video problems, this audio presentation gets an easier pass in direct comparison. No subtitles have been included...and while this disc offers optional Closed Captions, they're obviously not compatible with 16x9 displays.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the basic and colorful menu designs are attractive enough and easy to navigate. This one-disc release is housed in a white eco-friendly keepcase with no inserts. No bonus features have been included with these episodes.
Peter Rabbit has proved to be a solid hit with kids: the first 18 episodes drew in plenty of viewers, at least enough to guarantee that a second season is currently in the works. But some preschoolers (and their parents) might not be as easily impressed: something about this show just feels off, from the eye-catching but vaguely sterile CGI artwork to the way many of these familiar characters speak to each other. So while I'm sure the series has improved since these first four episodes (8 stories total), that doesn't necessarily give this 90-minute DVD a free pass. If your kids have seen and enjoyed Peter Rabbit thus far, it's probably a safe bet; for new viewers, this is a "try before you buy" disc. Rent It.
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.