There's a big storm brewing in my house. This intergenerational tempest roils not with clouds and rain, but nails, hammers, saws and screwdrivers. Yeah, it's that dangerous. It's a battle between Handy Manny and Bob the Builder, and only the most entertaining and educational fix-it man will prevail. So the daughter, the wife and I have our claw hammers bared and our eyes closely watching the TV screen.
Handy Manny is Disney's construction creation, an affable Hispanic gentleman with a toolbox full of talking animated friends and connections throughout his beautiful town. Everyone seems to have a problem of some type (usually caused by not thinking things through, and exacerbated by pride) and all of them know just who to call; Manny. Rendered in bright but gentle-hued CGI animation, with the large, oval heads and big shining eyes popular in Disney animation currently, Handy Manny always manages to work the right fix, through a positive attitude and cooperation. The tools in particular are big on cooperating, as they all have specific uses and distinct personalities that are sometimes susceptible to foolish pride, embarrassment, or simply not being sure of the right thing to do.
Each 12-minute episode features one mild challenge, a simple lesson, and a little catchy singing and dancing, generally the Handy Manny theme song and the song about working together. The five episodes on this disk (Fix It Right) include:
Manny To The Rescue: (never before seen): In which Manny helps get a cat out of a tree.
As you can see the stakes are much lower than with Bob The Builder, who uses similar teaching techniques to build towns and impart 'green construction' wisdom. (A point to the wife in the Bob vs. Manny war.) The tools are adorable, cleverly voiced and pleasing to watch work, but the stories pack very little oomph - meaning their appeal is probably only for the youngest helpers. Manny's main appeal is his desire to teach kids Spanish. He'll say a little phrase en Espanol, i.e. 'no hay problema' and then immediately translate 'no problem' so viewers can learn with little challenge. It's no immersion class, that's for sure, but four of the five episodes have a Spanish Audio Track, so when your kids have memorized the episodes, they can try them out with no English at all. And of course native Spanish speakers can enjoy Manny too.
There's even a foolish man with a comb-over, who never wants help, even though he screws everything up. Manny and the tools are bemused, neighborhood kids gently mock him, and the wife (mine) is disappointed anew, as this seems to teach kids that it's OK to poke fun at people. In all, Manny is a dim second in the Trades, ceding much to Bob, truly engaging stories and challenges being foremost. Though cute, easy-going and positive, (and being somewhat groundbreaking in the linguistics department) Manny has a little more work to do.