In 10 Words or Less
Learning to count...in SPACE!
Likes: Leap Frog's educational toys
Dislikes: Simplistic kids DVDs
Hates: Getting little content
The Story So Far...
Leap Frog has built an impressive empire of educational toy offerings, adding fun to learning via various handheld and laptop units, and have expanded to include non-interactive material, using the characters from its traditional products in DVDs. A series of titles were released starting in 2003, and new titles and reissues began in 2009. DVDTalk has reviews of several titles.
I'll be completely honest: the first time I watched this with my daughter, I fell asleep. Maybe I was tired, but I just couldn't keep my eyes open, and missed the majority of the show. That meant I would be giving it another viewing on my own. Once I did, I found that the trio of Leap and Lily Frog and Edison the Firefly were joined by fellow Leap Frog mascot Scout the dog, as they learn about the alphabet at the Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park. The park's rides are powered down and can only be started by putting letters in correct positions, so as they repair the park, they learn the alphabet.
Now, I don't expect kids educational DVDs to be sticklers for continuity, but these kids learned the alphabet in the previous Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory, and this seems like a step backward educationally to simple letter identification. In fact, in Letter Factory, I'm all but certain that Leap taught his younger brother Tad (missing in action here) about the alphabet. Sure, each Leap Frog DVD is likely to be some child's first Leap Frog DVD, but for fans of the series, this new one doesn't build on previous releases. If anything, it's a lesser version of the lessons from Letter Factory, where each letter was highlighted, along with the sound it makes. Here, you are simply shown groups of several letters.
Like the introduction of Scout, the disc does present a few new concepts, including the different between capital and lower-case letters and the concept of rhyming. To my non-early-childhood educator mind, letter identification and rhyming seem like concepts that don't sit at the same level of complexity, as rhyming seems more in tune with letter sounds. As a result, my four-year-old was a bit bored by the naming of letters, but enjoyed the rhyming elements. The simplicity of the letter matching and the repeated song used for each group of letters just didn't make the ideas as interesting as previous Leap Frog DVDs had managed.
A one-disc release packaged in the now-standard Leap Frog green, single-width keepcase (with an embossed slipcover around it), the DVD features an animated full-frame menu, with options to watch the show, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The full-frame animation is once again well-presented, with bright, vivid colors and a clean image unmarred by dirt, damage or digital artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is just what you'd hope for from your average kids show, with clean dialogue and strong music, both free of distortion.
Three songs from the DVD are presented in the ever-popular sing-along format, utilizing color-changing on-screen lyrics, which will be fun for kids into singing. There also a trio of clips from other Leap Frog releases, including "Being a Puppy," from the Numbers Ahoy DVD, sung by the frogs' dog Scout, and two songs from the Sing-Along Read-Along DVD/Books set (though obviously without the accompanying books.) They are cute, but short, and will be over quickly.
Curriculum Commentary for Parents is a new addition to the Leap Frog releases, and a welcome one at that. These five scenes feature short audio commentary by Leap Frog literacy expert Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, as she explains the concepts being illustrated by the DVD, the thought process that went into choosing how they were presented and suggestions for enhancing your child's experience. This kind of insight is invaluable to anyone invested in their child's development, as you sometimes wonder why an idea is presented the way it is and how to best use these DVDs.
Also included on this disc are a handful of promos for other Leap Frog and Lionsgate products, including a scene from the new Numbers Ahoy, a commercial for Leap Frog's Learning Path online system and some trailers.
The Bottom Line
Another trip to the ABCs well for Leap Frog brings us back to the alphabet, a topic the library has already explored, though some new elements make their way in, including capitalization and rhyming. For older viewers, it is likely too simplistic to be interesting. As usual for this series, the disc looks and sounds very nice, and there are a few extras, including a nice informative set of audio commentaries. Kids will like the bouncy, musical way the disc explores the letters, but in the end, it's a very short DVDs, so your value depends a lot on what you pay for it.