Johnny Belt and Robert Scull's Bubble Guppies (2011- ) is a lightweight animated show aimed at the preschool set. The series features a half-dozen brightly haired mer-kids as they swim around and teach young folks about everyday occurrences and subjects like new places, animals and neighborhood jobs. Produced using the commercially available Autodesk Maya 3D software, the artwork floats somewhere between 3D South Park and your average Wii U game: faces are simple and kid-like, easily recognizable and, if your little one's a budding artist, probably pretty easy to draw. The series is set to end its second season in the coming weeks, with the assumption that it'll return for a third round later this year.
Sunny Days is the third single-disc Bubble Guppies DVD release; it serves up six sort-of-summer-themed episodes from the series' first two seasons, presented in random order. Highlights include "The Legend of Pinkfoot" (a rousing campfire adventure), "Bring on the Bugs" (all about insects and arachnids), "Bubble Duckies" (ducks and other birds) and more. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon's DVD effort is about as lackluster as possible, featuring a below-average A/V presentation and nothing in the way of bonus features.
The format of these episodes is simple enough, usually following the Guppies (Molly, Gil, Deema, Goby, Nonny and Oona, each with distinctive personalities) as they learn about an object or theme through interactive questions, classroom activity, lunch or field trips. Along the way, a few short songs are also introduced that tie into the episode's theme...and while some hit the mark, these bubblegum pop nuggets sometimes fall flat and might be hard for some preschoolers to follow lyrically. Closed Captions have been provided during all of these episodes, but a more visual karaoke-style presentation would probably help. But more often than not, kids will enjoy what's here and might even learn a few things in the process.
Episode List: "The Beach Ball", "The Legend of Pinkfoot","Bring on the Bugs",
"The Sizzling Scampinis", "Bubble Duckies" and "Gup, Gup and Away"
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 the Bubble Guppies 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 inexcusable. Though at least the packaging is honest, Nickelodeon's DVD of the 2012 TMNT animated series was also advertised as "full screen" and presented in 1.78:1.
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 dubs or subtitles are not included here, but each of these six episodes is Closed Captioned.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the basic and colorful 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 for other Bubble Guppies
DVDs 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 have been included.
My daughter enjoyed herself a bit more than I did, but it's obvious that Bubble Guppies should appeal to most preschool-aged tots. The episodes are occasionally interactive, educational and loaded with plenty of stimulating colors and ideas...but if there's one true weak point, it's the below-average bubblegum pop music. Nickelodeon's DVD, unfortunately, doesn't offer much support: cropped to 1.33:1 and downmixed to Dolby Stereo, the weak A/V presentation is hampered further by a lack of bonus features. Newbies should rent it first, but fans should find this low-priced disc worth picking up. Mildly Recommended.
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.