Curious George has been a staple of kids' pop culture for over 70 years...and for the most part, even the most recent books, TV episodes and movies retain something of an old-fashioned sensibility. PBS Kids' ongoing animated series (2006- ) has remained a critical and commercial favorite and has spawned three direct-to-DVD features: A Very Monkey Christmas and A Halloween Boo Fest and Curious George Swings Into Spring. The latter is the subject of today's review and, though it's not exactly timely, is still worth a closer look before it gets too cold outside. Like the other two adventures, Swings Into Spring features simple animation, a leisurely piano-driven score, familiar characters and three upbeat pop song breaks.
Our story revolves around George and The Man With the Yellow Hat as they leave the city for a spring outing headlined by the local hot-air balloon festival. The doorman's faithful dachshund, Hundley, reluctantly comes along while his building's being cleaned, but the proper pup has yet to experience the wonder of "spring fever". Instead, he drags his feet during his short vacation while George and his owner do everything they can to make Hundley feel welcome and entertained. As the locals get their balloons ready, The Man With the Yellow Hat helps organize the festival events, George and Hundley meet some new friends and, eventually, the town has a brush with disaster when their brightly-colored balloons float away with a curious passenger still inside. Like the hot-air balloon ride at its center, this animated adventure is pleasant and occasionally exciting, but it definitely doesn't move very quickly.
Curious George Swings Into Spring isn't offensively bad or a total chore to sit through, but it definitely feels padded at just 56 minutes in length. The story just isn't very engaging, the three song breaks are lukewarm and even the ending just kind of fizzles out. But it does have a few cute and funny moments, while younger audiences may get a kick out of the things that bother anyone with a critical eye. Even so, I doubt most tykes will return to this one on a regular basis, making it more of a one-time curiosity than a durable addition to your ever-expanding kids' DVD library. Universal's DVD package makes the decision even easier, serving up a decent A/V presentation but nothing in the way of bonus features.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Not much to complain about here. The 480p, 1.78:1 transfer offers bright colors, decent image detail, consistent black levels and few digital imperfections to speak of. 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 on DVD or Blu-ray. Overall, a good effort that kids of all ages will appreciate.
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 on occasion. Surrounds are limited to music cues and light background ambiance, though a little more power in this area would've some made the "bigger" moments more enjoyable. For what it is, though, I doubt many kids or parents are going to complain. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included during the movie.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menu interface offers smooth navigation and thankfully, the pre-show ads and warning screens are easily bypassed. The 56-minute show is divided into eight chapters. This one-disc release is housed in an appropriately orange keepcase; no slipcover, inserts or bonus features have been included.
Definitely a step down from A Very Monkey Christmas and A Halloween Boo Fest, this vanilla springtime adventure doesn't have a very engaging story or much in the way of replay value. While its relaxed pace, simple animation and jazzy score are more appealing than your average ADHD-riddled kids production, Curious George Swings Into Spring never picks up much speed and drags at just 56 minutes in length. Universal's DVD package doesn't offer much support aside from a decent A/V presentation, making this a disc that only die-hard Curious George fans will bother watching more than once or twice. 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.