Johnny Belt and Robert Scull's Bubble Guppies is a lightweight animated series aimed at the preschool set. This colorful franchise features half a dozen brightly haired mer-kids as they swim around and teach young 'uns about everyday occurrences and subjects like new places, animals and neighborhood jobs. Produced using the commercially available Autodesk Maya 3D software, the visual design floats somewhere between "Dreamworks" 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 third season of Bubble Guppies premiered in August of 2013, so this franchise looks to be in it for the long haul.
I reviewed two other Bubble Guppies DVDs last year: the summer-themed Sunny Days! and the more varied On The Job!, both of which feature six loosely-related episodes from the show's first two seasons (2011-2013). The upcoming Animals Everywhere! continues the superfluous exclamation points by offering a batch of animal-friendly outings from all three seasons, undoubtedly confusing anyone hoping for a chronological collection. Honestly, why they didn't just go with a straight "volume number" release strategy is reason enough to scratch your head. No matter: Bubble Guppies is hardly serialized storytelling and the series' lightweight, familiar-but-not-boring formula has translated fairly well to almost any subject matter thus far, so my daughter and I had very little trouble enjoying what was offered here.
"Animals" is a broad enough subject to pave the way for plenty of varied material, while obviously being cute and accessible enough to appeal to younger audiences of either gender. Of course, parents probably won't learn anything new but the diversity is much appreciated: through "field trips", imaginative adventures, real-world scenarios and the occasional corny lunch joke, it's a decent enough way for your little one to spend their TV time. I'll admit that some of the music gets repetitive---in fact, one or two chords or complete sections are frequently "borrowed" from other episodes---and its Kidz Bop style seems like overkill for the age group, but it's hardly anything to get worked up about. At the end of the day, Bubble Guppies is good, clean fun and it probably won't drive you nuts on repeated viewings.
Episodes Include: "Puppy Love", "Ducks in a Row", "Boy Meets Squirrel",
"Lonely Rhino", "The Elephant Trunk-A-Dunk" and "The Arctic Life"
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Those with a library of newer kids' 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 thin 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 these problems (and they're probably right), but the cropping is inexcusable.
The audio is also watered down, as the show's source 5.1 mix has been squished into a plain Dolby Digital 2.0 track. This odd compromise is more forgivable, since the spoken-word elements of the series are the most important thing and they don't seem any worse for wear. Dialogue is clean and crisp, although the poppy music cues occasionally sound a little flat in direct comparison. Channel separation is fine, despite that the surround effects are obviously missed on occasion. Optional dubs or subtitles have not been included here, but each of these six episodes is Closed Captioned.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the basic and colorful menu designs are attractive and 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 featured prominently 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 and no inserts of any kind. The disc art is plain gray and no bonus features have been included with these episodes.
My daughter and I have enjoyed pretty much every Bubble Guppies DVD release thus far and Animals Everywhere! is no exception. The colorful characters, catchy music and sensible blend of fun and education should appeal to almost any age-appropriate viewer...so if you're new to the franchise, it's a pretty safe bet. Nickelodeon's DVD treatment, on the other hand, isn't as reliable: the A/V presentation is lacking in polish, extras are absent and these piecemeal volumes mean we'll probably never get proper season sets. Even so, Animals Everywhere! is a fun batch of episodes...so unless your little one has seen this material a bunch of times already, it's definitely worth a few spins. 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.