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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Blue's Clues - ABC's, 123's and More DVD Collection
Blue's Clues - ABC's, 123's and More DVD Collection
Paramount // Unrated // October 26, 2004
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted October 22, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The movie

In the world of children's television programming – which is unfortunately dominated by shows designed to sell toys – Blue's Clues stands head and shoulders above the rest. Following in the footsteps of Sesame Street but going even further, it's a program aimed at preschoolers that's actually designed with the cognitive and social skills of those young viewers in mind. The result? A show that has become immensely popular for all the right reasons. In each episode, viewers are invited to visit Steve Burns, the host of the program (later replaced by "Joe" (Donovan Patton) in Season 5) and his cartoon dog Blue. Together, they invite viewers to play along in a variety of games and "help out" the characters in various situations. And of course, each episode has viewers trying to find three "Blue's Clues" and figure out what Blue is trying to tell them.

Visually, Blue's Clues is delightful right from the start. Steve is the only three-dimensional element in an otherwise two-dimensional world, where the animals and objects are bright and colorful, looking like they were cut out of colored paper. In this setting, it's easy for preschool viewers to identify the characters as well as any shapes or other details that are important. Even for adult viewers, the whole atmosphere of Blue's Clues, with its anthropomorphized furniture and objects as well as animals, is cute without being sugary-sweet.

What really sets Blue's Clues apart from the pack is its emphasis on interactivity. Viewers are expected and encouraged to actively participate in the show: Steve (or Joe) speaks directly to the camera, asking viewers to help him figure out Blue's Clues; he encourages viewers to sing along with his songs; and he prompts them to chime in with the names of objects or actions. What's even better is that the show actually leaves enough time for viewers to think about the subject and come up with an answer: while the pauses may seem painfully long to an adult viewer, they're perfectly timed to give young viewers the chance to reason through things and come to a conclusion, without being cut off by the right answer. If for no other reason, this well-handled interactivity makes Blue's Clues a great program for young kids. It encourages all the right ways to watch TV: actively thinking and being involved, rather than passively tuning in. The everyday-life subjects of the episodes also make it likely that kids will carry their Blue's Clues attitude beyond the TV room, whether it's spotting shapes and colors in the supermarket, or printed words around the house.

I'm also very pleased with the general approach of Blue's Clues to learning new things. In these episodes, learning itself is always shown as being lots of fun. That's exactly the right approach, rather than the "disguise learning as fun" approach of so-called "edutainment" programs. If you sugar-coat learning and try to sneak it in on the sly, during a program that's pretending to be just "fun," then the message becomes that learning is not fun at all, but something to be tolerated at best. But learning new things really is fun... and young viewers who are encouraged to have that attitude right away will get a great head start on life.

Blue's Clues episodes don't really tell a story, but rather just present Blue and her friends learning new things, like the names of shapes, or having new experiences, like going to school... and the makers of the show have the good sense to realize that for a preschool audience, this is quite exciting all by itself. Even "ordinary" things like getting ready for bed make for good Blue's Clues episodes, because for very young viewers, those are important elements of their daily lives. What's even better is that Blue's Clues doesn't just present new material for viewers to learn, but it also explicitly teaches how to reason things through, and encourages viewers to think about things.

The Blue's Clues episodes are designed to be watched over and over again... and fortunately, they're the kind of program that won't drive parents crazy on the tenth repetition. To begin with, the atmosphere of the show is positive and upbeat, but never manic: this is a show that will encourage viewers to be actively participating, but not to become hyper. Both Steve and Joe are cheerful hosts, often breaking into song, but they always keep their voices on an even keel, with no shouting. The episodes are even cute enough that parents can enjoy watching them along with their kids.

The Blue's Clues ABC's, 123's and More DVD Collection assembles a total of twelve 25-minute episodes from Blue's Clues, four on each disc. The first two on each DVD are from Season 5, featuring Joe as the host, while the second two (the "bonus" episodes) are from seasons 1 or 2, featuring the original host Steve. Steve is clearly the better host, but Joe does a quite good job as well. Here's what the set serves up:

Disc 1: Blue Takes You to School includes "Blue Takes You to School," "Numbers Everywhere," "Blue's ABC's," and "Math!" These episodes are described as promoting social/emotional issues, conflict resolution, schedule/routine, numbers, counting, and addition/subtraction.

Disc 2: Shapes and Colors includes "Shape Searchers," "Colors Everywhere!", "Adventures in Art," and "What Does Blue Want to Make?" These episodes teach color identification, color mixing, visual perception, shape recognition, matching skills, and basic geometry.

Disc 3: Blue's Big Band includes "Blue's Big Band," "Bedtime Business," "Blue Wants to Play a Song Game," and "What Does Blue Wanna Do on a Rainy Day?" These episodes promote rhythm, completing sound patterns, movement and motor skills, bedtime rituals, music appreciation, and color and pattern identification.

The DVD

Blue's Clues: ABC's, 123's and More DVD Collection (now that's a mouthful of a title) is a three-disc set, with each DVD packaged in its own plastic keepcase inside a colorful paperboard slipcase. Disc 1 is "Blue Takes You to School," Disc 2 is "Shapes and Colors," and Disc 3 is "Blue's Big Band." All three discs are also available separately.

Video

Both the newer and the older "bonus" episodes look great in this DVD set. The picture is clean, sharp, and very colorful, just the way it should be, so young viewers will be able to enjoy an attractive and lively show in which it's easy to pick out the right details to find "Blue's Clues." All the episodes appear in their original TV aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is quite good, with both Steve and Joe's voices coming across in a clear, natural manner (along with the voices of all the animated whatsits that join them and Blue during the course of the episodes). The volume is properly balanced, and overall it sounds pleasing. Parents will appreciate the fact that while Joe and Steve may wax enthusiastic, they don't raise their voices or make too much of a racket, so the Blue's Clues episodes won't be too hard to put up with on repeat (and repeat and repeat) viewings.

Extras

A small selection of bonus materials are included here, spread across the three DVDs; it's mostly aimed at parents, so that the learning from the Blue's Clues episodes can be carried over into everyday life.

On Disc 1, we get "Blue's School Search Game," which is a static image of Blue and friends in the schoolroom; accompanying the image is a set of suggested questions that parents can ask their child, to help identify and name the different items shown in the picture. There's also a 1 1/2 minute clip of "Oobi: The Friend Who's Always with You," featuring the adventures of a "puppet" that's just a hand with eyeballs on top. It's actually kind of a clever way to encourage kids to be imaginative.

Disc 2 has another Oobi clip (2 minutes), along with a text "Parents' Guide" to the two main episodes on the disc. Here, the "Nick Jr. Play-to-Learn Philosophy" is briefly explained, and some detail on the learning concepts behind the two Blue's Clues episodes is presented. There's also an "Extended Learning Activity" that offers ideas for further activities.

Disc 3 has another "Parents' Guide" to the episodes on that DVD.

Lastly, all three discs have some previews for other Paramount/Nick Jr. kids' titles.

Final thoughts

If you have preschool kids, or have a young nephew, niece, or grandchild whose name is on your holiday shopping list, you can't go wrong with Blue's Clues ABC's, 123's and More DVD Collection. The award-winning Blue's Clues is really a very well-thought-out and intelligent children's program, one that encourages kids to pay attention to the world around them, use their minds actively, and develop a love of learning. It's also a show that parents won't mind having their kids watch a million times in a row. The three DVDs in this set are also available separately, but the boxed set makes a convenient package for hours of viewing fun. Highly recommended.

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