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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wonder Pets!: Save The Nursery Rhyme!
Wonder Pets!: Save The Nursery Rhyme!
Paramount // Unrated // June 3, 2008
List Price: $16.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted May 30, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Nickelodeon and Paramount have released Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme!, another four-episode collection (comprised of eight, 11-minute shorts) of the popular young children's series on Nick, Jr.. If you have very small children, you know how popular the Wonder Pets! show is, with its eye-popping, colorful animation and its catchy (perhaps too catchy) songs. If your youngster just can't wait every day for the show to pop up on TV, then this disc might hold them over until their next fix. I've written before about the Wonder Pets!, so I've included a little bit of that review here at the top (discussing the structure and intent of the show) before I look at the specifics of this fun disc, Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme!

Understanding that little children love repetition and a familiar, recognizable pattern to their storytelling, each episode of Wonder Pets! follows a fairly dependable line. As the camera tracks in to a little, red, one-room school house set amid bucolic surroundings, we hear children leaving for the day, saying goodbye to their class pets: Linny the Guinea Pig, Ming-Ming the Duckling, and Tuck the Turtle. As soon as the children are gone, the "phone" (a tin can holding pencils, with a secret string at the bottom) rings, alerting the Wonder Pets to their next rescue mission. The phone also acts as a sort of telescope, so they can see their next assignment, which almost always involves a baby animal, somewhere in the world, in some sort of danger and in need of rescuing. Jumping into a box of doll clothes, the Wonder Pets emerge with their makeshift superhero costumes on, and proceed to assemble the "Fly-Boat" (usually a Frisbee with some Legos and wheels) which will take them to their destination. Once at the rescue site, the Wonder Pets employ various methods of problem solving until they work out a successful plan - which always depends on teamwork for success. Flying back to their safe, cozy school house home, they return to their cages, ready for another adventure.

Employing a photo-collage type of animation (real pictures of various animals are manipulated and animated, along with traditional photo and animated backgrounds, similar to other cartoons such as Charlie & Lola or Little Einsteins), Wonder Pets! has a realistic pop to its visuals that children respond to quite enthusiastically. While I must admit at times I find the animation of the real-life photos of the pets sometimes a little creepy, children love the contrast between the realistic photos, their blocky, chunky movements, and the more traditionally drawn animation backgrounds.

The show's stories vary little from episode to episode (which again, little kids crave), but I would imagine children especially love the idea of docile, non-talking classroom pets suddenly becoming walking, flying, talking superheroes the minute the school bell rings. Certainly the bright animation, the catchy little songs ("We're Wonder Pets! We're Wonder Pets! And we'll help you!"), and particularly the notion of tiny creatures being far more powerful and resourceful than anyone would imagine, strikes a chord with young viewers who may fantasize about being equally strong and inventive, if only given the chance.

For Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme!, storybook themes dominate three of the eight segments (Help the Cow Jump Over the Moon, Save the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Save Little Red Riding Hood), which no doubt will charm your little ones, especially if you've already familiarized them with those stories. Careful to keep in line the visual design of the animation along with the specific stories (Little Red Riding calls the Wonder Pets! from the puppet theatre at school, so she's animated to look like a crudely-sewn puppet), Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme! has an interesting, varied look, compared with the previous set I reviewed. My little boy noticed right away that during Help the Cow Jump Over the Moon, the characters looked like 2-dimensional paper cut-outs, since the rescue takes place inside a storybook - that's a fairly complex idea to get across to a really small kid, so I was impressed with the attention to details (and the smart ideas behind them) in Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme!. And as with most of the Wonder Pets! episodes I've seen, the voice work is quite sprightly and fun, while the writing shows flashes of easy wit (when Ming-Ming is told she looks good in armor, she states, "I look good in everything.").

The nagging question I always have with these kinds of discs, though (particularly from Nickelodeon), is whether or not they're worth recommending when the episodes play constantly on cable. I know that kids love to have these discs; they're almost like toys to them (my littlest girl likes to stack the hardcases like blocks), and they obviously get excited about having their own discs which they can put in the DVD player without any help, thank you. Still, you have to judge how often they're actually going to re-watch the episodes, particularly when they're on TV all the time, versus the cost. I've caught my younger kids several times watching an episode on TV that they already have on disc, and immediately, the adding machine in my head turns on, counting off the dollars wasted. But I suppose if you're going to start a collection for your younger children, a disc like Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme! would be a good start, because repetition, at least for my kids, was welcome. They revisited the disc several times this week, and that's probably as good an indicator as you can get for the suitability of a title like this.

Here are the 4 episodes of Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme!, as described on the back of the DVD hardcase:

Help the Cow Jump Over the Moon / Save the Itsy Bitsy Spider
Nursery Rhyme Land needs the Wonder Pets to help the Cow jump over the Moon. Then our heroes fly into a painting to help Itsy Bitsy Spider climb up the water spout.

Save Little Red Riding Hood / Save the Turtle
The Wonder Pets return to Puppetland to save Little Red Riding Hood from the Big Bad Wolf. Then Linny and Ming-Ming travel to the Caribbean to rescue Turtle Tuck!

Save the Griffin / Save the Rooster
Hop on the Wonder Pets' Horseyboat for a medieval mission to save a Griffin! Then the Wonder Pets help a Baby Rooster wake up the farm with a loud cock-a-doodle-doo!

Save the Panda / Save the Mouse
The Wonder Pets need to save a Baby Panda with a bellyache who's stuck in a tree, and then they need to help a mouse stuck in a saxophone - this time, without help from Linny!

The DVD:

The Video:
The full-screen, 1.33:1 video transfer for Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme! is perfectly rendered, with brilliant color and a super-sharp image. No compression issues I could spot (except for some minor edge enhancement).

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo audio mix is entirely adequate for the sweet little songs the Wonder Pets sing. Close-captioning is available.

The Extras:
There's a sneak peek at Ni Hao, Kai-lan, which I assume is a new cartoon soon to appear on Nickelodeon at some point (I wasn't impressed). There's also a "music video" (read: simple clip) of Poor Baby Squirrel with Ming-Ming singing to a squirrel caught in a tree. Not much there as far as extras.

Final Thoughts:
Another dose of the Wonder Pets! didn't hurt at all. These really are cute, and kids adore them. The only consideration one might have with the Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme! DVD is whether or not you want to buy it, when the episodes are running for free on your TV every day. I recommend Wonder Pets! Save the Nursery Rhyme!, but only if your child is really a big fan, and wants a block of episodes to watch at one sitting. Otherwise, a rental would do.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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