PAW Patrol continues to be Nick Jr.'s most popular show in recent years, packed with all the harmless action and cornball jokes that kids and most parents can't help but snicker at. Halloween Heroes is the newest themed collection of PAW Patrol episodes on disc; it doesn't really change anything about the show's formula or characters but doesn't have to. Most episodes go like this: the six PAW Patrol canines (klutzy firefighter Marshall, aquatic expert Zuma, construction oaf Rubble, police officer Chase, recycling guru Rocky, and high-flying Skye) kill time until a citizen yelps for help, while ten-year old handler Ryder waits back at high-tech HQ with a curiously accurate animated breakdown of the potential disaster before sending his eager pups to the rescue. At no point is it explained how their state-of-the-art operation is funded, or why Marshall can legally heat up the siren on his fire engine to look for a lost backpack.
The good news is that, like past volumes, Halloween Heroes looks and sounds great with crisp, 16x9 widescreen transfers and 5.1 audio...so the real advantage here is that they offer a modest step up in quality over most streaming or cable versions, assuming kids will even notice or care. Unfortunately, it's the least essential release of the series so far: all of the seven total episodes on this one-disc collection ("Pups and the Ghost Pirate", "Pups Save a Ghost", "Pups and the Ghost Cabin", "Pups Save a Bat", "Pups Fall Festival", "Pups Save the Corn Roast", and "Pups Save a Show") are from Seasons 1 and 2, and two of them ("Ghost Pirate" and "Pups Save the Corn Roast") appeared on previous DVDs The Great Pirate Rescue and Celebrate Fall. Not to mention, of course, that the last episode ("Pups Save a Show") has nothing to do with Halloween, or even Fall for that matter -- they just dress up in costumes for a play. Wack.
As usual, these episodes aren't presented in any particular order -- not a big deal, since the show's not serialized -- and, collectively, don't even break the 90-minute mark from start to finish. More than ever, PAW Patrol is long overdue for a proper season-by-season release on DVD: more than half the series is unaccounted for on home video, and the idea of shelling out $10 or more for 85 minutes of content every three months is wearing more than a little thin.
Adult quibbles aside, kids are still bound to love Halloween Heroes unless they've memorized at least half of these episodes already. This is enjoyable, lighthearted stuff that I'd have flipped for during my single-digit years, and I'm still more than willing to sit through certain episodes multiple times if it keeps the little one happy. As usual, Paramount serves up a decent DVD presentation: skimpy on material, sure (and with no extras, either), but with a great A/V presentation that highlights the smooth, colorful animation and action-packed audio. Still, the fact that these episodes are mostly 4-5 years old -- and some are recycled from earlier discs -- doesn't give this DVD much replay value.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Since PAW Patrol was created in HD from the start, it's no surprise that Halloween Heroes looks great on DVD with bright colors, strong detail, and noticeable textures on the characters and backgrounds. All seven episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which showcase PAW Patrol's pleasing visual design and compositions. The stylized color schemes are vivid with no obvious bleeding, while shadow detail and black levels are consistent as well. Small amounts of banding can be seen along the way (especially during underwater or night scenes), but that's expected for the format and possibly a source issue. Overall, another great-looking disc that obviously beats broadcast versions.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds great. Dialogue is crisp without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives songs and action sequences a decent amount of punch. My only complaint is that the volume levels are a little high, particularly during the theme song; music-savvy parents might agree that the term "brickwalled" applies here. But it's doubtful that this problem is exclusive to the DVD, so I blame whoever mixed it to begin with. No English subtitles or Closed Captions are included, although optional Spanish dubs are offered during several episodes if you need them (or want to hear an even more awesome version of the theme song).
Menu Design & Packaging
Halloween Heroes is a one-disc release and comes in an eco-friendly blue keepcase with a matching slipcover. The colorful menu interface (see above) offers smooth and simple navigation. No extras are included, as usual.
PAW Patrol is still chugging along after five seasons (a lifetime, as far as kids shows go), and that's a good thing because it's been a consistently fun and entertaining production: colorful and action-packed, this series is more enjoyable than its unchanging formula implies. Unfortunately, the "newest" DVD Halloween Heroes is a cheap cash-in: these seven episodes run less than 90 minutes total, they're all more than three and a half years old, and two have been featured on previous discs. Paramount's DVD looks and sounds as good as expected -- but with so many old and recycled episodes, it's barely worth a recommendation even at the low price point. Rent It, unless your kids are new to the series.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.