far as i'm concerned, I grew up during the "golden age" of children's
television. There was the Muppets (and Jim Henson), Fat Albert, the Electric
Company, Zoom (the early years) and (most importantly) Mr. Rogers. Children
today have a wider variety of programming available to them thanks to channels
like Noggin, PBS Kids and Nickelodeon but unfortunately, the majority of these
shows seem more concerned with commercialization than education.
With a watchful eye, I usually try to stay on top of the programs my kids watch.
As soon as my son and daughter were born, I started inundating them with
Time-Life's Muppet Show DVD series (now on Buena Vista), classic Disney
and other shows I grew up with. In addition, I also let them watch "approved" new shows
like Clifford - the Big Red Dog, Arthur, Between the Lions and Reading
Rainbow. But he and his sister were the ones that introduced me to the Backyardigans (well, though
their mother). One day I walked into the kids' bedroom
to find them singing and dancing along to the song "Secret Agent" from a
Backyardigans promo CD Nickelodeon handed out. Since I also believe good
music should be a part of my their life, I decided to catch a few episodes to make sure it was suitable
for them. Well, i'm happy to report that it was, and i'm sure your kids will
like it too.
In case you're not familiar with the five
precocious preschoolers that make up the Backyardigans, they are: Tyrone - an orange moose, Austin - a purple kangaroo, Tasha -
a yellow hippo and Pablo - a blue penguin. There's also Uniqua who, judging by
her antenne, looks like she could be an insect of some sort. Every
episode begins in their backyard, before their youthful imaginations take them
from the frozen north to the Nile in Egypt to Sri Lanka. Cave Party contains a
total of four episodes:
- Cave Party - Ug! It's an ug-cellent Ice
Age adventure set to Calypso music, as Cave People Tyrone, Pablo and Uniqua
invent their way to Tasha and Austin's cave for something called "a party."
- Race Around the World - It's Racing Day
and Racer Austin is prepared. Zydeco tunes spur him on as he races gold
metalists Pablo, Tyrone, and Uniqua around the world to try to win his first
- Eureka! - In the South Dakota hills,
Uniqua and Tasha are scientists who hunt for dinosaur bones, while Pablo and
Tyrone are prospectors digging for gold.
- Castaways - Uniqua, Tyrone and Pablo are
castaways on a deserted island. As they find water to drink, food to eat and
build a cozy hut, strange things keep happening. Before you can say "Dharma
Initiative", the secret of their island paradise are revealed.
I'm not the biggest fan of computer generated
animation, but the 3-D CGI used for the Backyardigans is very fluid and the
colors are very vibrant. In addition to the impressive animation, the
Backyardigans also have another thing in its favor - its music. Each episode of
the Backyardigans features a different genre of music. Evan Laurie, one of the
founding members of a jazz group called the Lounge Lizards, writes the music for
the show and the songs are terribly catchy. From the Calypso in "Cave Party" to
the Bossa Nova of "Castaways", you'll find yourself humming along no matter how
many times you might be forced to watch.
Video: The Backyardigans - Cave Party is a single-sided DVD with a
full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The picture quality is sharp and bright,
which help to bring out the extremely vibrant color palate.
Audio: The 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track was adequate for the dialogue on
the disc, but I found myself wishing it had been 5.1 to punch up some of the
music featured in the episodes. It's also a shame Paramount didn't throw on some
subtitles for the lyrics to the songs. And since Nelvana, a Canadian animation
house, is responsible for the animation, there's also a French track included.
Supplements: Paramount "subtitles are special features" Home Video
was responsible for this release, so the "special" features are a "music video" for
the song "Go Go Go" (which is featured in Race Around the World), the "Full
Screen Format" and the "English and French Dolby Digital Stereo"
tracks. Those who are
familiar with previous Paramount releases know i'm not making this up. Oh, and for those who were wondering: the
"special features" are not rated.
Conclusion: The Backyardigans: Cave Party will keep your kids entertained
with the bright, vibrant colors and affable characters. In fact, after repeated
viewings (you DO realize kids like watching things more than once, right?) you
might find yourself singing along. Besides the enjoyable (and varied) music score,
voices (both spoken and singing) and the impressive visual presentation, this
disc gets a hearty recommendation.