Backyardigans: Mighty Match-Up!
Paramount // Unrated // $16.99 // July 8, 2008
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted July 28, 2008
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In 10 Words or Less
Another quartet of random imaginary cartoon adventures

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Animation, Noggin
Dislikes: Most kids programming
Hates: Tasha, Basketball

The Story So Far...
The Backyardigans are five animal-children (Austin the Kangaroo, Pablo the Penguin, Tyrone the Moose, Tasha the Hippo and Uniqua...the Uniqua) who share a backyard due to the positions of their families' homes and who play pretend, imagining grand adventures for episodes that air on Nickelodeon and Noggin. There have been 13 random episode collections released on DVD, and DVDTalk has reviews of two of them: Cave Party | High-Flying Adventures

The Show
I don't think I like The Backyardigans very much. Actually, I don't like two of the Backyardigans very much. The rest I couldn't care much about. Outside of some broad personality defects assignable to three of the characters, they are whatever role they are placed in, and nothing more. It's not the most engaging cast ever, but the catchy and diverse soundtrack and unique plots make up for it in part.

This set of four adventures has no connecting theme, but the DVD is named for the first story, "Match-Up on Mount Olympus." Pablo and Tyrone are a pair of ancient Greek mortals who love basketball, struggling with the rainy weather that prevents them from playing. To change it, they travel to Mount Olympus so they can confront the cantankerous Goddess of Weather, naturally played by Tasha. Before they get to her though, they have to get past two other gods, Austin and Uniqua, in games scored by a cool samba sound. It's an amusing take on the old man versus gods story, and a pretty advanced concept for a kids show.

A Backyardigans stand-by, the race episode, returns with "The Great Dolphin Race," an underwater episode set to a generic sound that doesn't seem to hew to anyparticular genre. Uniqua is a stablehand at the ol' dolphin track, where Tyrone rides star dolphin Blue Streak. Uniqua would love to have a dolphin of her own to ride, and when she finds SeaSquirt, a tiny, yet fast dolphin, she gets her wish, setting up a race with Tyrone. Considering the show's issues with depicting liquids, putting the show in the water might be a risk, but since it's in all water, there's no need to show water. Smart cheating.

The show has gone to outer space and out west, so why not combine the two in "Ranch Hands from Outer Space?" This is actually one of the better episodes I've seen, as the sense of humor displayed by Uniqua and Pablo as the aliens who misunderstand rancher Tasha, and cause lots of trouble. The show's songs are, according to the box, in a '60s Italian pop style, but I don't have much experience with that genre, and it sounded more like klezmer music to me. It's a solid overall episode that I enjoyed, for once.

It was much better than "Caveman's Best Friend," which incredibly gives Austin, the forgotten Backyardigan, a starring role, playing a caveman who gets a pet, namely a baby dinosaur. The songs are fun, thanks to the doo-wop/R&B sound, but the show is just another version of "The Flintstones" idea of putting characters in the Stone Age. Or perhaps it's just Austin isn't all that interesting, and this is why we don't get a lot of him in the show.

Packed in a standard keepcase with a promotional one-page insert, the DVD features a static full-frame main menu with options to play all, select episodes and check out extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but closed captioning is included.

The Quality
The full-frame episode transfers look fantastic, with bright color throughout and a sharp, detailed image, making it look better than the vast majority of computer-animated children's television. There's no noticeable dirt, damage or compression artifacts noticeable.

The audio arrives in Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks, which deliver clean dialogue and good separation between the music and speech. There's actually some decent positioning of the sound between the left and right channels, making for a solid listening experience.

The Extras
The extras start off with the promotional material, a clip from the great Nick Jr. show "Yo Gabba Gabba." "Party in my Tummy" is one hell of an earworm, extolling the virtues of eating your vegatables. At just 1:45, it's short, and makes me want "Yo Gabba Gabba" DVDs badly. There's also a handful of previews here as well.

More actually extras take the form of two videos, "Chicken-Itza Pizza" and "Amazing Inventors." Unlike the last Backyardigans DVD, these videos are from episodes not included on this disc, so they actually are extras, though the songs aren't among the series' best.

The Bottom Line
More Backyardigans mainly means more catchy songs and more well-done computer animation, as well as more annoyance from the bitch twins. But boy, my daughter certainly enjoys watching these kids play, and singing along, so it's got that going for it. What it also has is excellent quality in terms of the video and audio, and improved extras over the previous entry in the series, though still not that impressive. Truthfully, you could grab any disc from the show and your kids will enjoy it, but it never hurts to get new episodes to keep your sanity intact.

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