Kids TV juggernaut Nickelodeon has released no shortage of "variety pack" collections over the years, based on themes like taking care of the environment, learning your colors, or even no theme at all. Heck, they already released a spring-themed collection more than a decade ago, so believe me when I say that Springtime Adventures doesn't break any new ground for the network. What it does offer is a few like-minded adventures (and different ones than the 2004 disc) in one handy package. Not surprisingly, Little Bill doesn't make the cut this time around.
Seven episodes are included in all, and each one more or less sticks to the spring theme. Our first entry is Wallykazam (actually new to DVD, as the show's first dedicated volume will be released later this month) with "Picnic: Impossible", in which our lovable monster and his sidekick dragon decide to surprise Gina Giant with an impromptu inside picnic when the spring weather refuses to cooperate. Bubble Guppies is next with "The Spring Chicken is Coming", a 2011 episode that follows the underwater kids as they grow a flower to announce the arrival of our title character. Team Umizoomi speeds by with the obnoxious "Umi Egg Hunt", a 2011 episode with plenty of repetitive "interactivity" based on...well, an egg hunt. The popular Dora the Explorer is up next with yet another 2011 episode, "King Unicornio"; it's actually one part of a three-episode stretch, but stands just fine on its own. Reliable staple Blue's Clues takes us back to 2000 with "Nature", while a pair of Wonder Pets adventures ("Help the Groundhog" and "Help the Easter Bunny", from 2011 and 2010) are both shorter musical-themed outings aimed at a younger audience.
So...more than half of these episodes aired in 2011, most are new to DVD, and they actually tie in pretty well as a whole. But there's still not a lot of replay value here, and the very idea of spending $15 or so for only two hours of kid's show "pot luck" seems a little antiquated. But, aside from the obvious A/V limitations on display---which is pretty surprising, since most of these episodes are less than five years old---there's still a certain amount of appeal here...so if this seems like something your little one might enjoy, they probably will (at least temporarily).
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Obviously, the video quality of episodes that originally aired a decade or so apart is going to vary...but that's an unavoidable problem. Wallykazam is the only "new" short; this actually marks its DVD debut and, not surprisingly, its 1.78:1 image looks clean with great colors and a solid amount of image detail. Everything else is either cropped from its original widescreen aspect ratio (Bubble Guppies), pre-HD material from 2011 and earlier (Dora, Wonder Pets, Team Umizoomi), or almost old enough to drive (Blue's Clues). At least half of them don't look very good: colors bleed, image detail runs on the soft side, and heavy digital imperfections (aliasing, edge enhancement, etc.) can be spotted along the way. Some of the problems are source material related and others are just dated transfers that haven't been treated with care, so this seven episode collection is the very definition of a "mixed bag".
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 2.0 and sounds good enough under the circumstances. Voices and music are relatively crisp and clear without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives many of the song-driven moments a little bit of punch. Optional Closed Captions are included during the episodes only, which is nice. Given the video problems, this collection sounds more consistent in comparison so it gets an easy pass.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the basic and colorful menu designs are attractive and easy to navigate. This one-disc release is housed in a silly eco-friendly keepcase and includes a not-so-eco-friendly matching slipcover and no inserts of any kind. Just for the record, the disc art is plain gray and no bonus features are included with these episodes.
Springtime Adventures is no better or worse than most Nick "variety packs": there's some good stuff (Wallykazam, Bubble Guppies, Blue's Clues), a few tolerable distractions (Dora, Wonder Pets) and...well, Team Umizoomi. Discs like these are meant to draw in new and casual fans, and the seasonal theme is at least followed most of the time (though it's a little late for those Easter episodes)...so if nothing else, it gets a few points for trying. As expected, the A/V presentation is hit or miss and the lack of extras is disappointing but hardly a surprise. Either way, there's pretty limited replay value to this one...so unless your kid's a massive fan of everything here or you'd just like to try it on for size, Springtime Adventures works better as a temporary time-killer than a disc worth owning. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.