Johnny Belt and Robert Scull's Bubble Guppies is a lightweight series aimed at pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. This colorful production features half a dozen brightly haired mer-kids as they swim around and teach their fans about everyday occurrences and subjects like new places, animals and neighborhood jobs. Produced using Autodesk Maya 3D software, the visual design floats somewhere between "Dreamworks" and your average Wii U game: faces are simple and kid-like, easily recognizable and, if your little one's a budding artist, pretty easy to draw. Bubble Guppies has been going strong since 2011 and is wrapping up its fourth season, so it obviously has a fairly broad appeal.
My daughter, fresh out of kindergarten, is almost ready to quote Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon: though she insisted a week or two that "Bubble Guppies was for babies", she had no problem enjoying Fun on the Farm once we watched it together. It's the latest in a long line of themed Bubble Guppies DVD collections, part of a frustratingly random release strategy that covers up the fact that most of the series' 79 episodes have yet to be put on disc. Like the other collections (including these ones, which I've reviewed previously), Fun on the Farm serves up five episodes that stick to its title...or at least try to, since most of these are just about animals in general. To make matters worse, three of these episodes ("The Cowgirl Parade", "The Spring Chicken is Coming", and "Bubble Kitty") were released on previous collections...so if you have plenty of Nick DVDs lying around, you might own most of these already.
If these five episodes---which originally aired between 2011 and 2015---are new to you and your kids, however, Fun on the Farm makes a decent enough rental. The show's familiar school-day format maintains a good blend of education and fun, with polished visuals and catchy pop songs that appeal to kids without completely irritating their parents. But the shortcomings of this disc (which include the repeated episodes, as well as an uneven A/V presentation and a lack of extras) make it the weakest collection of Bubble Guppies to date. If Nick treated some of their "younger" DVD sets half as well as The Legend of Korra or even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it'd be a minor miracle.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
This is another mixed-bag collection of episodes from a visual standpoint: some are presented in a (most likely) cropped 1.33:1 aspect ratio, while others look great in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I still can't believe that, in this day and age, any studio would resort to panning and scanning, as all but the most stalwart grandparents have at least one high definition screen or display in their houses. Regardless, those 1.33:1 episodes are lacking in comparison with their overall softer appearance, occasional interlacing, and less vibrant colors. The widescreen episodes ("The Bubble Bee-athalon" and "Bubble Kitty") are impressive with smooth textures, a crisp appearance, and a much more robust palette. Here's hoping that future collections aren't this uneven, but I'm not holding my breath.
Similarly, the audio varies as well: the 1.33:1 episodes are limited to Dolby Digital 2.0, while the widescreen ones are presented in full 5.1 (both, for the most part, include at least one optional Spanish and/or French dub). This compromise is slightly more forgivable, since the spoken-word elements of this series are the most important thing and they don't seem any worse for wear. Dialogue is clean and crisp, although the poppy music cues occasionally sound a little flat in direct comparison. Channel separation is fine, despite that the surround effects are obviously missed on occasion. No optional subtitles are included, but each of these six episodes is Closed Captioned.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the basic and colorful menu designs are attractive and easy to navigate. Only two episodes are presented with multiple chapter stops (guess which ones) and no obvious layer change was detected during playback. Annoyingly, a static advertisement for other Bubble Guppies
DVDs plays before the menu and forces viewers to bypass it manually. This one-disc release is housed in an eco-friendly keepcase and includes a not-so-eco-friendly matching slipcover and no inserts of any kind. No Bonus Features
either, which isn't all that surprising at this point.
Bubble Guppies is starting to get a little stale around these parts: not only has the mixed quality of Nickelodeon's DVDs barely improved since its debut (both from a technical standpoint and their frustrating pattern of "themed" collections instead of season sets), my daughter is beginning to outgrow what it brings to the table. It's still a cute series, but I can't see myself reviewing too many more of these. Either way, Fun on the Farm is the series' weakest DVD yet: the basic theme is hardly even followed during this paltry five-episode collection, and at least three of them have been released on disc already. Unless you're completely new to the series, Rent It or skip this one entirely.
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.