Kids' TV shows have been a dime a dozen for decades now...and they're usually not great, because they don't have to be. Rugrats will enjoy just about anything with a catchy theme song, colorful characters, or whatever else translates into an action figure, and boy do I sound like my dad right now. But that's what I am at this point: a dad who occasionally bites the bullet, grabbing the occasional kid-friendly disc from a dark, lonely section of the screener pile that most reviewers wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. The truth is, some of these newer kids' shows are actually kinda fun.
Nella the Princess Knight, a relatively new series on Nickelodeon that debuted in February of last year, isn't quite one of those shows. On the surface, it's obviously been created with good intentions: the self-titled character is strong and kind. She wears glittery armor, kicks butt, and loves her friends. Just about every episode, Nella transforms She-Ra style and saves the day with relative ease. It's a social step above the vapid, cookie-cutter characters in Shimmer and Shine, and overall a lot less annoying than Dora (even without all that pesky education in the way). Yet even for a show that, let's face it, takes the easy way out by being entertainment first and life lessons second, there's not a great deal of action and excitement to be found here. Supporting characters -- which include fashion-conscious unicorn Trinket, obligatory young male friend Sir Garrett, and doofy comic relief horse Clod -- don't offer any real depth or flavor to these adventures, which means the featherweight 11-minute episodes rarely go more than "once around the block".
As usual for Nickelodeon titles, this first self-titled volume of Nella the Princess Knight includes a paltry 8 episodes (which are completely out of order, naturally) and no bonus features, which will make collecting the whole run both confusing and expensive. So unless your little ones are over the moon for this show, do yourself a favor and either (a) rent this and future DVDs, or (b) just stream it. But if you end up buying Nella the Princess Knight, at least it looks and sounds very good on disc. Episodes include "Princess Nella's Orc-hestra", "That's What Best Friends Are For", "Big Birthday Surprise", "Sir Clod", "The Blaine Game", "Knighty Knight Dragons", "Inside and Seek", and "Up All Knight".
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Since Nella the Princess Knight has been on the air for less than a year, it's no surprise that Paramount's DVD looks great with bright colors, strong image detail, and a nice illusion of depth between the characters and their flat backgrounds. All episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratios, which showcase the series' eye-catching visual design and compositions. The stylized color schemes are vivid with no obvious bleeding, while shadow detail and black levels are consistent from start to finish. Small amounts of banding can be seen along the way, but that's expected for the format and may very well be a source material issue. Though it doesn't have the same spit and polish as a Blu-ray, this is another great-looking disc from Paramount that obviously beats most broadcast versions.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio for Nella the Princess Knight is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, with optional French and Spanish dubs; it sounds as clean and dynamic as you'd expect for such a recent show. Voices and music are crisp and clear without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives many of the song-driven and action moments a decent amount of punch. No optional Closed Captions or subtitles are included during these episodes, unfortunately.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The colorful, clean menu designs are attractive and easy to navigate. This one-disc release is housed in an eco-friendly keepcase with a not-so-eco-friendly lenticular slipcover, plain gray disc artwork, and no extras of any kind.
Though it's colorful, entertaining, and obviously gives young ladies a decent enough role model, almost everything about Nella the Princess Knight feels either rehashed from other Nick shows or...well, like it was created by a committee. It's fun enough while it lasts but this series doesn't seem like it'll have any staying power, especially due to the bland supporting characters and featherweight stories. Paramount's DVD follows suit almost exactly: Nella the Princess Knight looks and sounds great here, but there's very little main content and no bonus features. Unless your little one seems interested but hasn't seen most of these episodes already, it's probably not worth the $10. Rent It instead.
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.