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Bob the Builder: Let's Build the Beach
Bob, Wendy and Bob's parents are tackling further shore-development in Let's Build the Beach. Even with the addition of the folks, it's clear that Bob is such a hard-working maniac that there's nothing he can't do. As you might know, Bob and his cohorts are clay-animated characters who get up to all sorts of building adventures in sunny locales. Bob is tirelessly cheerful, while his crew of anthropomorphized construction machines assume the roles of preschool-aged children, (and all the challenges inherent therein) for whom this program is designed. Of course preschool kids don't usually build luxury, eco-tourism-themed hotels, but you get the idea.
As with other recent Bob the Builder DVDs, this one contains five 'never before seen on TV' episodes (each episode being approximately 10-minutes long) that are equal in quality to anything that's previously aired. I wonder if these will eventually make it to TV? Whether here or there, you'll be privy to Bob's escapades as his posse makes Bobland Bay into a relaxing, ecologically-conscious tourist paradise, and you'll get to meet two more new members of the crew. Splasher is a gung-ho amphibious vehicle perfect for showing guests the scenery, while Bristle is a street cleaning machine that loves to make the new shoreline promenade shine. Meanwhile, Goofy Spud gives the hotel's first guests an unusual welcome, and Lofty aches to view the area's first special event, a fiery comet (don't worry, it doesn't crash into the hotel).
From the kid's standpoint, Bob's colorful crew mixes cheer with apprehension in a totally relatable way. Tumbler, Dizzy and the rest all have real responsibilities that they sometimes feel inadequate to see through. What's more, as in Lofty's case, sometimes they want to do things that they just can't, and they don't understand why. Lofty is so eager to see the comet, but he's simply too big to enter the observatory. It's a feeling to which any kid who's been denied access to something due to such a bizarre and intractable obstacle as size can relate. Like most kids, Lofty uses skewed logic to circumvent the problem, but luckily Bob is there to help out when things go awry.
It's Bob's easy-going understanding of the challenges his crew (your kids, of course) face, and his calm, resolutely upbeat solutions, that makes this program perfect. (I'm tempted to start watching them by myself on occasion, to bolster my own parenting skills.) There's also the fun fact of Bob's stealth-British-origins. Only Spud and now Splasher betray this with their cracked accents, but the emphasis on each crew-member being really useful will resonate with watchers familiar with the more-British-seeming Thomas the Tank Engine program.
On telly Bob occasionally talks to parents, telling them how the program should inspire kids to build and fix things themselves in the real world, so this is a program that should be used not only as teaching entertainment, but also as a launch pad into other, fun activities with parents and friends - free from the tube's energy sucking glow. As such, any Bob the Builder DVD is a recommended alternative to regular broadcast television, for when you and the younguns need a little downtime. When Bob says 'let's build the beach,' there are few reasons not to temporarily join in.
We'll be building the beach in fullscreen (1.33:1 ratio) just as we would see on TV - but of course these haven't been seen on TV, so you can feel special. The clear, sharp picture is quite nice, though since we've been watching plenty of Bob in over-the-air HD on our PBS station, I notice the difference when watching the DVD on my crusty old player. Time to upgrade, I guess. A small amount of aliasing and graininess, as well as some minor edge enhancement, appear occasionally, but aren't distracting (and how would the kids even know?). Bright, cheerful colors that are nicely saturated delight the eye.
Stereo Digital Audio is adequate and strong, with dialog and music nicely mixed and balanced. Undiscriminating kids won't have to turn up the volume to hear everything, and probably won't come asking how come there isn't 7.1 audio available.
Closed Captioning, English, French and Spanish Audio Tracks as well as an Auto Play function and Onscreen Menus for episode selections, etc. are included. Plus you get the Bob-standard additional two episodes from other releases: Fireman Sam: Danger, Falling Sheep, and Fifi and the Flowertots: Stingo Gets Stuck. Both episodes are about ten-minutes long. Fifi and her aggressively chirpy, neo-house theme song will stick in your craw, even if the episode is a tad aimless. Fireman Sam is quite British and might be more interesting to kids older than Bob's demographic.
Here's yet another selection of Bobby goodness, with nice positive messages and reinforcement of all those things we hope our kids learn about; being decent and productive in the world. Bob inspires fanaticism, and once you start down the road of collecting Bob the Builder DVDs, it's hard to stop. Your kid doesn't need them all, but variety is nice. Just be sure to get those tykes outside now and again, and hope that Hit Entertainment puts out a Bob Box Set some day, so you can get your collection in one fell swoop. Let's call this one Recommended.