Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Wonder Pets (2006)

Wonder Pets is a Nickelodeon animated series starring Ming-Ming Duckling, Linny the Guinea Pig, and Tuck the Turtle. Every day, after pre-school ends, their "action phone" rings and tells them of a baby animal who's in trouble and needs to be rescued. They assemble their flying boat, get into their costumes, and head out to solve the problem and save the baby animal. Their theme song lyrics: "We're not too big, we're not too tough, but when we get together, we've got the right stuff!" sums up the message behind the show: when you work with your team, you can accomplish anything.

Slight philosophical aside, for those of Generation X and prior: like it or not, this is what they're teaching in schools these days. Collaboration, teamwork, group efforts are the important things being taught. Most lessons tend to be student-directed from small groups. In our generation and backwards, things were taught primarily from an individual perspective. Not any more; the kids are graduating school knowing how to work in a team. It tends to have the problem that they don't really want to do anything solo, but that's a different story entirely.

Anyway, we heard about the Wonder Pets from our friends back in Scotch Plains, NJ, who have girls that are 2 and 4 years older than our older boys. The Boy discovered them on Netflix, and he's been working his way through some of the episodes during the rainy patch this week.

The show itself is pretty good. It's repetitive to the extreme, which is always a flaw in children's programming from my perspective. They shouldn't always have the exact same formula going through, bu I guess they're sticking with what they do best. The show is mostly sung; probably 75% of the dialogue is sung in a vague operatic-recitative style, which is really kind of neat to hear. I approve of the music, for sure. The characters themselves are kind of bland but moderately entertaining, with their primary virtue being cuteness. The duckling has a speech impediment that causes them to pronounce her "r" like a "w," similar to a young, young child. It's getting annoying and is not likely to be remediated.

(Funny: each episode is titled something like "Save the duckling / Save the kitten" and "Save the tree! / Save the elephant!" The Wife said that she's waiting for the episode "Save the cheerleader! / Save the world!" Heh.)

The animation is very stylistic - photos that are loosely animated to make a cartoon, similar in style as South Park. South Park is obviously more cartoony, and this uses real pictures to make the backgrounds and animals. South Park is not for children, and this is designed for young children specifically. I'm just speaking of the animation style.

I recommend this in small doses. The young kids will enjoy it; it does tend to grate on parental nerves. I kind of think it's cute; The Wife dislikes it.

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