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JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go DVD Review

Buy JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go from Amazon.com JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go

Show Details
Executive Producers: Jim Jinkins, David Campbell, Adam Shaheen
Directors: John Schnall, Tim Snyder
Voice Cast: Madeleine Martin (JoJo), Robert Smith (Goliath), Marnie McPhail (Mrs. Tickle), David Sparrow (Mr. Tickle), Jayne Eastwood (Mrs. Kersplatski), Tony Daniels (Uncle Flippy), James Rankin (Shoe Salesman), Julie Lemieux (Bal Boa, Dinky)

DVD Details
Running Time: 49 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital Surround (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: March 22, 2005
Three Episodes Originally Aired September - October 2003; One Unaired
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase


"JoJo's Circus" is one of the staples of Playhouse Disney, the Disney Channel's daily block of programming designed for preschoolers. The show centers on JoJo Tickle, a young clown girl whose everyday adventures provide various lessons for her and viewers. JoJo may have a pet lion named Goliath, but she's not so different from any curious child who might be tuning in.

The show employs stop-motion animation to depict its colorful, imaginative world and on television, it airs in 15-minute installments (almost always back-to-back). Now on DVD for the first time, JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go is one of two volumes released this week.

In direct contrast to the fast pacing and intertextuality of other Disney Channel programs, "JoJo's Circus" is very much tailored to a young audience. It is slow and interactive, leaving pauses for viewer responses (like "Blue's Clues", only without the children's voices). While teaching its lessons, the show differs from other children's programming in that it encourages physical activity rather than learning through vegetative passivity.

On DVD, JoJo introduces each episode. At the end, as on aired episodes of the show, JoJo recalls what she learned today. JoJo goes to the shoe store with her mother to buy some footwear in a larger size.

Each episode employs a song-and-dance musical number that's easy to sing along with. Most of these tunes are written by Jim Latham, and all would appear to provide more interactive fun for the younger youngsters. While children are learning from the show, JoJo is discovering things within her world called Circus Town, a point explictly illustrated in the "What you learned today" segment that ends each episode.

Four episodes make up Animal A Go-Go and most of them provide opportunities for JoJo, her friends, and viewers to engage in movements emulating animals. The episodes are loosely related by theme, but they're picked from pairings different from how they aired. Three of the four first aired on Disney Channel in the fall of 2003. The fourth, "Brushing Up!", has never been aired before and is an exclusive to this DVD.

To bridge together the four episodes, there are brief interstitials hosted by JoJo that appear to be new. (I think this is the "JoJo Talks to You!" referenced as a bonus feature on the back cover.) Each episode runs about 11 minutes long, and together with interstitials, the opening sequence and end credits, Animal A Go-Go is 49 minutes long.

Bal Boa the snake can charm squirting flowers with the best of them. JoJo and two friends act out brushing their teeth to help out Goliath.

"Try These on For Boing!"
JoJo needs new shoes, and she goes with her mother and Goliath to the store to get some new ones. She takes a fancy to bouncy shoes, but her mom's not sure they're right for her.

"Flower Shower"
In helping her father get ready for work, JoJo volunteers to pick out a squirting flower for him. She gets some help from Bal Boa the snake, who is a pro.

"Uncle Flippy's Funny Farm"
JoJo goes with her class on a field trip to Uncle Flippy's Funny Farm. There, they observe a number of animals and emulate their motions, but amidst the fun, something goes wrong.

"Brushing Up!"
Dental hygiene is at the center of this episode, when JoJo's mom allows her and Goliath to have a treat provided they brush their teeth before they go picnicking. JoJo takes her pet lion through the fine art of toothbrushing, with some help from a couple of friends.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Video quality is mostly terrific. Stop-motion animation lends itself to some slick visuals and the medium is nicely conveyed in this 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer (the show's original aspect ratio). There are no blemishes to be found anywhere in the picture, and it remains as detailed and consistent as it is clean. Sharpness is good, colors are vibrant and do not bleed. There's some very minor haloing, but all in all, it's nice that the video is mostly free of problems.

The audio presentation is fairly basic Dolby Surround. Music is echoed in the rear speakers, but it is certainly not a very dynamic experience. Somehow I don't think preschoolers won't mind too much.

The Main Menu for "JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go" "Flappy's Not Happy" in this Higglytown Heroes short. The set-top game "JoJo Says."

BONUS FEATURES

The most substantial bonus feature included is the Higglytown Heroes short "Flappy's Not Happy" (12:15). This is another Playhouse Disney series which airs in 15-minute time slots. The crudely CGI-animated show features big-eyed characters each with a round base instead of feet. They somewhat resemble Russian Matrioshka dolls; each is split in the middle, only there is no smaller figure inside. In this particular episode, the gang goes over to Eubie's place and admires his family's impressive collection of birds. Eubie's parents agree to get him a bird all his own, but his acquisition (Flappy the parrot) seems rather melancholy. The gang tries to cheer her up and get her to chirp until they find out what the solemnity's all about.

The other video extra is "JoJo Says" a game that's precisely like "Simon Says" only it's narrated by Mrs. Kersplatski and hosted by JoJo. You repeat JoJo's actions as long as the direction begins with the right phrase. As the DVD can't tell if you're playing correctly, you're on the honor system...but you still have to answer whether or not "JoJo Says" was said after each move. As far as I can tell, this repeats in a random fashion forever and ever unless you choose to exit, but there's a limited number of moves. It could entertain youngsters, but unless they want to reach for the remote each time, a second person would be helfpul.

Lastly, in the way of DVD-ROM, there are five coloring pages of JoJo and friends which you can print out from your computer.

Sneak peeks at the start of the disc are for Pooh's Heffalump Movie (a trailer that almost certainly won't make that DVD in May), Little Einstein, and Wave 2 of the Disney Princess DVDs. The Sneak Peeks menu adds promos for Bear in the Big Blue House, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, 2 spots for Pooh Disney Learning Adventures, and of course "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The 4x3 menus are surprisingly well-done, with a neat introduction, JoJo's theme music in the background, and animated clips from the feature constantly playing. Each submenu is accompanied by music as well.

Both of the two new "JoJo's Circus" DVDs are equipped with FastPlay, Disney's nullification of the DVD remote for the young and the lazy. Unless you choose otherwise, the DVD will operate the way VHS cassettes did, playing some previews, then the feature, the bonus Higglytown Heroes short, and then the remaining previews, all without you ever having to press a thing.

A coupon booklet inside promotes the upcoming DVD of Pooh's Heffalump Movie (with the now-inaccurate June release date) and offers $2 off preschool-oriented DVDs and CDs.

Mom says it's okay for JoJo and Goliath to each have a treat. JoJo and Goliath, learning along with you!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"JoJo's Circus" merits a recommendation for its format, as a likable show for preschoolers which promotes learning and being both active and interactive. There are other Disney Channel series with fanbases more likely clamoring for a DVD release, but parents and toddlers who enjoy the show should be pleased by this disc.

A few more of the short episodes would have been nice, but at its 49-minute running time, it doesn't seem to be too much for one viewing, for an audience that gets tired or restless pretty quickly. Watching one or two episodes at a time is also easy to achieve, and there's more content than the similarly-priced Baby Einstein DVDs for the slightly-younger sect.

In terms of video, audio, and design, this volume delivers a quality that eschews complaints. While it's light on extra features, the bonus short, game, and coloring pages should all prove useful and entertaining as well.

More on the DVD

Also Coming March 22nd: JoJo's Circus: Take a Bow!

Related Items
JoJo's Circus Soundtrack
Easy-to-Read JoJo's Circus Books: #1 - My Name is JoJo, #2 - Clown School
JoJo's Circus: Twist and Turn - Big Crayon Book to Color (with Crayons)

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Reviewed March 20, 2005.

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