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JoJo's Circus: Take a Bow! DVD Review

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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. Peaches Tickle), David Sparrow (Mr. Tickle), Jayne Eastwood (Mrs. Kersplatski), Diana Peressini (Croaky Frogini), Neil Crone (Fellini Frogini), John Stocker (Federico Frogini), Keeler Sandhaus (Skeebo), Tajja Isen (Trina)

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


Review by Aaron Wallace

Every morning, the Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney programming block brings delight in the form of educational entertainment to preschoolers around the country. One of its most popular shows, JoJo's Circus, has never been released on DVD...until now. Its protagonist and namesake is JoJo Tickle, a curious little girl who just happens to be a clown. As such, her home, a world depicted with colorful stop-animation that seems to intentionally resemble the look and texture of Play-Doh, is called Circus Town. It therefore seems appropriate that one of the first two installments of the series on DVD centers around episodes dealing prominently with JoJo's circus-related adventures. JoJo's Circus: Take a Bow! does just that.

Along with her pet lion, Goliath, JoJo makes her way around school and other places in Circus Town wandering aloud about such things as thinking skills, physical activities, and moral lessons. The plotlines are loosely constructed to allow room for exploration of concepts, as well as interactivity. In fact, JoJo often asks the audience questions and pauses to give them time to respond. This pace likely enables the show to create one of the more responsive environments in preschool entertainment.

Dancing with sponges! JoJo and the gang watch trapeze artists at work.

Each episode is set to a lively soundtrack and features a catchy song-and-dance number. To sum up the lessons learned, JoJo herself reflects on the knowledge she's gained at the end of each episode.

The DVD consists of four episodes, each circus-themed and running around 11 minutes in duration (routinely aired in back-to-back fifteen minute time slots on the Disney Channel). "Easy As Pie" and "Take a Bow" were originally broadcast together and they are a nice inclusion as they made up the "pilot" airing, so to speak. "JoJo on the Tightrope" is not presented with the episode it originally aired beside, which is fine as this disc doesn't strive to be part of a complete collection. "Happy Hoppy Day" is a previously unseen episode that is exclusive to this DVD.

In between each episode, JoJo (and sometimes Goliath) speaks directly to the audience in order to establish a theme that bridges the previous episode with the upcoming one. All four episodes, these interstitials, and the opening sequence and end credits amount to a total feature running time of about 49 minutes.

"Easy As Pie"
It's JoJo's first day at clown school and what young child can't relate to that? Things go well overall, but there's a forbidden button on a machine that JoJo just can't take her eyes off of!

"Take A Bow"
Croaky Frogini is joining the school as a new student and JoJo is a little apprehensive over meeting her. Will she be able to impress the Frogini family with circus talents? To find out, JoJo needs your help to brush up her skills on taking a bow.

One of the interstitials in which JoJo and Goliath bridge two episodes. JoJo changes her look to feel more like a tight-rope walker.

"JoJo On The Tightrope"
Though she's never tried her luck at the tightrope before, JoJo is determined to impress her teacher, Mrs. Kersplatski. A few hair and wardrobe changes later, JoJo is convinced that she's up to the task!

"Happy Hoppy Day"
The musically charming Frogini family announces that it's a very special day at school: Happy Hoppy Day! Songs, dancing, fun, and games abound!

VIDEO and AUDIO

Video and audio quality are great and both appear to be without fault. The style of JoJo's Circus's animation lends itself to a few oohs and ahhs and that translates well to the DVD. The audio track isn't exactly overwhelming, but there's nothing wrong with it and for a morning preschool television series, it's extremely adequate.

The show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and features a basic Dolby Surround Sound track.

Included as a largely promotional bonus feature, "Higglytown Heroes" seems like a delightful series. Selecting the penguin when prompted brings up a brief featurette on the lives of these animals. Not all of the pictured animals here are featured in the informative segments, but there are more screens beyond this one. The lively main menu screen.

BONUS FEATURES

While it's certainly not "chock-full," the DVD does sport a surprising amount of enjoyable bonus features for a release of its type. The most prominent is an episode of Higglytown Heroes, which airs on Playhouse Disney in fifteen minute time slots much like JoJo's Circus. This particular episode is entitled "Havin' A Ball," and while it's not specifically related to JoJo's Circus or the circus in general, it is a likeable short. The plot can't be made to sound too rousing: the children (which are uniquely CGI-animated Russian Matrioshka dolls) play with a brand new ball! Still, I found this episode to be the most enjoyable of the entire disc and the series seems like a charming one.

Next up is yet another installment of the Disney DVD Disneypedia series, "Going To The Circus" (a different title than the one listed on the case). This presentation of Disneypedia is a bit different, though, in that it comes in the form of a game. By watching mini-featurettes on various animals and performers that make up a traditional circus (interwoven with clips from the show), you help JoJo and her friends set up the circus. The game draws out the featurette but makes for an interesting way to present informative footage and is sure to please children. Of course the duration depends on the speed with which you play the game, but it can easily last nearly ten minutes.

The final bonus feature comes in the form of DVD-ROM and is advertised on the DVD. By inserting the disc into your computer, you'll gain access to five printable coloring pages from JoJo's Circus.

The disc launches with sneak peeks at Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Little Einstein, and the second wave of the Disney Princess DVD line. The Sneak Peeks menu adds looks at Bear in the Big Blue House, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, future Pooh-related installments of Disney Learning Adventures, and JoJo's Circus (the series itself) on Playhouse Disney.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The menus are all very snazzy and the main menu makes use of lively animation, rotating clips from the show, and the theme song. The less active but still aesthetically pleasing sub-menus are set to music as well.

The DVD is equipped with Disney's FastPlay, which celebrates the olden days of VHS by preserving its restrictive spirit on DVD. If left unattended, your DVD will automatically launch the FastPlay system from the get-go and play most of what you'd probably want to see without ever requiring input from the user. To bypass FastPlay, simply hit the menu button.

An enclosed coupon booklet offers $2 savings on JoJo's Circus and "Here Come The ABCs" CDs as well as DVD releases of Disney Learning Adventures, the Disney Princess line, and Bear in the Big Blue House. The flyer also promotes Pooh's Heffalump Movie and Little Einstein. A scene selections insert is also included.

Mrs. Kersplatski celebrates Happy Hoppy Day. JoJo and Goliath review what they learn and sign off.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

JoJo's Circus probably isn't the best series of its ilk, but it certainly isn't among the worst. Overall it seems to be well-intentioned and successful. The animation is appealing, the lessons are valid, and the delivery is applaudable. It's unlikely that an older audience will find it to their liking but children will likely love it and parents probably won't mind watching this one with them as much as they would others.

The DVD doesn't really leave one with any complaints. For a preschool television series, the content and presentation seems surprisingly satisfactory. Though the series isn't quite as educational as some, the Disneypedia bonus feature is a nice balance. Therefore, the disc earns a recommendation for those shopping for its intended audience.

More on the DVD

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 28, 2005.

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