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Little Einsteins: Rocket's Firebird Rescue DVD Review

Buy Little Einsteins: Rocket's Firebird Rescue from Amazon.com Little Einsteins: Rocket's Firebird Rescue
Show & DVD Details

Executive Producer: Eric Weiner / Writers: Jeff Borkin, Eric Weiner

Creative Director: Olexa Hewryk / Producer: Kris Greengrove

Voice Cast: Erica Huang (June), Aiden Pompey (Quincy), Jesse Schwartz (Leo), Natalia Wojcik (Annie) / Singing Cast: Harrison Chad, Jesse Goldberg, Emma Straus, Philip Trencher

Running Time: 51 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Full Screen (Original Aspect Ratio), Dolby Surround 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: August 21, 2007
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Playhouse Disney's "Little Einsteins" is just a few days shy of celebrating its second anniversary. The franchise debuted with the direct-to-DVD feature Our Big Huge Adventure in August of 2005. This feature aired three days later on the Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney programming block, serving as a pilot of sorts. Audiences were introduced to Leo, his sister Annie, and their friends Quincy and June. These youngsters go on various adventures on Rocket, a spaceship that can think for itself.
Each episode showcases famous artwork and music and makes a point to name any landmarks encountered. Occasionally characters ask the viewer a question and await a response, a trend made popular by Nick Jr.'s "Blues Clues." The subject of this review, Rocket's Firebird Rescue, marks only the second double-length, direct-to-DVD release for "Little Einsteins."

In this outing, Rocket shares his favorite story with the quartet: "The Firebird." The storybook contains animated illustrations showing the Firebird's spreading of music in Russia wherever it goes. Not all is well, however, for a wicked ogre traps the Firebird and silences all music in the nation. For whatever reason, the children believe what the book is showing is real, and they set off on a mission to rescue the Firebird from the ogre's clutches and bring music back to Russia. Featured art: "Improvisation" by Wassily Kandinsky, Matryoshka nesting dolls, and Faberge Egg by Carl Faberge. Featured music: "The Firebird" by Igor Stravinsky (what else?).

The Little Einsteins happen to discover that their hiding place is already occupied. Run now. Rocket is blasted by magic from the ogre. What sort of spell is it? That’s a question not even the Little Einsteins could answer.

Rocket's Firebird Rescue is touted as a "full-length" adventure, and one has to wonder what the basis of comparison is for that phrase. The film runs just slightly over the length of two regular episodes, but that only puts it at 51 minutes, hardly enough to be considered a full film. Then again, perhaps that's for the better. The biggest problem with Rocket's Firebird Rescue is that it follows that exact same format as standard "Little Einsteins" episodes, employing a format that doesn't lend itself well to more than 24 minutes. The film really begins to overstay its welcome at the halfway mark, and the fact that the same eight-minute segment is repeated four times under different theming for each character doesn't help matters.

A show like "Little Einsteins" doesn't really hold up to close scrutiny, for all sorts of bizarre questions end up surfacing. For example, where are these children's parents? In fact, where are any of the rest of Earth's population outside of these four? When they arrive at Russia, there's nary a human to be found, only personified objects and animals that speak in musical notes. The villainous ogre of the piece is a nesting doll with magic abilities, but his magic powers are vague at best.
In one scene, he unleashes a herd of nesting doll animals at Rocket and the children. What exactly do nesting dolls do to a living person once they're in close proximity? We never find out, and one wonders why the children don't just shove them all out of the way like Weebles in order to get to the Firebird.

It's a bit unfair, though, to criticize a show aimed at preschoolers, especially since there's a lot of positive attributes to be found. Exposing children to classical art and music is to be commended, and the show manages to do this in a way that wouldn't turn viewers off. "Little Einsteins" also manages to avoid the sort of saccharine preaching and melodramatic tendencies of other children's shows, where a missing teddy bear is the equivalent of a murder case. It isn't afraid to approach the idea of danger, and all four kids behave like real children rather than manufactured stock characters. The only serious flaw with this show's format (outside of just curious storytelling points) is that the concept of music is given too much exposure. Each character faces obstacles using his or her musical talent (Leo conducts, Annie sings, Quincy plays instruments, and June dances). It would've been more sensible to give each child a talent that represents a certain theme, like drawing, writing, or playing a sport. By focusing so much on musical abilities, it can possibly isolate children who possess no talents in the genre and would prefer to write a story or draw a picture.

Annie performs with a photo-manipulated-but-still-adorable nerpa seal. Leo, Annie, and Quincy’s animation stop for several frames, waiting for you to give them advice. Curiously, no matter what you say, it still produces the same reaction from them.

Oddities and isolations aside, there's no denying that "Little Einsteins" is an effective way to teach small children about music, art, and geography. It wraps all these subjects in a way that entertains them as opposed to making them feel like they're at school. While Rocket's Firebird Rescue runs too long, it still offers plenty of entertainment for children, and is watchable enough not to sicken adults along for the ride.


Like a standard episode of "Little Einsteins", Rocket's Firebird Rescue appears in a 1.33:1 ratio. As expected, the image is flawless. Colors are bright, and no digital woes like artifacting or edge enhancement are present. The closest thing to an issue is that the show never quite looks razor sharp despite being created digitally, but this seems to be due to the rounded nature of the animation rather than the DVD presentation.

Like the video, this disc features top notch audio, as well. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is surprisingly lively, with sound effects such as Rocket's zooms traveling around the room. Dialogue and music are both crisp and nicely balanced out.

The three ingredients of Rocket Soup and the people (or, rather, things) who have them. The magical jumping beans look oddly like plums. The fact that a bear cub can weigh the same as a cow is one of the facts you’ll learn via the Magic Mission Mode.


The disc contains two bonus features, one of which plays automatically after the feature via Disney's Fast Play: the episode "Rocket Soup" (24:00, originally aired July 30, 2007). In this episode, Rocket is growing hungrier and hungrier after a long day of fun with the gang. Instead of filling him up with gasoline like other vehicles, they propose to make him rocket soup: a concoction consisting of cheese, peas, and magical jumping beans (to give him that extra kick).

When the kids realize that they lack these ingredients, they force the poor, starving Rocket to take them around the world to get some (of course, the thought of going to their local grocery never occurred to them). While the lack of an antagonist such as the ogre may make this episode seem less epic than Rocket's Firebird Rescue, it moves at a much brisker pace.

The second feature, "Magic Mission Mode" allows the viewer to watch Rocket's Firebird Rescue with animated pop-up fun facts interspersed throughout. This comes with two options: "Active" (a more interactive mode where the viewer hits enter on the remote when the Firebird feather pops up) and "Auto" (where all of the segments will automatically play). There are nine segments in all that are usually between 15 - 20 seconds each. They include facts on St. Basil's Cathedral, butterflies, bear cubs, nerpa seals, ballet, fish sleeping habits, Fabergé eggs, dragons, and nesting dolls. The facts in question are surprisingly unique enough that even an adult viewer can pick up something new. In a nice touch, the viewer can chapter skip to each fact during "Auto" mode so that the entire program doesn't have to be re-watched again.

The 4x3 menus replicate the menus found on other "Little Einstein" DVDs, only with a few minor tweaks here and there. The main menu shows the interior of the Little Einstein treehouse while the owners in question occasionally run in and out of frame. Disney's Fastplay precedes the feature presentation with previews for The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition, Disney Princess: Enchanted Tales, My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Sleuth Christmas Movie, and "Disney Einstein Pals". Ads on the Sneak Peek's menu can be found for Little Einsteins: Race for Space, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt, "My Friends Tigger & Pooh," "Handy Manny," and the Disney Vacation Club.

The previous "Little Einstein" DVD ("The Legend of the Golden Pyramid") broke the tradition of red keepcases for this series. Rocket's Firebird Rescue follows suit, thus implying that Disney's abandoned the original cases, though it wouldn't be the first time Disney's treated a series on DVD inconsistently. The case is housed by a cardboard slipcover replicating the sleeve artwork, only with added bumps and engravings here and there. Inside, a booklet advertising a multitude of Playhouse Disney DVDs and merchandise is included, as well as 100 points for Disney's Movie Rewards.

Rocket flies over St. Basil’s Cathedral freely as it seems all of Russia has been vacated at this point. Accompanied by the Firebird and the ogre, the Little Einsteins take a bow during their curtain call.


"Little Einsteins" may not join the special class of children's programming that adults find entertaining, but it's decent enough to rise above most programs of the genre. Rocket's Firebird Rescue does nothing to differentiate itself from the usual episodes outside of running time, but it at least holds true to the format expected from this show. Picture and audio are flawless, and "Rocket Soup" and "Magic Mission Mode" should stimulate children's minds further. This earns a recommendation to both families already familiar with the show and those looking for "edutainment" for their children.

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Related Reviews:
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's TreatLittle Einsteins: Our Big Huge Adventure
Little Einsteins: Team Up for AdventureLittle Einsteins: Mission Celebration!Baby Einstein: Discovering Shapes
Little Einsteins: The Legend of the Golden PyramidLittle Einsteins: Musical Missions (CD) • Mickey's Party Songs (CD)
A Very Playhouse Disney HolidayHigglytown Heroes: Heroes on the MoveJoJo's Circus: Take a Bow!

UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Complete DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Disney DVDs | Recent DVDs | Search This Site

Little Einsteins on DVD:Our Big Huge AdventureTeam Up for AdventureMission Celebration!The Legend of the Golden Pyramid
Rocket's Firebird RescueRace for SpaceFlight of the Instrument FairiesThe Christmas Wish
Fire Truck Rocket's BlastoffAnimal Expedition

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Reviewed August 20, 2007.