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Little Einsteins on DVD:Our Big Huge Adventure Team Up for Adventure Mission Celebration! The Legend of the Golden Pyramid
Rocket's Firebird Rescue Race for Space Flight of the Instrument Fairies The Christmas Wish
Fire Truck Rocket's Blastoff Animal Expedition

Little Einsteins: The Legend of the Golden Pyramid DVD Review

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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: 72 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Full Screen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: February 27, 2007
Two Episodes Originally Aired October 2005; One Unaired
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99

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By Albert Gutierrez

Normally when writing a review, I like to take a humorous look at the program at hand and try to work in little jokes and oddities to make the article less dryly informational and more personal. It's worked in the past, as I've been able to take jabs at movies like High School Musical and shows like "Higglytown Heroes" without being too vicious. But when I was given the opportunity to review "Little Einsteins", I looked at the show in a different light entirely. Indeed, it comes off as a playful half-hour adventure designed to teach children about various historical and cultural aspects of the world. But I just can't shake the sheer irresponsibility of the series as well. Yes, they stress the use of seatbelts in Rocket, but at the same time, these children go off on rather dangerous escapades. For example, in this disc's first episode, the kids are nearly eaten by a crocodile, yet they shake it off and keep on moving.

It's not likely that a child will pick this up and think, "Hey, let me build a Rocket and go on adventures with them!", but the show sends a message that these children can easily take care of themselves without any adult supervision. None of the episodes feature a responsible elder figure, be it a den mother or even a friendly policeman.
There's no stern hand saying, "Well, kids, you got out of that mess, but be careful next time!" It's pretty much a free-for-all with these children and can indeed be interpreted as such by younger viewers. Even the brother-sister relationship between Leo and Annie is hardly touched upon, we never see Leo be the protective older brother, unlike other children's shows like "Arthur" or the old Nickelodeon show "Allegra's Window."

Beyond that main gripe, the show does have redeeming qualities. Classical music, a staple of the Baby Einstein series, gets put to a narrative use here, offering catchy songs and a familiar, enjoyable aspect of each episode. Compositions are, to use an old Disney phrase, "mickey-moused" to the story, stressing various types of actions and moods. At times, the "Little Einsteins"-ification of the material makes it sound like classical music on steroids, but it is still done in a more tasteful manner than, say the Disney Channel Circle of Stars' butcherings of timeless Disney songs.

The beginning of each episode gives us a curtain call showing off the logo, followed by a quick introduction to the artwork and music of the day's episode. They have an underground tunnel to their treehouse?!?

Each story also cleverly weaves in subjects like hieroglyphics or dragon kites in such a way that what appears to children as a mere plot element is in actuality a rather good lesson. While this can be a bit misleading (their interpretations of hieroglyphics are nowhere near actual translations), it's a great way to introduce children to topics and get them interested in learning more about them. Another great aspect of the show is its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic cast of characters. The four children - June, Quincy, Leo, and Annie - are portrayed as a mix of various ethnicities, and their travels take them all around the world. It helps open the audience's eyes to the world (and people) around them.

There are many references to the young audience on the other side of the television screen, as the characters often ask questions and prompt kids to do things like "pat, pat, pat" in order to power Rocket. Questions are followed by a slight pause, which, if nothing is said, seems a bit odd being followed with a "That's right!" by one of the children. The interactivity helps a bit in keeping the children from vegging out in front of the screen, but only slightly. After all, in repeat viewings, the child can easily pick up that it doesn't matter how fast they slap their thighs during a "pat, pat, pat" session, as Rocket will speed up regardless.

The series has seen only a handful of episodes come to DVD and the main purpose, I suppose, is to give children their "Little Einstein" fix beyond the daily 8 AM showtimes. It's hardly a series that seems worth collecting in season sets, as watching three episodes in a row can be quite taxing on the audience (and their repeatedly-slapped thighs). The compilation of episodes here doesn't really follow a set theme, but it's entertaining enough for the young audience.

Inside the Golden Pyramid, music comes to life from the hieroglyphics. June introduces the Little Dragon Kite to her friends.

"Little Einsteins: The Legend of the Golden Pyramid" contains three episodes, two of which have aired on the Disney Channel. It's considered a "triple-length adventure", which is another way of saying "compilation of three episodes." Each episode runs 24 minutes, give or take a few seconds. When played in succession via "play all", each episode retains its own opening and closing credits. Previous DVDs utilized a singular set of opening and closing credits.

"The Legend of the Golden Pyramid" (Originally aired October 14, 2005)

Quincy uses his wooden blocks to build some ancient pyramids, which inspire the group of kids to go search for real ones. They climb aboard Rocket and are off to Egypt, where they indeed find a pyramid. The drawings on the door, which June correctly identifies as hieroglyphics, tell a story to them of an evil Egyptian Pharaoh who trapped music within the pyramid.
The children then decide to free the music from within the Golden Pyramid. Throughout the episode, Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 5" gets a set of simplistic lyrics attached to it, as the children often ask for the pyramids to "Open up, we want to come in, open, open, open, open, open, open up!"
Featured art: The Rosetta Stone, Egyptian Hieroglyphics; Featured music: Johannes Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 5"

"Dragon Kite" (Originally aired October 17, 2005)

June is prancing about in the backyard, practicing her super ballet dance, when a Little Dragon Kite appears. June is initially scared, as are the rest of the children, but they soon decide to help the Little Dragon Kite, whose friends are missing. They seemingly disappear from the postcard ("erased...from existence!") that Little Dragon Kite provides for them. A quick trip to and search around China lead the children to the missing Dragon Kites, just in time for the Dragon Kite Parade on the Great Wall.
Featured art by: Zhou Shen, Cai Jia, Zhang Lu, Chou Ying; Featured music: Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1: In The Hall of the Mountain King"

Rocket and Little Dragon Kite rescue two Yellow Dragon Kites in China. Annie sings higher and higher as Purple Plane becomes a tiny speck against the Coit Tower.

"Annie and the Little Toy Plane" (Not yet aired)

In this currently-unaired episode, Annie takes Rocket and the Little Einsteins to San Francisco where she shows off her new toy, a small Purple Plane. The children find a toy helicopter trapped on atop of a large Redwood tree, and it's up to the Purple Plane and Little Einsteins to rescue it. They must fly over Coit Tower and Golden Gate Bridge, before finally reaching the top of an old Redwood tree. On the way they encounter traffic a la Keith Haring's "Untitled, 1988". Warning: this episode employs a heavy amount of slapping your thighs as the children learn to pat to the "San Francisco Stop and Go."
Featured art: "Untitled, 1988" by Keith Haring; Featured music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Symphony No. 40"

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Little Einsteins" utilizes very basic CGI animation but mixes it with various live-action footage and pieces of artwork. The fullscreen transfer is fine; you'd be hard-pressed to find any flaws in colors or sharpness for a 2007 release of 2005 material.

Likewise, there is nothing to complain about when it comes to the audio, offered in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, be it English, French, or Spanish. I'm not particularly a fan of children singing, and was underwhelmed by the soft-spoken manner of these Little Einsteins. It's worth noting that the audio presentation is a step-down from past "Little Einsteins" DVD which offered their programs in full 5.1 surround.

Leo is our host in "Where's Froggy's Family?" The Main Menu offers a wonderful look at the Little Einsteins headquarters.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

One lone feature is contained as a bonus, a Little Einsteins Storybook entitled "Mission: Where's Froggy's Family?". It involves a stowaway frog aptly named Froggy, who must be taken back to his family. The interactive feature utilizes a rather interesting "storybook" that has smaller pages that open up within a page.
It's narrated by Leo, and has a more educational feel than the average "Little Einsteins" episode. We learn about different types of frogs, various places where frogs live, and even how to make it rain in the desert (!). I can see the fun a child can have with this, though it was quite tedious for me to get through.

The 4x3 menus are set in what is arguably the coolest children's treehouse ever, featuring the foursome running across the screen several times, against the instrumental version of the theme song. As always, the DVD comes with FastPlay, allowing tots to sit back, relax, and bask in the glow of three episodes of "Little Einsteins." After the previews, of course. But I'm sure they wouldn't mind the promotions for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Friendship Edition, and Disney Princess Enchanted Tales. Naturally, once they see their four little friends, it should mean the program starts, right? Nope, that's really just the Little Einsteins: Rocket's Firebird Rescue promotion. Then we get to the episodes. You'd think, though, that with that barrage they'd see it fit to at least include Handy Manny in the FastPlay set-up. Unfortunately, Disney's newest Playhouse Disney show gets relegated to the Sneak Peeks menu.

The DVD comes packaged in a standard white keepcase, as opposed to a colorful red one like previous "Little Einsteins" releases. Attached to the plastic wrapping is a $3 coupon when you purchase this DVD with another "Little Einsteins" title, and inside the case is a two-sided insert with episode and bonus feature listings, and even more promotions for the other three "Little Einsteins" DVDs. Also, a small booklet promoting various Playhouse Disney and related merchandise is included, along with a Disney Movie Rewards code worth 75 points.

The Little Einsteins come across a door with hieroglyphics, telling the story of a Pharaoh who trapped music in the Golden Pyramid! Annie, June, and Quincy stare out at the audience, waiting for someone to say something back to them. Leo, knowing better, rolls his eyes in frustration.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I had originally planned on giving "Little Einsteins" a less-than-mediocre rating, as I felt it was a small step up from the "Baby Einsteins" series, but rewatching the episodes for my long-delayed screen capping, I was able to pick up on subtle nuances in the show that make it a bit more rewatchable and enjoyable. I may never slap my thighs with them ever again, but at least I had a good time doing so.

I could easily recommend this DVD as a 72-minute babysitter for the parents, but I'd rather not. Its interactive nature and use of classical music makes it much more tolerable than "Baby Einsteins", and can be a great way for parents to bond with their children and teach them more about things like San Francisco, music, and kites. Plus, I'm sure the strenuous activity of slapping hands to thighs to propel Rocket counts towards a daily workout and burns a few calories! Perhaps my only problem is the price, as $20 hardly justifies 72 minutes of material that will get tiresome after a few weeks, especially when you take into account what may already be daily morning viewings as well.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
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Little Einsteins: Our Big Huge Adventure Little Einsteins: Musical Missions (CD)
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Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales Bear in the Big Blue House: Sense-sational!

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 Adventure Team Up for Adventure Mission Celebration! The Legend of the Golden Pyramid
Rocket's Firebird Rescue Race for Space Flight of the Instrument Fairies The Christmas Wish
Fire Truck Rocket's Blastoff Animal Expedition

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Reviewed March 19, 2007.