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Pongo & Perdita - 101 Dalmatians: Sing Along Songs DVD Review

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Sing Along Songs DVD Details

Running Time: 34 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated / Video Debut: December 3, 1996

Song List: "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" (Song of the South), "Following the Leader" (Peter Pan), "Do Your Ears Hang Low?", "(Going To) The Bow-Wow Ball", "Hokey Puppy", "Pongo", "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", "Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?", "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)", "The More We Get Together"

1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English (Enhanced for Hearing Impaired); Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 3, 2006
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase
By Aaron Wallace

101 Dalmatians isn't exactly known for its strong musical roster, which makes it surprising that Disney issued a volume of its 1990s Sing Along Songs VHS series titled after its two protagonists Pongo and Perdita to coincide with the theatrical release of the studio's 1996 live action remake. It's even more surprising that with a label like that, not one of the songs actually comes from either the original animated film or its live action equivalent, outside of a brief cameo by the fictitious commercial jingle "Kanine Krunchies."

When the Sing Along Songs line launched, it used select musical scenes from Disney's most famous films and superimposed animated lyrics atop them. That's the general concept of a sing along program. Pongo and Perdita came much later in the series' life, though, and other than on-screen lyrics, it bears no commonalities with its earlier and superior predecessors. I'd entertain complaints about the pointlessness of stringing together song scenes with subtitles when the same effect can be achieved with the whole movie on DVD these days, but surely that more traditional method is preferable to the silly rigmarole that is offered here.

The '90s opening is left in-tact. Who are you and what did you do with Ludwig von Drake?

The program begins with a boy on a bike and "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" sung by a woman who sounds nothing at all like James Baskett. Clearly, this is going to be an all-live-action production. Enter two real-life dalmatians (I think their names are Pongo and Perdita), who rush before us into their spotted mansion, where they apparently reside with a slew of unrelated children and a mad woman who is not unlike "The Magic School Bus"' Mrs. Frizzle (but not nearly as cool). Their ensemble of roommates provide the performance of the other Disney song, Peter Pan's catchy but obscure "Following the Leader", rather than the original cast. That's right, I said "the other," as in "the only other." Out of the ten included songs, only these first two originated from anything bearing the Disney name. The other eight are standards like "Do Your Ears Hang Low"
and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," all impeccably bland and sung during some ridiculous and uninteresting skit involving all the children and their unstable caretaker of questionable relation. Some are given doggy spins ("Hokey Pokey" becomes "Hokey Puppy", "Bingo" becomes "Pongo", and so on), but they aren't terribly clever. One might think that they would have at least dyed half of the crazy lady's hair and sung "Cruella De Vil," but I'm afraid there's no such luck.

So why would anyone turn to Disney for eight songs that have been brought to better life during summer camps than on this video? I'm not sure, but I don't think it's to see them unfold in this cockamamie shindig. Disney scores points for creating such an elaborate set and choreography, but they would have been better off using a solid slate of true-blue Disney tunes and a lot less zaniness. It should be noted that like the two stars, the lyrics are spotty, sometimes disappearing from the screen altogether. Of course, for that to be problematic, you would have to (A) care about the lyrics or (B) not already know them, and I at least doubt that one of those will be the case. On the upside, the technical aspects fair a bit better on this release than some of its contemporaries. Read on.

At one point, the program resorts to archived footage of dogs playing sports and engaging in other humorous activity. Poor Perdita's name wouldn't fit into this song, but given the way that the host overannunciates her name, that's probably for the best.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Originally released in 1996, Pongo and Perdita doesn't look all that bad in terms of video quality. Sure, it's a little soft throughout and there's so much edge enhancement that Pongo practically glows. Compare that to the concurrently-released Sing Along Songs: You Can Fly!, though. The picture here boasts a noticeable improvement in clarity that is due solely to its younger age and not to any sort of remastering on Disney's part. The 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio is appropriate, and at least here, it does not entail any classic Disney film get cropped to fit the standard television dimensions.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track might lead one to hope for an enveloping, truly surrounding musical experience. Sit on your subwoofer and hug your rear speakers to your ears, and that's more or less what you'll get. Leave your set-up as is, though, and you're going to have to strain to hear anything from the rear speakers or feel any bass. The center channel does a fine job with clear sound, though, so as long as you don't expect too much from the promised 5.1 treatment, the sound quality won't too much disappoint.

This DVD struck out long before it reached this scene. Easily the most boring of all the Sing Along Songs menu screens.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and DESIGN

The important thing to know about the bonus features on this disc is that there aren't any. But then, that's to be expected and so Disney needn't be criticized for that alone (it's the retail price that would been more appropriate had some bonuses actually turned up that is the problem). Helpfully, there is a song listing insert included inside the standard white keepcase. Flip it over to reveal an ad for Disney Princess DVDs.

The main menu features a musical staff, much like the other Sing Along Songs DVDs, which showcases some instrumental music and animated notes that float along the staff while some unrelated balloons fly up along a wall of dalmatian footprints. The main menu is the only animated one.

The start-up previews for this release are for Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin and the upcoming installments of the Disney Learning Adventures and Disney Princess lines. Opening up the relevant section from the main menu will turn up additional previews for Little Einsteins: Our Big Huge Adventure, Lady and the Tramp's nearing Platinum DVD release, Bambi II, and Playhouse Disney's "JoJo's Circus."

Where are these kids' parents? Disney's "Six Dalmatians."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With an extremely disappointing song selection and an inane presentation, Pongo and Perdita is one of the least satisfying entries in the Sing Along Songs series. Even though the suggest retail price isn't relatively high, it's still too much for a no-frills set that runs just over a half-hour. The only interested parties will be the Disney DVD completist and parents whose children really like sing alongs and already own all the other releases.

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UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Sing Along Songs DVDs on the Direct-to-Video Page | January 2006's Disney DVD Releases

Reviewed January 14, 2006.