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Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away! DVD + CD + Official Pirate Eye Patch Review

Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away! DVD + CD + Official Pirate Eye Patch combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away!
Show & DVD Details

Executive Producer: Rob LaDuca / Director: Howy Parkins / Producer/Story Editor: Mark Seidenberg / Line Producer: Bradley Bowlen / Developer: Bobs Gannaway

Writers: Kevin D. Campbell, Mark Drop, Mark Seidenberg, Don Gillies, Nicole Dubuc, Ashley Mendoza, Brian Swenlin / Storyboarders: Troy Adomitis, Roger Dondis, Bob Foster, Dave Bennett, Dave Williams, Carin-Anne Greco, Rossen Varbanov

Regular Voice Cast: Colin Ford (Jake), Madison Pettis (Izzy), Jonathan Morgan Heit (Cubby), David Arquette (Skully), Corey Burton (Captain Hook), Jeff Bennett (Mr. Smee, Bones, Captain Fisher), Loren Hoskins (Sharky) / Guest Voices: Russi Taylor (Hermit Crab, Never Bird, Gilly), April Winchell (Slippery Serpent)

Running Time: 169 Minutes (7 episodes) / Rating: TV-Y
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Hi-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Most Extras Captioned and Subtitled
DVD Release Date: September 27, 2011 / Episodes Aired February 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Two discs (DVD-9 & Audio CD)
Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover with Official Pirate Eye Patch

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On Valentine's Day 2011, Playhouse Disney was rebranded Disney Junior. Along with the new name came a supposedly expanded target audience from ages 2-5 to ages 2-7. Otherwise, it's pretty much been business as usual for Disney Channel's lucrative preschool programming block.
From 4 AM to 2 PM, computer-animated edutainment is in session. Then, the big kids' fare comes on, often transitioning from TV-G animation ("Phineas and Ferb" and "Fish Hooks") to the live-action sitcoms that haven't made much news since "Hannah Montana" signed off.

"Jake and the Never Land Pirates" made its debut the same February day as the Disney Junior name. Developed by "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" executive producer Bobs Gannaway, this series is very much in the style of that show, one of Playhouse Disney's Disney Junior's oldest and most successful programs. Unlike "Clubhouse", "Jake" divides its half-hour of airtime between two 12-minute episodes. But its methods of music, repetition, and viewer interaction are in the same vein. Uninterested in the art and culture that "Little Einsteins" imparts, "Jake" is more about getting from point A to point B and using available resources to solve simple problems.

The "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" logo lives up to the first part of the show's title. Izzy, Cubby, and Jake amplify their voices to let Captain Hook know he has Izzy's shell. (He already knows.)

Like "Clubhouse", "Jake" puts some classic animated Disney personalities to use. The titular location is indeed the Never Land of J.M. Barrie's play and the much-loved 1953 Disney film. But only two antagonistic characters from that universe feature as regular characters: Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee. (The crocodile makes a cameo.) One imagines that Tinker Bell was too busy with her annual direct-to-video movie series. And who knows where Peter Pan and his shadow are hanging out these days? As is, treasure hunters Hook and Smee are villains of the non-threatening, always-outwitted variety here. They take a backseat to the heroes who call Pirate Island home.

Out of these three young independent pirates, Jake is our good-natured, wooden sword-wielding host. Izzy (voiced by The Game Plan's Madison Pettis) is a girl who holds a bag of flight-enabling, emergency-use-only pixie dust from Tink and her fairy friends. Cubby, the youngest of the group, carries the map and gets to utter the catchphrase "Aw, coconuts!" The trio is joined by their parrot pal Skully (voiced by David Arquette).

"Jake" has a moderately distinctive look. Hook and Smee are modeled after their film incarnations, but slightly softened and stylized. Their eyes are enlarged to match the design of the other characters. Though one suspects it makes minimal use of hand-drawn animation, the series maintains a flat 2D look, with only select elements displaying the blocky, geometric appearance of television CGI.

The show is a touch less childish and more entertaining than the typical Disney Junior production. Still, it is didactic and repetitive enough not to play to those above a certain age (7 seems like a liberal cut-off point). This is not like the Disney Afternoon cartoons of yore, where pre-teens and even college students could tune in and enjoy themselves. A young kid in the room is the only acceptable explanation for viewers in other age groups to watch this. Nonetheless, others should find "Jake" more tolerable than others of its ilk and a teen or adult could easily be entertained by observing their sibling or child participating as desired.

Cubby handles the map as he, Jake, Izzy, and Skully look to return Captain Hook's hat to him. In "Izzy's Pirate Puzzle" and elsewhere, the villainy of Captain Hook and Mr. Smee is primarily comedic.

Every episode opens with Jake saying, "Ahoy, mateys. Do you wanna join my pirate crew?" and assuming an answer in the affirmative. Just utter the pirate password ("yo-ho-ho") and you're in like Flynn, though don't expect much in the way of swashbuckling.

Jake and company collect gold doubloons throughout their adventures and count their total at the end of each story.
At the end of every half-hour, a couple of live-action men sing a song. They are Kevin Hendrickson and Loren Hoskins, two of the singers of the Portland, Oregon-based pirate rock band Captain Bogg and Salty. It's a nice touch, adding some character to the proceedings. Hendrickson and Hoskins (no relation to Hook Smee Bob Hoskins) also write the songs sung by characters, which on occasion include animated versions of them.

"Jake and the Never Land Pirates" makes its DVD debut next week with Yo Ho, Mateys Away!, which we can safely declare the first DVD + CD + Official Pirate Eye Patch combo pack. This release offers way more than past Playhouse Disney discs, with the compilation serving up seven half-hour episodes (fourteen stories), or just under three hours of featured content.

1. Hats Off to Hook! / Escape from Belch Mountain (24:17) (Originally aired February 15, 2011)
The kids try to return Captain Hook's hat to him. Then, they aim to retrieve Jake's guitar before Hook can throw it into fiery volcano Belch Mountain.

2. Hide the Hideout! / The Old Shell Game (24:08) (Originally aired February 14, 2011)
Hook wants to find Jake and friends' hideout and make it his own. Then, the Captain takes Izzy's polka-dotted shell, which is no ordinary sea shell.

3. Izzy's Pirate Puzzle / The Never Land Games (24:05) (Originally aired February 21, 2011)
Hook confiscates Izzy's puzzle, mistaking it for treasure. Then, the kids use teamwork to compete against Hook and his crew in a series of obstacle courses.

Skully's birthday/bird day festivities are short-lived, thanks as always to the Captain. Having briefly known the joys of kites, Smee's yo-yo action can't cut it for Captain Hook.

4. Off the Hook / Never Say Never! (24:02) (Originally aired February 16, 2011)
Hook swipes a skateboard that washes ashore on Pirate Island. Hook targets Izzy's found Hipster Twister Hoop as the Jolly Roger's replacement steering wheel, but Never Bird takes off with it.

5. Cubby's Sunken Treasure / Cubby's Goldfish (24:05) (Originally aired February 23, 2011)
A message in an enchanted bottle leads the gang to the site of Captain Fisher's legendary treasure. Cubby's pet goldfish Gilly gets stolen by Hook.

6. Happy Hook Day! / No Returns! (24:08) (Originally aired February 19, 2011)
Hook snatches Skully's birthday/bird day presents to have a celebration for himself. Then, Hook impounds the kids' boomerang. What's this guy's problem?!

7. The Sky's the Limit / Bucky Makes a Splash (24:08) (Originally aired February 18, 2011)
Jake and company's kites briefly become the property of Captain Hook, before getting loose and needing recovery. Hook steals Jake's boat Bucky.

Watch a clip from "Escape from Belch Mountain":


It wasn't all that long ago when Disney resisted releasing tween-oriented Disney Channel Original Movies in widescreen. Now, even the company's youngest-skewing programming is presented that way on DVD. "Jake" looks more than jake here. Its 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation is as immaculate and vibrant as standard definition can be. The Dolby Surround soundtrack, offered in English, French, and Spanish, is pretty good too, supplying clarity and vitality throughout.

Ready to be a Never Land pirate? You'll need a pirate hat, a spyglass, and treasure chest, for starters. As members of the pirate-themed Portland rock band Captain Bogg and Salty, Loren Hoskins and Kevin Hendrickson make apt choices for the series' primary musicians, here given the Pirate-oke treatment.


Extras start with "Yo Ho, You Ready to Be a Never Land Pirate?" (4:55). In this short, a heard but unseen Jake takes us through the look and sound of a pirate, or at least this show's TV-Y rated version of it.

Next, you can throw a "Pirate Party" (11:00) in the form of Hoskins and Hendricksons' episode-closing performances. They are presented without end credits overlaid and with optional lyrics animating for you to sing along ("Pirate-oke"). Given this treatment are "Hot Lava", "Aw, Coconuts",
"Tick Tock Croc", "Never Land Pirate Band", "Pirate Password", "Talk Like a Pirate", and "Bucky's Shanty."

And though that is where the DVD's bona fide bonuses end, the fun continues in a second disc, an audio CD. This "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" song sampler serves up the same seven tunes from the Pirate Party in the same order. They run a tad longer than in the videos, checking in just under 14 minutes. That makes it one of the slighter CDs in any collection, but it's still a great inclusion that adds zilch to the price tag.

The third and final component of the combo pack is, of course, the "Official Pirate Eye Patch." You know it's official because there's a childish skull & crossbones on it. The patch is prestigiously wrapped around cardboard and protected in plastic. No need to go shopping for a Halloween costume now! The nice thing about this is that in addition to adding realism and a tinge of danger to pirate play, this could also prove helpful in treating a lazy eye. Plus, the string stretches for a comfortable fit on young and old heads alike. We fans give Disney grief when they err, so it's only right we give them credit when they succeed. And to say they do so here is an understatement.

Unlabeled  X's like this one mark the spot for fun little main menu animations.

By comparison, the rest of the packaging is far less exciting. There's a Disney Movie Rewards code sheet, and a booklet promoting "Jake" merch and other new/forthcoming kid-oriented Disney releases. Naturally, the tray-swinging keepcase is topped by cardboard slipcover, whose front is as embossed as DVD packaging gets. Oddly, its yellow banner is not repeated on the keepcase artwork itself, but the CD and eye patch are mentioned on back, so they are probably not limited-time inclusions.

FastPlay-enhanced, the DVD opens with trailers for The Lion King, The Muppets, and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Space Adventure. The second string ads, run post-Pirate-oke in FastPlay or after the disc openers repeat from the menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing, advertise Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Junior, Tinker Bell and the Pixie Hollow Games, Cars 2, Winnie the Pooh, and Lady and the Tramp: Diamond Edition.

A barely animated look at the show's four good characters, the DVD's main menu may seem oddly dull, but navigating around it reveals a number of unmarked areas, selection of which prompts the hidden treasure of a short animation and one-liner. Oh, the things you'll miss with FastPlay.

A boulder? Aw, coconuts! For making it to the end of this review, I hereby present you with ten gold doubloons.


"Jake and the Never Land Pirates" is strictly for young kids who enjoy talking to their television and don't mind getting the same basic rescue mission plot again and again. In design and success, the show comes close to "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse", from which many of its makers hail.

The series' first DVD delivers a lot more content than these compilations ordinarily offer and at no increase in price. That makes it a better value than most of Disney's preschool-oriented discs. Though the presentation satisfies, it is easiest to recommend for families who love, love, love the show and for those who don't get Disney Channel. Everyone else should be okay with two daily airings until Disney Junior is outgrown.

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Reviewed September 24, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Walt Disney Television Animation, Disney Junior, Disney Enterprises, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
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