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Fire Truck Rocket's Blastoff Animal Expedition

Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition DVD Review

Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition
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: 96 Minutes (4 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Full Screen (Original Aspect Ratio), Dolby 2.0 Surround (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: February 9, 2010
Originally Aired October 2005-December 2009
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Buy Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition from Amazon.com

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By Kelvin Cedeno

The production of new "Little Einsteins" episodes seems to have slowed a bit recently, but that hasn't stopped Disney from issuing more DVDs of the preschool franchise. Animal Expedition, the tenth DVD compilation released here in the States, is comprised of four episodes, each of which focuses on a particular animal guest star.

For those unfamiliar with the Playhouse Disney series, "Little Einsteins" centers on four children -- Leo, his sister Annie, and their friends Quincy and June -- as they set out on various missions and adventures. Oftentimes, these excursions take them across the globe, a feat easily accomplished with Rocket, their red rocket ship.
Young viewers are invited to help by performing different actions, the most common of which is patting their laps to get Rocket off the ground. In each episode, one piece of artwork and one piece of classical music are used as springboards for the mission in question.

For those who've already been exposed to this show, Animal Expedition will offer no surprises. Recent children's programming has been extremely formulaic since repetition and routines apparently help make learning easier. Even with that in mind, the regimented approach is more noticeable than usual on "Little Einsteins." The storylines may be (vaguely) different, but they all follow the same pattern. The time always comes for each child to use his or her special musical ability (Leo conducts, Annie sings, Quincy plays instruments, and June dances), and the bookend openings and closings are almost identical episode to episode. For proof of how little the show changes, compare on this disc the 2005 episode "Whale Tale" to the 2009 episode "Little Elephant's Big Parade." Both are so similar that a person would be hard-pressed to notice the four-year gap between them.

Joey the kangaroo and his common (but crowd-pleasing) abilities bring down the house at the Little Einsteins' animal talent show. June is unsure of how a conch shell can be used as an instrument to summon the whale, but the others seem to have already figured it out.

In the series' defense, the formula does admittedly work when taken on its own. Any show that introduces children to art and music should be commended, especially when doing so in a creative manner. The program doesn't just tell viewers about the pieces showcased, it uses them to fuel the storytelling. Often, the characters will travel and interact with elements from the painting in question, and the melody of the chosen music suite becomes a sort of communication method. It's also refreshing to see a preschool series that introduces genuine pathos into its plots, even if it doesn't always make much sense.

"Little Einsteins" is a sweet little piece of educational programming, but it somewhat wears out its welcome with each episode viewed. It has more of a personality than, say, "Handy Manny", but it so rigidly adheres to its own formula that there isn't as much room to develop as in "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse." Still, it's a much more tolerable affair than most its kin.

The four episodes of this Animal Expedition disc span from the show's fall 2005 launch to late last year, with one episode having debuted just two months ago. Each installment runs slightly over the 24-minute mark.

Little Duck is the last of his family to hatch from his shell, and his witnessing of June's duck imitation leads to some complications. Joey the joey and his unnamed snake friend lead the Little Einsteins across an Australian aboriginal landscape.

1. "Whale Tale" (Originally aired October 11, 2005)
Rocket befriends a whale during a beach outing with the gang. Their departure leads Rocket to a depression, so the children decide to travel underwater to reunite the two companions.
Featured art: George Seurat's "Les Bas-Butin, Honfleur"; Featured music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Horn Concerto #2"

2. "Duck, Duck, June" (Originally aired May 14, 2006)
The Little Einsteins witness the birth of a baby duckling, who mistakes June for his mother.
He follows the group back home, forcing them to embark on a "return home" mission.
Featured art: John Atkinson Grimshaw's "On the River Greta"; Featured music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Horn Concerto #2"

3. "Jump for Joey" (Originally aired January 26, 2006)
A talent show for animals is held in Australia. When a baby kangaroo with special hopping talents forgets to participate, the children must get him to the show before time runs out.
Featured art: Aboriginal Paintings; Featured music: Georges Bizet's "Carmen Suite #1 Toreador March"

4. "Little Elephant's Big Parade" (Originally aired December 22, 2009)
While in India, the Little Einsteins come across a tiny elephant who can grow to normal size when fed three peanuts. They must hurry in tracking these down in order for the elephant to take part in a parade.
Featured art: Raj Kapoor's "Lord Shiva"; Featured music George Edvard Grieg's "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen"


Animal Expedition's episodes are presented in their standard 1.33:1 "fullscreen" ratios. As with the series' other DVD compilations, there's little to really complain about. The digital nature of the show avoids any elemental flaws, and only some very slight artifacting appears. A bit of softness is noticeable but can be attributed more to the rounded animation style than towards any defect. Colors are appropriately vivid, leading to some very satisfactory transfers.

For whatever reason, the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks found on previous releases have been downgraded to Dolby Digital 2.0 surround here. It actually doesn't make much of a difference, anyway, with a show of this sort. Speech is clear, and the predominant use of music isn't overpowering. There's a surprising amount of directional sound effects, most notably in an underwater squid chase, and these liven the tracks up considerably.

Probably in an effort to be more accessible to preschoolers, The Animal Crane Game doesn't let you choose which trivia-filled egg you want. Mickey and Goofy show how many animals have escaped from the petting zoo in this quietly-included episode of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse." Rocket finds quite the shortcut between India and Australia on this newly-designed main menu.


The disc only holds two supplements, one of which isn't even mentioned on the packaging. The one that is is The Animal Crane Game. This set-top game has the player select different eggs from inside of a crane machine. Each egg contains an animal that is accompanied by various facts and stock footage. A single question is asked, the information revealed, and a correct answer leads to more egg access.
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Some of the facts in this game are actually quite interesting, though the questions and gameplay aren't. Still, the target audience may find some entertainment here.

As for the unadvertised supplement, it's "Goofy's Petting Zoo", a full 24-minute episode of the popular Playhouse Disney series "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". Appropriately upholding the disc's animal theme, the episode leaves Goofy in charge of a petting zoo. When he falls asleep on the job, all of the animals escape. With help from Mickey and the gang, Goofy embarks on a search for the missing zoo residents. It's a cute episode that's a bit more entertaining than this disc's main content.

Via Disney's FastPlay, trailers appear before the featured episode lot. These promote Disney Blu-ray, Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Minnie's Bow-tique, and "My Friends Tigger & Pooh": Super Duper Super Sleuths. After the "Little Einsteins" and bonus "MMC" episode play through, additional ads run for Disney Movie Rewards, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Toy Story and Toy Story 2 on Blu-ray, Muppets Studio DC Almost Live: Extended Edition, Ponyo, "Handy Manny" on Playhouse Disney, and The Princess and the Frog.

For only the second time, the disc's menus break free from the oft-recycled clubhouse setting. Here, the main menu features Rocket flying above the various landmarks showcased in these four episodes. All menus are accompanied by instrumentals, though the submenus (which each individually focus on a different locale) are static.

The predictably gray and colorless disc is housed in a standard white Amaray case. No slipcover or promotional pamphlets are included, though one does find the requisite Disney Movie Rewards code.

Now big and fully decorated for the parade, the once little elephant gives his friends a roomy ride up top. Rocket finds himself in one of the seas of Stock Footage Land as he searches for his whale companion.


This tenth DVD release of "Little Einsteins" is no better or worse than past releases.
The episodes here feel too similar to one another and don't hold up well to consecutive viewing via FastPlay. That said, the show does have its charms when taken in small doses. Video and the strangely downgraded audio are both fine. While the game isn't much for interactivity, the bonus "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" episode is a pleasant inclusion. The release is recommended to families who've collected the previous discs and have an enthusiastic fan of the show, but newcomers should be fine just catching the show in its regular Playhouse Disney airings.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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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 February 24, 2010.