The audience for the "Baby Einstein" series eventually gets older, of course, so the creators have smartly come up with a new franchise - "Little Einsteins" that's geared towards youngsters who want to learn more advanced concepts regarding the world around them. The series started off with "Our Big Huge Adventure", which followed the main characters - Leo, June, Quincy and Annie - as they blasted off in a rocket and to see such sights as Niagara Falls, Manhattan and a Butterfly forest in Mexico, learning different concepts along the way.
Several DVD releases later, “Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition” is being released on DVD. Four episodes are included here, each one following the characters as they embark on a journey to discover more about animals in their different habitats. In the first episode, “Whale Tale”, the group learn about whales, only to discover their rocket misses playing with one of the smaller whales. This sets the group out on a mission to find the whale, during which they explore the Great Barrier Reef. In “Duck, Duck, June” the group visit’s the Great Lakes and come across a mother Duck and eight ducklings. When the group get back home, they realize one of the ducklings came with them. The group’s mission is to return the duck back to his family. In “Jump for Joey”, the group are on their way to Australia to the Sydney Opera House to see an animal talent show. On the way the see several animals like Pelicans, Emu’s and a Kangaroo. In “Little Elephant’s Big Parade”, the group is in India for an Elephant Festival. There they win a tiny, magical elephant and must feed her peanuts to make her grow. They also witness several elephants getting their faces painted and make it their mission to help the little elephant grow so that she can have her face painted and march with the big elephants.
The “Little Einstein” series provides an interesting style of animation that, while not as striking as many animated featured today, was at least original and imaginative. In the film, CGI/traditionally animated characters and events take place against static backgrounds often made up of paintings and some live-action footage. Classical music also is heavily featured in the film, as well. Overall, I found this to be a very fine production, and certainly a great choice for kids who've grown out of the "Baby Einstein" series.
Starring several classic Disney characters, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” is for younger audiences and is geared towards educating while entertaining, much like “Little Einsteins”. Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy, Daisy Duck, and Pluto are among the regulars that appear in the episodes. The newest release “Minnie’s Bow-Tique” has four episodes, all of which feature Minnie Mouse. While the episodes aren’t nearly as entertaining as the animated series Disney put out when I was younger, they offer some enjoyment and parents may appreciate the audience participation used to engage kids further.
The first episode included in “Minnie’s Bow-Tique” is “Minnie’s Pajama Party” in which Minnie invites all of her friends to a pajama party, but before the fun can begin she, along with Mickey and their set of Mousekatools (a.k.a. Toodles) must set up the space. The Mousekatools are different tools that can help solve a problem in each episode. Here, Minnie counts out six slices of pie for all of her friends, then uses the same dividing lesson to divide the circular room into six even space, using chalk from Toodles. In “Minnie’s Bow-Tique” Minnie sets up a Bow shop and needs her friends (and the audiences) help to prepare for the grand opening. One of her special bows include a bow that changes colors with your mood. “Minnie’s Bee Story” features Buzz Buzz The Bee who needs help finding his way back home. In “Minnie’s Picnic”, Minnie hosts a picnic for several of her friends including Chip and Dale, in honor of the grand opening of the Mickey park picnic grounds, and needs help getting ready in time.
In each episode, they use Toodles for help in solving several different problems. Counting, shapes, sounds and colors, as well as songs are used here to help teach children. At around 24 minutes each, these episodes feel rather long, especially for young children, but thankfully they manage to entertain with lots of familiar characters and songs kids may enjoy (several of which appear in each episode). Being a fan of hand drawn animation, the 3D computer images loose a since of magic that older Disney cartoons used to have, however younger kids may like the brighter images. Much like “Little Einsteins”, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” should appeal to a younger audience and parents will enjoy the lessons taught throughout each episode.
VIDEO/AUDIO: Both titles are presented by Disney in 1.33:1 full-frame. The picture remained bright and vivid, with well-saturated colors and no major concerns. The animation remained sharp and well-defined throughout, with no apparent softness. The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was understandably front-heavy. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and sound effects.
EXTRAS: Bonus Features for “Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition”:
“Game Time: The Animal Crane Game” is a cute game for kids to learn more about the loveable animals featured in the DVD. After providing facts about the animal chosen from a arcade-style crane game, you then hear a sound and are asked to pick which instrument belongs to the sound you heard. After choosing correctly, you’re given a brief history of the instrument. Also included is “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” bonus episode, “Goofy’s Petting Zoo”. Together Mickey and Goofy look for missing zoo animals, along with audience participation. Like “Little Einsteins” the episode focuses on educating the audience while entertaining.
Sneak Peeks included on “Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition” are: Disney Blu-Ray, Disney Movie Rewards, My Friends Tigger and Pooh: Super-Duper Super Sleuths”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Minnie’s Bow-Tique”, “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”, “Toy Story 1 and 2”, “Ponyo”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Handy Manny”, and “Muppets Studio DC: Almost Live Extended Edition”
Bonus Features on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Minnie’s Bow-Tique”
The DVD includes an interactive Adventure Mode to play while watching the episodes “Minnie’s Pajama Party” and “Minnie’s Bee Story”. The mode asks questions based on what you’re watching and using your remote you can select the right answer. The game can also be played on Auto play.
Sneak Peeks included on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Minnie’s Bow-Tique” are: Disney Blu-Ray, Disney Movie Rewards, My Friends Tigger and Pooh: Super-Duper Super Sleuths”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition”, “Ponyo”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Handy Manny”, “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”, and “Toy Story 1 and 2”.
Final Thoughts: Both “Little Einsteins” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” offer a nice balance between entertainment and education. With memorable characters and engaging stories and lessons, the sets are recommended.