Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat… this is a title intended for viewing by small children. Very small children. As a result, all of my usual judging criteria (picture quality, sound quality, character development) are pretty much unimportant. The target audience for this title has trouble forming words, so I am willing to bet that the more subtle nuances of the narrative will be lost on them. Nevertheless, I will continue on as best as I can.
If you are still reading this, you are most likely a…parent, or will soon become one. Personally, I don’t have children. Having said that up front, I feel that this is a tremendous title that would prove to be invaluable in the task of teaching young minds to recognize colors, shapes, and even words. The content is presented in a way that would be interesting to children, with a nice mix of bright colors, moving images, animation and live action. Vocal narration is virtually nonexistent, as the people at Baby Einstein allow the images to speak for themselves.
The focus of this film is the barnyard. Children are presented with images of cows, pigs, sheep, tractors, barns and the like. Sometimes, the images are accompanied by their names in text across the bottom of the screen. Other times, the name of the object or animal is spoken. This allows the disc to be beneficial to children of varying ages and developmental levels.
This is a nice solid program that would be an excellent aid for teachers and parents alike.
As I stated above, this is a title that carries very little dialog. The majority of the audio track consists of classical music played very softly and simply, to maximize its appeal to little ears. Dolby Digital 2.0 is the audio format that is utilized (except for the Disney and Baby Einstein title cards, both in 5.1). While I would typically be disappointed with a title that only offered 2.0, it makes perfect sense here, as the majority of parents will play this on a standard television, without the aid of a home theater system. Also, as audio will be coming from fewer speakers, it will help the youngster to focus in on the main event taking place on the screen.
The audio track that is present is clear and free from static. Tones are thoughtfully compressed into the midrange area, to prevent the aural irritation that can be caused by excess highs and lows.
The video quality on this title is comparable to that of the audio. The presentation is in full screen format (as would be expected). Colors are a bit overblown, which is obviously done to help hold children’s interest. Blemishes are rare, but they do show up on the location shots from time to time.
Particularly disheartening, however, is the case of severe shudder that shows up sporadically during the live action and puppet segments. Some of these puppets shake like Katherine Hepburn on a covered wagon. While children may not be able to put their tiny fingers on exactly what is wrong, they would certainly be able to sense that something is amiss with Mr. Rooster. This unfortunate transfer error lowers the overall video score considerably.
There is a great offering of extras included on this disc that have the needs of parents in mind. The Repeat Play feature is fantastic for busy parents, allowing them to just let the program play while they prepare dinner. The Discovery Cards allow parents to sit with their child and flip through still photos of barnyard scenes, giving children the ability to recognize and identify objects by name.
What children’s video would be complete without a sing along? The “Old MacDonald” Sing Along segment is just what it sounds like, but unfortunately it is taken directly from the feature itself, and therefore not a true extra as far as I am concerned. The Puppet Shows are simple and dialog free, but surprisingly humorous. Story Time with Baby MacDonald on the Farm tells a children’s story in book style, with still drawings and narration.
The last two extras have been included exclusively for parents. About Baby Einstein is a short commercial/documentary (complete with infomercial-esque testimonials) covering all of the products in the Baby Einstein catalog, including books, audio, video and toys. Speaking of toys, the Toy Chest segment shows all of the toys used during the feature, and provides the toys name and manufacturer. This gives parents a head start on finding those new toys that their children love.
This is not going to be a fun night at home for most viewers, unless you’re really drunk. When this disc is properly used, however, parents and children may both feel rewarded. All of the Baby Einstein products are high-quality items, and this release carries on that tradition.
Special Features List
- Repeat Play
- Discovery Cards
- “Old MacDonald” Sing Along
- Puppet Shows
- Story Time with Baby MacDonald on the Farm
- Toy Chest