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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Music > Fantasy > Animals > Educational > Slapstick > Theatrical Shorts > Nickelodeon Spring 2015 DVD Singles: Big Little Movies (Dora's Explorer Girls: Our First Concert, Dora Saves Fairytale Land, Umi Space Heroes), Max & Ruby: Sharing & Caring, Bubble Guppies: Puppy & Th

Nickelodeon Spring 2015 DVD Singles: Big Little Movies (Dora's Explorer Girls: Our First Concert, Dora Saves Fairytale Land, Umi Space Heroes), Max & Ruby: Sharing & Caring, Bubble Guppies: Puppy & The Ring, Team Umizoomi!: Meet Shark Car/Tom & Jerry: The Gene Deitch Collection (1961/Warner DVD)

Picture: C+/B- Sound: C+ Extras: D/C Main Programs: C+

Here's the latest children's DVD releases...

In a move that is a little surprising, Nickelodeon is really stepping up the release of DVD singles to the point that I think they are setting a new kind of personal best record, so I grouped 6 of them in this review to prove my point and show what they are up to.

These basic discs with no extras include three in a series that may or may not continue called Big Little Movies and include Dora's Explorer Girls: Our First Concert, Dora Saves Fairytale Land and Umi Space Heroes. It is hard to say if this will be the beginning of a new series or just a one-shot thing, but it is more of the same though Saves has the new older Dora who coexists with the younger, traditional, iconic one and Space has Team Umizoomi! in what they expect is a fun new situations. We also get three regular releases in Max & Ruby: Sharing & Caring, Bubble Guppies: Puppy & The Ring and (making sure the original version of the hit show is also issued with the special DVD) Team Umizoomi!: Meet Shark Car.

These are all fine and half (the Movies DVDs) run only 45 minutes-long (which is too short), but they are fine for what they are (Max has the most adventures at 94 minutes, three minutes longer than Shark, but Puppy runs 114 minutes) and they are just fine. They are more of the same versus the many earlier releases we have reviewed elsewhere on this site, leaving one question: Is Nickelodeon overdoing it or is this smart DVD releasing and marketing? Time will tell, but I hope they start releasing a more diverse lot of titles soon.

Tom & Jerry: The Gene Deitch Collection (1961) is a controversial set of theatrical cartoons by the underrated Mr. Deitch whose animation was done overseas, tended to be abstract and were a big change from the expensive, lush shorts Tom & Jerry creators Hanna-Barbera had made when they created the characters and animated theatrical shorts series in the first place with the big money backing of MGM. Before these deconstructions-by-default of the duo's adventures became too much for MGM to take and there was a leadership change, Deitch and company made 13 shorts and the results are not as bad as you may have heard.

I have seen these over the years and they are always an interesting break in what you usually see, something that has remained so as TV media has changed so much since the 1970s. They have held their uniqueness, flaws and all, for they are fun and push the artform into a new direction that is not always comfortable. Yet these are still funny, creative and prove the appeal of Tom and Jerry without the big budget... something proved by later hit TV versions of the duo and makes one wonder why they have not had a comeback. This set is worth catching, especially since you can finally see the artistic intents of these underrated works.

Extras include the new Tom and Jerry... and Gene featurette and vintage featurette Much Ado About Tom And Jerry on the DVD, while a paper inside the case has an listing of the shorts, plus text statements from Deitch and animation scholar Jerry Beck.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image in the Max, Puppy and Fairytale DVDs are just fine, but they are not so extraordinary that they outright topple the 1.33 X 1 image on the rest of the Nickelodeon DVDs. They are all in line with most of the previous, many DVDs we have covered from the company.

The 1.33 X 1 image on the newly remastered Jerry shorts are more of a revelation, looking like they were issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor 35mm prints showing a new dimension and how much more thought went into these shorts than all previous video copies would let on. Add some more detail, depth and the wide-ranging depth of color you can see how much of the limited budgets got onto the screen and how much heart and soul Deitch put into them. I am impressed, even if some shorts work better than others, though I won't elaborate as you should take a deeper look at them yourself.

As for sound, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Puppy and Fairytale DVDs are decent, but their soundfields are not so strong that they can outright outdo the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the other four Nickelodeon DVDs, but all are fine and sufficient for their young audience. The big surprise is that the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in Jerry sounds better and clearer than ever being remastered from the original elements. It brings out more in the creative, unique soundtrack work that was a little more ahead of its time than it gets credit for.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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