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"Wonder Pets! Save the Nutcracker!": Saving A Nutcracker Is Sewious

Save The Nutcracker! is the latest in a series of DVD releases from Nickelodeon chronicling the adventures of the Wonder Pets. The Wonder Pets, which airs on Nick Jr., is about a trio of classroom pets who have adventures after the school children have all gone home. When they get a call from an animal who needs help, Linny the hamster, Tuck the turtle, and Ming-Ming the duck spring into action. After donning hats and capes, they assemble their Flyboat and take off to save the animal in trouble, ending each adventure with a celery snack. The Wonder Pets! Save the Nutcracker! DVD contains a double-length holiday-themed adventure along with three pairs of episodes, “Save the Old White Mouse”/”The Adventures of Bee and Slug!”, “Save the Pangaroo”/”Save the Cricket”, and “Save the Cow”/”Save the Skunk”.

A typical Wonder Pets adventure follows a basic plot structure, but “Save the Nutcracker” has extra time it can use to change things up a little. It’s Christmas Eve, and the Wonder Pets receive a nutcracker as a present. Mirroring E. T. A. Hoffman’s original story, the Mouse King emerges from a book, steals the Nutcracker, and takes it back to his kingdom in the book. The Wonder Pets follow him to get their present back. What follows is an amusing romp through snow and giant confectionery, where the Wonder Pets chase the Mouse King and are both helped and hindered by the inhabitants of the strange land.

Singing is a staple of the Wonder Pets, as most lines in each episode are sung, and some phrases are repeated each episode. (And, being twice as long as a normal Wonder Pets episode, “Save the Nutcracker” uses the extra time for more singing, dancing, and exploring.) The same short songs come up again in “Save the Nutcracker”, but rather than use the standard Wonder Pets music, the music used is based on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker ballet. I doubt the composer knew children everywhere would become familiar with his music through singing cartoon animals, but there’s no denying that his music has been adapted and filtered through the lens of many other television shows and movies. The Wonder Pets version is cute, disarming, and comes with the message of being thankful for what you have.

“Save the Old White Mouse” introduces Linny’s grandmother, who lives at a nursing home. An old mouse friend of hers ends up stuck in a clock, and the Wonder Pets have to save him. (I wonder if it’s a requirement that the old folks at the nursing home have to have elderly animals for pets or if it’s just a coincidence.) In “The Adventures of Bee and Slug”, the Wonder Pets’ mission takes a back seat to a bee and a slug. While the Wonder Pets attempt to save a fox, Bee and Slug discover that guarding the Wonder Pets’ Flyboat isn’t an easy task. Although they are not as interesting as the Wonder Pets themselves, at least the Bee and Slug adventure is a welcome departure from the usual run of the mill episode plot.

“Save the Pangaroo” is a fun one and probably my favorite of the regular episodes on this disc. The Pangaroo, a cross between a parrot and a kangaroo, is a living work of art that has fallen into a trashcan and seeks a place to belong. Throughout the adventure, the Wonder Pets combine various other things around the classroom. Teamed with that short is “Save the Cricket”, where the Wonder Pets travel to Chicago to save a cricket trapped in a bubble and at the mercy of the city’s harsh winds. It’s good to have the Wonder Pets explore real cities and introduce them to the children watching at home, but it could stand to be a little more educational. Wrigley Field is shown and a couple facts are dropped, but Chicago is never actually identified on a map.

The final episode is “Save the Cow”/”Save the Skunk”. The first takes the Wonder Pets to Oklahoma to save a cow left stranded in a tree by a twister. In “Save the Skunk”, the Wonder Pets are joined by an impatient rabbit named Ollie when they try to save a skunk from a rose bush. Although eager to do things on his own at first, Ollie learns the value of teamwork from the Wonder Pets.

Special features on the DVD include a “Waltz of the Flowers” music video that shows clips from “Wonder Pets Save the Nutcracker”, where Linny, Tuck, and Ming-Ming dance through the magical world of the Mouse King to the instrumental music of The Nutcracker’s “Waltz of the Flowers”. There is also a “Decorate the Christmas Tree” game in which Linny eggs the viewer on to place Wonder Pets-themed ornaments onto the Christmas tree.

The Wonder Pets is a show you’re either going to get into or find wearisome. Unlike a traditional drawn cartoon, The Wonder Pets animates real photographs of animals which, I’m sure in some cases works to draw a young child’s attention. The Wonder Pets sing pretty much everything they do, and their songs are catchy and memorable enough for children to pick up and sing along with. That’s probably the show’s greatest strength. Although the show may not be terribly educational, what with its questionable use of physics and all, they are most certainly inspirational. The heart of the Wonder Pets is the idea that individuals can accomplish more if they work together. The Wonder Pets openly admit their own shortcomings but know that as a cooperative unit they can get any job done. Together, their goal is always to help someone who needs it. The ability to keep positive and help others is an admirable quality of the Wonder Pets, and provided children don’t pick up on Ming-Ming’s habit of pronouncing r’s like w’s, they’re a good influence.

Any parent with a young child should seriously consider keeping a Wonder Pets DVD on the shelf. Save the Nutcracker in particular is good to have to pull out during Christmas time, though the repetitiveness may be a bit of a problem. No matter what age you are, the Wonder Pets should only be viewed in small doses, lest their catchy theme gets stuck in your head.

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