Nick Jr. DVD Capsule Reviews: "Yo Gabba Gabba" & "Dora" Boxes, "Go Diego Go!"
I’ve long been a proponent of Yo Gabba Gabba! DVD season sets, since I think the show’s substantial adult following would be more than happy to pick them up over the single-disc releases. The new Yo Gabba Gabba! Party in a Box may cause some excitement among those who agree, but the reality is that it’s just a re-packaging of 3 previously released DVDs. The good news is that the 3 DVDs in the box has some of the best episodes the show has to offer. I’ve gone in-depth with The Dancey Dance Bunch before. Birthday Boogie is anchored by an episode centered on Brobee’s birthday, which serves as the basis for all the segments on the show, including the Dancey Dance Time sequence with Melora Hardin and a joyfully bouncy rock birthday song from the Ting Tings. After that, the “Talent” episode is probably the most enjoyable, especially a hilarious throwaway bit when DJ Lance Rock reveals what his talent is. Clubhouse may be one of the best single DVDs the show has to offer, with the title episode delivering a nice little lesson on playing nicely with others and a great Super Music Friends Show with the Sounds. “Adventure” is centered on an amusing Indiana Jones riff, while “Summer” has not one but three terrific musical numbers (including the Aquabats’ impossibly fun “Pool Party”). “Animals” is only disappointing in comparison, but is still fun for the delightful weirdness of the Super Music Friends Show appearance of Jimmy Eat World.
These DVDs are identical to the previously released ones, meaning they have no chapter stops and no extras. If you’ve already got these DVDs, there is no utility in the double-dip, but if you haven’t, then it’s as good a place as any to discover the joys of Gabbaland.
Nickelodeon has also pushed out a repackaging of 3 Dora the Explorer DVDs in a Big Party Pack. My antipathy towards Dora the Explorer is pretty well documented by this point, so the most I can really say politely about this set is, “Yes, those are definitely three more Dora the Explorer DVDs.” Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure centers on her double-length 10th birthday celebration, which still doesn’t break the rigid formula that Dora adheres to unrelentingly, with two more birthday-themed episodes to round out the disc. I thought I had already reviewed Super Silly Fiesta for the site, but it turns out that they only recycled that episode for the Target-exclusive Dora’s Ballet Adventures DVD. It’s a Party has another double-length episode for Dora’s cousin’s quinceañera (15th birthday) party, with two more to round out the proceedings. Despite the two double-length episode discs, all 3 DVDs are almost indistinguishable from each other or from any other Dora DVDs, which is kind of the point I suppose. As with Party in a Box, all 3 of these DVDs have been released before, so if you’ve already got them then there’s no need to double-dip here, either.
I find Dora’s cousin Diego far more palatable, mostly because his show is nowhere near as rigid and formulaic as Dora’s. If nothing else, the show has much more varied environments than Dora’s pastel-colored candyland; Diego’s rescues are never as formulaic and repetitive as Dora’s “adventures”; and I appreciate that Diego deals with actual danger more than the soft, safe, rounded edges of Dora. There isn’t ever any actual peril in Diego, let alone an event that would end up on When Animals Attack (as much as we might wish it), but it’s at least out there as an abstract concept. The closest Dora ever comes is probably Swiper the Fox, who isn’t dangerous as much as just unpleasant.
This isn’t to say that I’d go out of my way to watch the show, but I don’t think I’d avoid it as actively as I would Dora. The double-length headline episode of the Go Diego Go! Fiercest Animal Rescues DVD feels like a clip show, as Diego runs through his personal “trophy” room recounting rescues of dangerous animals like gorillas, grizzly bears, an octopus, and a jaguar. I’m not sure it actually is a clip show, though, since all the sequences seem pretty well self-contained and the structure of an average episode of Diego doesn’t seem like it would allow for such a clean extraction. I do appreciate that Diego goes out of his way to repeatedly tell the kids in the audience not to approach dangerous animals for rescues of their own, especially since I’m going to guess that a lot of his methods are unsound (and hinge on his ability to speak with many of them). The other two episodes, “Cotton-Top Tamarin Cave Rescue” and “Pampas and Friends Help the Rescue Center” differ in their animals and specific details, but are otherwise indistinguishable.
Like most Nickelodeon DVDs, Fiercest Animal Rescues has no chapter stops or extras. I do appreciate that the number of trailers on the disc has been greatly reduced from earlier releases (including several in the two boxed sets above). Nickelodeon certainly has a right to cross-promote their other shows and I like several of them, but earlier DVDs would throw 5 or 6 ads before hitting the DVD menu, which really stank of a distastefully excessive commercialism aimed at the extremely young. Fiercest Animal Rescues has only one ad for other Nick DVDs, and it cuts across all Nick Jr’s offerings to cover them all in one fell swoop. This is definitely a change for the better, if nothing else because of the shortened start-up time.