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Toonzone Reviews "Nickelodeon Sisters & Brothers" and "Dora’s Ballet Adventures"

by on February 10, 2011

, and while times have been tough in that market for some time, I can’t believe that Viacom will improve much by releasing discs like Nickelodeon Sisters and Brothers. This newly released anthology disc collects episodes from five disparate shows, ostensibly unified by the theme in the title. I’m not sure what’s worse: the generally lackluster shows offered or the fact that the DVD can’t even manage to sustain its own theme for its brief running time.

Sisters and Brothers begins with a special episode of Dora the Explorer, where she must get home in time for the arrival of a new sibling. Of course, “special” is a relative term when discussing Dora, where the most one can usually say about it is, “Yes, that’s definitely another episode of Dora,” because they’re all the same. This is still true despite the surprise twist ending of this episode. Slightly more interesting is the following episode of Go, Diego, Go!, where the young wilderness explorer has to help spider monkey brothers rescue their baby sisters, who have wandered off into the jungle. As I’ve noted before, Diego is a lot more fun than Dora, but it’s still not a show an average adult will find too interesting or a child will find too challenging. After that, the disc goes old-school with an episode of Blue’s Clues, as Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper go off to the hospital to deliver their baby. I’ve never watched Blue’s Clues before, and even though it ends up using a lot of the same tricks as Dora, I find it much more watchable and credit that to the appeal of original host Steve Burns.

Things go downhill fast after those three episodes, though. I would like Wonder Pets! more if not for Ming-Ming the duck, whose “adowable” speech impediment vaults clear over “cute” to land squarely in cloying, saccharine, and patronizing territory. Since the Wonder Pets! episode on this DVD showcases Ming-Ming, watching it was like having my fingernails pulled out and then dragged across a chalkboard. Both mini-episodes involve Ming-Ming being tasked to care for her cousin Marvin, who lives at her aunt’s farm KalamaZoo. The joke of Ming-Ming declaring that Marvin needs to learn to “speak pwoperly” when he insists on calling her “Bing-Bing” was just the irritating lampshade icing on the cake, and I’m puzzled why it’s on this DVD at all since Marvin is a cousin. However, the familial ties give it more reason to be on this disc than the subsequent episode of Ni Hao, Kai-lan, in which Hoho the monkey acts like a moron and loses his special lantern for the lantern festival. Ni Hao, Kai-lan often teaches the inadvertent lesson that if you’re a loud, obstinate brat long enough, eventually all your friends will drop whatever they’re doing to make you happy. This episode just replaces being obnoxious with being completely stupid, since Hoho’s repeated ignoring of instructions forces all his friends to cover for him. Noting that there are no sisters or brothers anywhere to be found in this episode is just adding insult to injury.

What truly baffles about this disc is that there are other, better shows with episodes about sisters and brothers on Nickelodeon. Yo Gabba Gabba has the excellent “Family” episode, Olivia has lots of episodes that center on her relationship to her “little bother,” and Max and Ruby is about nothing EXCEPT the brother/sister relationship. I suspect none of these shows were included because they’re not technically owned by Nick, but if you’re going to present a theme DVD, I don’t think it’s out of line to expect it to follow through on the theme.

Unsurprisingly, all that can be said of the Dora’s Ballet Adventures DVD is, “Yes, that’s definitely another 4 episodes of Dora.” Dora’s Ballet Adventures is distinctive only for being a Target exclusive DVD. Other than that it’s indistiguishable from every other Dora the Explorer DVD ever made (with one notable exception): four episodes of the show, no extras, and precious little to offer to a supervising adult. The only thing to catch my wandering attention was the sentient train in the first episode, which reminded me of the animated Soul Train from that show’s opening credits. Other than that, it’s a bit surprising how far back Nick dipped for this DVD, since the three remaining episodes date back to 2001-2. Only one, “The Super Silly Fiesta,” is even vaguely interesting because of the wacky slapstick that ends up happening throughout, but again, “interesting” is a relative term. It’s marginally better than Sisters and Brothers, but this is virtually the definition of “damning with faint praise.”

Both of these DVDs are typical Nickelodeon offerings: full-frame videos, stereo sound, and no chapter stops within an episode. Sisters and Brothers comes with two Team Umizoomi videos as extras; Dora’s Ballet Adventures has none whatsoever. If you must, help yourself.

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