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DVD Review: Little Einsteins – Flight of the Instrument Fairies

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Written by Caballero Oscuro 

Little Einsteins airs on the Disney Channel and has a fairly deep marketing presence with assorted DVDs and toys readily available. While it’s not the most entertaining of kids shows, it does live up to its Einstein label with some surprisingly educational subject matter. Each episode features the four star characters, a rainbow coalition of little tykes who set out on adventures around the world in their sentient Pat Pat Rocket, a magical vehicle that can instantly transform into any manner of vehicle as needed depending on their situation. Like Dora the Explorer or Super Why, the characters frequently address the viewers, prompting interaction as they try to solve puzzles and also prompting physical activity as they extol their future couch potato audience to “pat pat pat” their legs faster and faster to help the rocket take off, among other activities.

If you haven’t seen the show before, it’s got well above-average production values. The main characters appear to be Flash-animated and usually act out their adventures against real photographic backgrounds. The other characters and animals they interact with vary in appearance, ranging between 3-D CGI models, other Flash animation, and manipulated photos (similar to Wonder Pets). Basically, it’s easy on the eyes. The voice cast is solid as well. The soundtrack is where it begins to get educational.

The driving mission of the show seems to be exposing young children to classic art and music. And by classic, I don’t mean The Beatles. They primarily feature classical music and artists who have been dead for centuries, although Andy Warhol surprisingly gets some shine in one of the episodes on this disc. Frankly, it’s pretty educational for adults too, as you’ll probably recognize most of the art and music but may not be able to identify the creators.

The show doesn’t stop at just introducing the music, it also goes into detail on the specific orchestral instruments used in its creation and even teaches kids about brainy stuff like the names of various tempos. Quick, who can tell me the difference between adagio, presto, allegro, and moderato? After watching this, I think I can. They even show the actual sheet music for the featured work of each episode and highlight the notes as played, so viewers are encouraged to learn about how to read sheet music.

It’s not all just music and art, as the episodes also delve into education about wide-ranging subjects such as animals, science, and geography. Each episode sends the gang off on a quest where they learn about these topics along the way. However, the star educational subject matter is clearly the artist and composer of the day. Adventures are secondary to the learning exercises encountered en route and generally aren’t all that interesting anyway, so there’s really no point reviewing the different stories presented on this disc. Instead, here are the artists and composers highlighted in the four half-hour episodes: Ancient Roman mosaics & Mendelssohn, Leonardo da Vinci & Charles Francois Gounod, Andy Warhol & Johann Strauss, and Alexej von Jawlensky & Giuseppe Verdi.

The DVD reportedly includes a brand-new episode (the title episode) that hasn’t been shown on Disney Channel yet, so rabid fans have a special treat. Aside from that, the only real bonus feature is an interactive game called "Music Mix-Up" that reinforces the works of the composers featured on the disc while letting viewers play along. The game features two varying difficulty levels, a nice touch for developmental differences of their target viewers. Also, the DVD features French, Spanish, and English audio and subs, so any parents looking to expose the kids to some foreign language learning have great options here.

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