The animated TV series Little Einsteins teaches art and music to the young'uns by incorporating classical music and art into stories. The gang of four interacts with kids by facing the screen and encouraging them to play along. Little Einsteins: Race for Space comes with three episodes, one of which hasn't aired as of the DVD's initial release.
"The Treasure behind the Little Red Door," the never before aired episode, has kids and Rocket tracking a stolen treasure map to Hawaii. The art of the day is the Hawaii Ki'i (hula) statue and the featured song is "Funeral March of a Marionette" by Charles Francois Gounod.
After stealing the treasure map from the gang, Big Jet races pass a volcano, across the bay, and into a rain forest. The gang follows closely behind. Beware this episode contains spider webs and an ugly yellow spider with a freaky smile. It might scare kids who are afraid of insects. However, the bug doesn't bother the four-year-old critic.
"Treasure" is one of the weaker episodes in the series. The story doesn't weave together well and most of it slumps along. The story feels incomplete without truly diving into the things expected of the Little Einsteins. While this episode isn't typical Little Einstein fare, it makes sense that it comes on this DVD because of its connection to the last episode. The more important critic, the four-year-old, likes the episode.
In the next show, "Super Fast," three little piggies and their flying machines join the Einsteins in episode #36, first airing in March, 2007. Here the show introduces "The William Tell Overture" by Gioachino Rossini and Chinese cut paper.
Leo and the gang fill up Rocket with music gas to help Rocket fly at different tempos, or speeds — adagio, moderato, allegro, and presto. To catch up with each flying piggy, the gang changes tempo to match or surpass the tempo of the piggy's airplane. One piggy is stuck flying on adagio, another on moderato, and the third on allegro.
Children learn tempo while discovering Machu Picchu in Peru and China. While in China, the artful backgrounds and scenery are made of Chinese paper cuttings. The mix of the flying speeds and locales keep the kids interested. The little critic confirms his interest by enthusiastically retelling the story of the little piggies' flights in different directions.
Episode #41 from May 2007, "The Great Sky Race Rematch" again features "The William Tell Overture" with artwork titled "Whirlpool and Waves at Naruto, Awa Province" by Utagawa Hiroshige. Rocket enters the Great Sky Race again after winning the previous year's race. Rival Big Jet also enters the race and plays a few nasty tricks on Rocket. The kids use tempo and creativity to overcome barriers that Big Jet puts up for Rocket.
"The Great Sky Race Rematch" shows how the gang uses creativity to overcome the barriers they run into in the race. It's also a good way to learn how to face adversity. The episode balances all the elements of a good kids' show, including pace that meets their attention spans, strong yet simple storylines, sweetness without sugar overload, and an adventure with a purpose.
The three episodes go well together with the first and last episodes guest starring Big Jet. The second episode teaches tempo and the last episode ties everything together.
Bonus features include a "Rocket Around the World" interactive activity, which takes kids on a trip to four locales. However, it's very slow even for adults and not very interactive. Kids use the remote control to pick the right Rocket vehicle for traveling to the different locations. That's all there is to it.
Two videos starring Playhouse Disney's Lou and Lou Safety Patrol cover racing and buckling for safety. Unfortunately, these bonus shorts and "Rocket Around the World" don't have closed-captions or English subtitles. Though the bonuses don't offer much, the Little Einsteins fans will watch and enjoy the DVD because they're most interested in the familiar faces on the cover.
The four-year-old Little Einsteins critic sums up his review in one sentence: "I really like the movie!" And he watched it again and again and again. The nine-year-old — who is into the more hardcore shows like SpongeBob Squarepants and Avatar — even sat with him a couple of times and he wouldn't do that if the show didn't interest him. Little Einsteins: Race for Space earns applause for presenting an enjoyable educational program that parents won't dread watching for the twentieth time.
Preview a clip from Race for Space.
Run time: 72 minutes