In recent years, the Disney Channel has managed to score with not just tweens, but with an even younger crowd as well, preschoolers. Their "Playhouse Disney" time block has managed to pump out some substantial hits for the channel, including Handy Manny. And, as with other Disney Channel fare, Handy Manny's adventures aren't only available on television, they can be purchased on DVD as well.
The latest Handy Manny adventure to make its way to store shelves is Handy Manny: Manny's Motorcycle Adventure. Touted as a "full-length adventure," the story runs about 46 minutes and features, as the title indicates, Manny going for a ride on his motorbike. The choice of vehicles seems an odd one for the series – bikes being far less safe than cars and therefore perhaps a bad message to deliver to preschoolers – but Manny does at least wear a helmet and certainly doesn't drive recklessly.
In fact, though Manny is taking a motorcycle for his trip, the trip is certainly not about the motorcycle. The story here revolves around family, and all the different types of family that one can have. Manny is driving off to a family reunion with his talking tools, who are curious about just what family means. In a semi-desperate search to find a family of his own, one of Manny's tools, Pat the hammer, goes off searching for a hammer just like himself. For a time, Pat believes he's on the right track – a company's logo has a hammer with a face just like Pat's – but instead of finding genetic brethren, Pat and a couple of other tools get separated from Manny and everyone else.
It is left up to Manny to travel out of his way on his motorbike with his less-than-full complement of tools in order to rescue Pat and the other absconders. Though he ends up missing much of his family reunion to do it, Manny doesn't mind. After all, as everyone parent knows is coming, at the end of the episode Manny explains to the tools that there are all different types of families, and that he and the tools are one.
It's a simple message and one filled with bright colors, lots of songs, and a bunch of Spanish words thrown in to, hopefully, expand a child's learning experience. As with other Handy Manny DVD releases, though there is nothing here to particularly impress or thrill parents, there is little here to annoy or bother them (save, perhaps, for Manny's riding a motorcycle). Perhaps more importantly though, preschoolers seem to absolutely love it.
The DVD comes with an extra episode of Handy Manny, "A Very Handy Holiday," which can be watched either normally or in "Interactive Adventure Mode" which pauses the episode occasionally to pose simple questions that viewers can answer using their remote. The questions are perfectly suited to be answered by the younger set, with answers that will be obvious to adults but which might cause a preschooler to pause and think. Oddly, though currently par for the course for Playhouse Disney releases, though the main feature will default to fill the screen on widescreen televisions, the bonus episodes only appear as 1.33.
Though calling it a "full-length adventure" may be overreaching, Manny's Motorcycle Adventure has everything necessary to excite and impress preschoolers. Plus, there's a holiday Handy Manny episode included and DVDs make great stocking stuffers. If you're looking for a good gift for a younger child, Manny's Motorcycle Adventure just may fit the bill.