Written by Caballero Oscuro
Nickelodeon’s lovable superhero pets are back with another round of all-new adventures, this time celebrating a couple of key milestones. The lead-off episode is a double-length tale that recounts how the Wonder Pets met, came up with their gear and theme songs, and rescued their first animal, while a subsequent episode is a celebration of their 100th animal rescue. In between episodes zero and 100 are a handful of other charming adventures sure to captivate the younger viewers as well as their parental units.
As we learn in “How It All Began”, Linny the guinea pig was the founder of the group, meeting Turtle Tuck and Ming-Ming duckling upon their arrival in her school classroom home. The three worked together to build and name their flyboat vehicle, and came up with the idea of helping other animals in trouble when they were accosted by recurring obnoxious guest star Ollie the rabbit. As if the Pets weren’t cute enough already, this episode shows them as younger, smaller, even cuter versions, and it’s great fun to see them come up with their theme song, telephone hot line, and costumes as they embark on their ongoing mission.
The 100th episode is mostly a rehash clip show with a brief rescue of a mouse, and as such is a fairly weak outing. There’s also a Mother’s Day-themed episode with no actual rescue, although the Pets visit a few other animal mothers on their way to Linny’s grandma’s house.
The Pets venture outside the animal kingdom with their assistance as well, helping out with entertainment at their returning space alien friend The Visitor’s birthday party and counseling a mermaid with an identity crisis. That leaves only two fully traditional animal assistance efforts: a sun bear and a rhino. The rhino episode is one of the strongest thematically as it explores shyness in kids as the young rhino struggles to reach out to make friends with an elephant.
Wonder Pets isn’t the most educational of shows when it comes to readin’, writin’, or ‘rithmetic basics, but as an introduction to manners, teamwork, and interpersonal relationships it’s hard to beat. It’s also got some of the strongest and catchiest songwriting of any show, with each episode operating as a mini-musical.
Of special note, this DVD is actually a DVD-R, and although I received no documentation about this change in format with my review copy, it appears to be an environmentally-conscious effort to burn on demand rather than oversupply the marketplace. That’s fine for most people, but if you have an older DVD player or PC drive, you may be unable to play this release. There are also no bonus features, trailers, or even copyright warnings before the title screen, making this disc feel even more like a bootleg. I’m happy to get right into the episode action when I load the disc, but a disclaimer may be warranted next time around to assuage any parental anxiety about this diversion from the Nickelodeon norm.
Wonder Pets: The First Rescue is now available.