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Scholastic Video presents
I Spy: A Runaway Robot and Other Stories (2003)

"Look, we found it!
Look, we found it!
Look, we found it!
How about you?"

- CeCe (Ellen Lee) and Spyler (Tara Jayne), finding object after object after object

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: October 07, 2003

Stars: Tara Jayne, Ellen Lee, Cindy Creekmore, Big Al
Manufacturer: Digital Video Compression Center
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:16m:00s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 026359216428
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB C

DVD Review

If the Where's Waldo? books in your house have been worked to death, and your kids aren't already hooked on this series (perhaps you don't have HBO), you'll be glad to have this disc to pass some time—it's full of positive energy for little people, and is sure to develop their highly trained visual skills even further.

The formula for each story is familiar, and the premise for the whole show isn't entirely unlike that of Blue's Clues. Our intrepid hero is Spyler, a stop-motion figure with a tennis ball head and Nerf hair, and his intrepid talking canine, CeCe. At the beginning of each story, Spyler and CeCe are posed with a problem, and only finding four designated objects will lead them to glory. They take their marching orders from a duck on wheels—named Duck on Wheels—who is the brains of the operation; the brawn is Wheeler, the tow truck who is happy to haul their cargo to wherever Spyler and CeCe say. (Wheels are very big here.)

Each half-hour episode consists of two stories; each of those stories has four clues each. No doubt there's comfort in this sort of predictability and repetition. Each story also comes with its own Super Challenger—that is, at the top, Spyler tells you to keep a lookout for a special set of objects (four paper clips, say, or six forks). I admit to being bested by more than one of these Super Challengers.

In the first story, A Runaway Robot, Spyler, and CeCe decide (as many other little ones have before them) that the fun is in making a mess, not in cleaning up—wouldn't it be convenient to have a robot around to pick up after them? They scavenge for the necessary parts, but their Frankenstein plan backfires, and amazingly enough, the robot is an even greater force of destruction than either of them. Fortunately, they thought ahead and planted a big red button on the robot's chest, which, when pressed, stops him in his tracks. Then Cece and Spyler help out A Little Lost Lamb, named, conveniently enough, Lamby, who has the unfortunate habit of running away—not just from home, but from her two new would-be saviors. Another successfully executed scavenger hunt brings Lamby safely home, and raises the question: if we count sheep to get to sleep, what do sheep count?

Astronomy class is in session, for Spyler and CeCe want to see what's what in A Starry Sky, so they're scavenging parts for tonight's stargazing adventure. Next, there's no business like show business, as CeCe and Spyler look for the right act so they can join Circus Things in Three Rings—artful use is made of a straw and especially a tennis racket, not necessarily the first items you'd think of for a boost under the big tent.

Say cheese! It's A Mumble Monster Picture Day, and Mumble Monster, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Addams Family's Cousin It, doesn't feel as if he's quite ready for his closeup. CeCe and Spyler are on the case, tracking down everything the well-groomed monster needs—it's I Spy For The Monster Guy, and does he ever look spiffy. Finally, it's time to grab your coat and check your hat, leave your worries at the doorstep—Spyler and CeCe run for cover until Clouds Roll By, and they get a special assist from a regiment of dominoes, marching in line proudly in Her Majesty's Service. Pip pip to the pips!

The true star of the series may well be the marvelous production design. Spyler and CeCe's world is made up of objects familiar to children used in unfamiliar ways—a deck of cards for walls and floors, a set of jacks for shooting stars, and so on. The whole thing looks sort of like Pee Wee's Playhouse crossed with those ancient Davy and Goliath stories—it's a visual delight, both for young and old.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The colors are rich and vibrant—almost too rich and vibrant for my taste, actually, and occasionally you may want to reach for your sunglasses. Little or no problems with the transfer to DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: More treble than bass, but the audio tracks are entirely comprehensible; bits of room tone and hiss interfere now and again.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 3 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc promises some DVD-ROM content, but we're a Mac household, and hence can't access it. A message for parents (04m:05s) offers a brief, behind-the-scenes look, at the books on which this series is based, the production staff working on the show, and the brass at HBO—everybody's got a different favorite character in the I Spy universe. (I'm a Mumble Monster man, myself.)

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

A visually challenging and engaging show from our friends at HBO, much more Saturday morning than Sunday night. Big fun for little people.

 


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