Sony Family Wonder presents
Elmo's World: Wild Wild West! (2001)
"Horses, here we come! Yahoo! Ha ha ha!"- Elmo (performed by Kevin Clash)
Other Stars: Kristen Chenoweth, Bill Irwin, Michael Jeter, Travis Tritt, Grover
Director: Ted May, Victor DiNapoli, Jim Martin
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (no objectionable content)
Run Time: 00h:46m:20s
Release Date: 2001-11-06
DVD ReviewElmo's World: Wild Wild West! is another adventure set in Elmo's World, a colorful, crayoned environment where little Elmo's imagination can run wild. This time, he transports himself (and his young viewers) to the American West, summoning up a motley crew of Muppet cowpokes and cacti, as well as guest stars Bill Irwin, Kristen Chenoweth, Michael Jeter and Travis Tritt. Horse riding, square dancing, and the legend of Pecos Bill provide an introduction to Western lore and custom.
Elmo's appeal springs largely from his toddler-esque nature—he's a little more sophisticated than his core audience, but not so much that he separates himself from them. His soft, high-pitched voice is juvenile, but he uses proper grammar and has a good vocabulary. His big eyes, infectious giggle and bright-red fur make for a friendly and easily recognizable image—our fifteen-month-old friend Molly, who joined my wife and I for this viewing, was completely absorbed whenever Elmo was on the screen. Veteran Muppet performer Kevin Clash knows how far he can push Elmo's personality, and he refrains from making him too cutesy, throwing in an occasional wink to the older members of his audience.
Elmo's World is nicely realized, combining childlike, computer-rendered "virtual sets" with Muppet and human performers, including some digital 3-D puppets that bring Elmo's furniture to life. There are brief animated segments, some live-action footage of horses and young horseback riders, plenty of Muppets, and a few Western songs and dances. Marshall Grover puts in an appearance, having a rough time at a lively square dance, and the Noodle Family (Irwin, Chenoweth and Jeter) provide some silent, slapstick silliness and dancing (as one would expect, Bill Irwin consistently outshines his co-stars). Everything moves at a brisk pace, designed to work within youngsters' attention spans—segments begin and end every few minutes, cramming a lot of fun stuff into the relatively brief production.
Of course, the more violent and controversial aspects of the American West are not touched upon, and no attempt is made to place it in historical context—youngsters are simply told that the Wild Wild West existed "a long time ago", which should be enough information for the target audience. No guns or Native American stereotypes are involved, and this is an innocuous but lively children's introduction to a subject that may bear further exploration later in life. Besides, it's great fun seeing the traditionally unclothed Elmo in chaps and a cowboy hat; he even gets to ride a real pony in one scene!
(After the main Elmo's World attraction, two additional Muppet segments are presented. Monster Clubhouse features four silly monsters and plenty of verbal and visual comedy as they conduct a free-form meeting, and Hero Guy, a partially animated segment about Baby Bear's superhero creation, whose theme song is insanely catchy: "He's a hero... he's a guy...". Sony Wonder includes these segments in the disc's purported 50-minute running time—the primary Elmo's World feature runs about 34 minutes on its own.)
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Sony Wonder presents Elmo's World: Wild Wild West! in its original 1.33:1 made-for-video full-frame aspect ratio. The transfer is generally clean and colorful, and every acrylic hair on Elmo's cute little head is clearly rendered, though the image exhibits some edge enhancement or ringing on hard edges. Some filmed segments transferred to video for editing are a bit soft, and some inset images suffer from flicker and pixelation, likely a result of the video scaling and compositing process. There are some odd image instabilities in the menus, where a pseudo-dot crawl effect turns up, but the program content looks as clean as a recent television production ought to, with bright colors and no distracting digital compression artifacts.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The disc features a clean Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround audio track, with some nice use of left/right pans across the front, though the mono rear channel provides only subtle ambience. Dynamic range is limited, no surprise given the program's intended audience of youngsters with widely varying playback systems, and there's no low-end bass activity to speak of. But the soundtrack is generally clear and crisp with competent frequency range, and Elmo's high-pitched voice is surprisingly intelligible most of the time. Like the video transfer, the soundtrack here is nothing that pushes the envelope, but it's perfectly competent.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
13 Other Trailer(s) featuring Elmopalooza, Elmo Saves Christmas, Do The Alphabet, 1-2-3 Count With Me, Elmo's Musical Adventure, CinderElmo, Sesame Street's 25th Birthday: A Musical Celebration!, The Best of Elmo, Kids' Favorite Songs, Kids' Favorite Songs 2, Elmo's World, The Great Numbers Game, The Alphabet Jungle Game
- Sing-a-Long With ElmoSing-a-longs
- Learn the Noodle Wild West DanceLearn the Noodle Dance
- The Wild West GameSpecial Matching Game
- Help Elmo Be a CowboyDVD-ROM Features
- DVD-ROM Weblinks and Coloring PagesBonus Segments
The Wild West Game allows children to play a short round of "what doesn't belong in the Wild Wild West?" Each screen displays three items—picking the incongruous item (for example, a Penguin) advances to the next screen until the last one is displayed. Feedback is minimal, and children may not realize whether they've picked the right or wrong answer without some adult assistance. Help Elmo Be A Cowboy is another interactive toy, allowing children to dress Elmo by picking pieces of cowboy garb from a selection of items at the left edge of the screen. While the interface is nicely designed and imposes no specific order on the process, there isn't much to do beyond picking one item at a time until all have been selected.
Sing-A-Long With Elmo features two clips from the main attraction, Home On The Range and Elmo's Song, with lyrics displayed at the bottom of the screen for sing-along purposes. Unfortunately, the lyrics are displayed karaoke style, using a simple, rhythmless color wipe across the lyrics that isn't as easy to follow as an old-fashioned bouncing ball might have been. Learn The Noodle Wild West Dance is another good idea killed by a clunky implementation—several sequential screens display text instructions, with an option to view video of the dance itself. But the instructions are too complex for little ones to handle on their own, and the Noodle performers don't really follow the steps as written, adding comic flourishes that work well in the context of the program but may frustrate youngsters. This might have worked better as a video segment, with Elmo and the Noodles illustrating the steps at a suitable pace—as presented, it makes mastering the Noodle Dance a chore.
Watch Monster Clubhouse and Watch Hero Guy are options included on the extras menu. They simply duplicate chapter stops 18 and 19 from the "Go to Your Favorite Parts!" menu, but little ones may find these selections easier to navigate.
A For Grown-Ups section sounds promising, but there's no insight into child development or Elmo's appeal to youngsters here. There's a collection of 13 promos for other Sesame Street DVD releases: Elmopalooza, Elmo Saves Christmas, Do The Alphabet, 1-2-3 Count With Me, Elmo's Musical Adventure, CinderElmo, Sesame Street's 25th Birthday: A Musical Celebration!, The Best of Elmo, Kids' Favorite Songs, Kids' Favorite Songs 2, Elmo's World, The Great Numbers Game, and The Alphabet Jungle Game. There also on-screen weblinks to the official Sesame Street and Sony Wonder sites.
The disc's DVD-ROM features include HTML weblinks as well as printable Elmo Coloring Pages, which I was not able to examine.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsElmo's World: Wild Wild West! provides fast-paced, moderately educational entertainment for the little ones without ignoring or annoying the older members of the audience. Sony Family Wonder provides a competent DVD presentation of the main attraction, though the supplements don't have a lot of replay value. Worth consideration for the family DVD shelf.
Dale Dobson 2001-11-14