On the back of a huge VHS following, Universal finally bring the adventures of Maisy the white mouse, (based on the popular children's books by Lucy Cousins), to DVD. Toddlers and pre-schoolers absolutely love Maisy and her primary coloured world. Like them, this adventurous little mouse is learning about the world, and seeing it with a child's eyes. Maisy episodes tend to focus on a specific happening in a child's day, such as getting ready for bed or learning to use the potty - ordinary events that are the "work" of young kids. Maisy even speaks their language - a slurry of high pitched, unintelligible gibberish.
Maisy episodes typically contain several short stories running for approximately 5 minutes. Maisy's Farm is a little different. It begins with one long story about the life of Maisy the farmer. This story is a composed of 4 lots of 5 minutes, each consecutively dedicated to one of the four seasons and what a young farming mouse might get up to at that time of the year. In spring, Maisy sows seeds, cares for the newborn animals and builds a scarecrow. In summer, Maisy and her friends pick strawberries. In autumn, there's potatoes to be dug up, corn to be harvested and hay to be bailed. In winter, there's animals to be rounded up and put in the barn. Through all this, Maisy gets a helping hand from her friends Eddie (the Elephant), Cyril (the Squirrel), Tallulah (an ill-defined foul of some description), and Charley (the Crocodile).
After the initial long story, there is a string of the more normal short stories, each lasting 5 minutes:
Duckling: Maisy and friends visit the duck pond to feed the ducks, a duckling takes a shine to Charlie and follows them to the playground.
Breakfast: It's breakfast time on the farm, and time for Maisy to feed her farmyard animals and milk the cow.
Toot Toot: Maisy the train driver takes her friends on a journey into the forest, over mountains, through the snow and across the desert where they see all kinds of wild animals.
Shopping: Maisy visits Charlie for lunch. The cupboard is bare so the friends head off to the supermarket.
Bugs: Maisy enjoys a morning in the garden and discovers all kinds of little creatures.
Mountain: Maisy and her friends set off on a mountain climbing expedition and overcome all kinds of obstacles along the way.
Chapter stops mark each of the seasons and the extra stories, so your toddlers can easily re-visit their favourites.
Universal has really gone to a lot of trouble for their first Maisy release, with nicely animated menus (sporting original animation) which bop to the sound of playful reggae beats. The production values continue into the transfer which is clear as crystal, devoid of any glitches or artefacts and very sharp. Colours are bright, bright, BRIGHT (scream that last one) and always well balanced - Maisy is living in a primary coloured world, and she is definately a primary coloured girl. The narration by Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly, Bob the Builder) is clear at all times, and the reggae inspired sound-track will have your kids bopping around the house with tea cozies on their heads.
The disc also comes with a great collection of extras that your slightly older Maisy fans will have an absolute ball with:
Karaoke: - Sixteen (yes sixteen) Maisy songs for children to sing along to, complete with original animation, subtitled words and bouncing ball. Some songs are faimiliar, like Old McDonald had a Farm and Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush, and others are more Maisy specific (at least I hadn't heard them before).
Games: 5 great interactive Maisy games for kids to play. Examples are Hide and Seek where we see Maisy run around the farmyard and hide behind something (the hiding place varies randomly). You can then use the cursor to try and find her - clicking on various items. Another is Dress Maisy where kids must select which clothes are appropriate for Maisy to go to a party, to bed or out in the rain. In Farmyard Sounds, a selectable group of animals is provided. Clicking on an animal let's you hear the sound it makes.
Maisy Trailer: Promotion for the Maisy VHS video collection.
Colouring In: When you pop the DVD into a dvdrom drive, a macromedia application autoexecutes providing two full-page Maisy images to print and colour in.
All in all, if you have toddlers or pre-school children, then I highly recommend Maisy with her fun, educational stories and cute characters. Universal have done a great job on their first Maisy release to DVD, and let's hope we see more like this in the future. With the revenue that Maisy generates, it's probably a forgone conclusion.