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  • Featurette - Stories, Animations, Make and Do
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Play School - Nursery Rhymes
ABC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Airing twice a day, every weekday throughout the year on our ABC, Play School is Australia's most successful television program for pre-school-aged children, and has been on the air since before I can remember. The programme owes its success to the personal bond that is established between its tiny viewers and the presenters; presenters who are warm, caring and above all genuine. Unlike programs on other channels whose cardboard cutouts seek only to hold a child’s attention between advertisements, or to bombard them with spin-offs and cheesy merchandising, the team behind Play School seem sincere in their desire to encourage your child and foster their confidence and imagination.

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Ohhhh....

Nursery Rhymes is the first Play School release by the ABC on DVD and, although based on a number of previously aired weekly series', represents a brand-new production prepared specifically for the purpose (Noni looks far too well groomed for her make-and-do and story appearances to have been culled from existing episodes!). As you can probably gather, the theme of this hour-long Play School episode is nursery rhymes, and it follows the general format of the television episodes. A mixture of stories – both read and acted out, tons and tons of songs to sing, animated rhymes to watch, and a plethora of activities that include painting, dressing up, making things using household items, and so on. The main difference here is that instead of only two presenters for the duration, we get seven, with sometimes as many as four on-screen and singing together at the one time. And utilising their current batch of presenters, rather than re-using old clips, means that your kids will enjoy the presentation all the more.

Watching the DVD I was really impressed at the high quality content and the obvious efforts that had been put into tailoring it specifically for the target audience. The writers and producers have thought hard about sticky issues, for instance I appreciated them taking the notion of ‘Evil Step-Sisters’ out of their retelling of Cinderella (replacing them with Big and Little Ted as the ‘Hairy Sisters’). The presenters too are a very well chosen bunch, who sing and dance their hearts out (sometimes only just in tune mind you) and really let their personalities shine through. Rhys Muldoon especially, as Humpty Dumpty or Little Miss Muffet’s Spider is a scream. What this all adds up to is the perfect application of a winning formula, and one that my daughter just loves. Thanks ABC, you’ve produced a fantastic DVD and one that I can trundle out without hesitation when needed. Australia's most successful pre-schooler’s television program has successfully made the transition into Australia’s best pre-schooler’s DVD release.

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  Audio
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Move over Toby Macguire..
Despite coming to us in glorious full-frame on a single-layer disc, this first Play School DVD release is very pleasing to look at indeed. Looking like it was filmed yesterday (as I believe it was), the image is just marvelous; sharp and detailed, with good contrast and perfect black level. While shadow detail is nowhere to be seen (there are no shadows to be seen) every strand of wool, every pipe-cleaner - in fact every valuable item salvaged from the useful box - every doll, every teddy, every sprinkle of glitter and confetti - is rendered perfectly on screen. The simple yet brightly coloured sets and props all leap from the screen, as does the cheerfully coloured clothing of the presenters. In terms of its journey to the digital medium, the image displays nothing in the way of source-related or compression-related artifacts. Even with the sharpness of the image aliasing is also kept to a minimum, with only little moiré noticeable on Andrew’s stripped shirt and Rhys’ Wee Willy Winky night-cap to hint at Play School’s digital incarnation at all.

In terms of audio, the Dolby Digital stereo track is in keeping with Play School’s television production values. Plain and serviceable, this simple stereo affair provides a reasonably wide front-channel mix, with voices emanating from the centre channel throughout (singing talent is certainly not a pre-requisite for a Play School presenter – something those Hi-5 producers should have kept in mind), with the almost constant piano accompaniment spread across the front channels. In short, it is easy to listen to and clearly understandable – just as it should be. Honestly, channel separation, surround and subwoofer activity would have been wasted here.

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Big Ted cracks a good 'un

English subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired and, like the audio, are clear and more importantly complete throughout; ranging across the bottom of the screen depending on which presenter is talking or singing.

In terms of extras, there’s quite a good selection on offer here, and my 2½ year old daughter has trolled through them time and time and time and time again. Basically what we are provided with is a selection of clips from three of Play School’s favourite segments: stories, animations and make and do that have been taken from previous television episodes and collectively add up to over 30 minutes of extra material. In terms of stories, the Play School give lively and spirited renditions of four additional tales The Princess Finds a Friend, Conrad’s Surprise, Help, Help! Diddle’s Stuck and my daughter’s personal favourite Front Yard Fix. All four are highly enjoyable for parents and tiddlers alike. Three animations - This Little Piggy, Jack and Jill and Hey Diddle Diddle already appear in the main feature, but these are joined by six additional, and equally enjoyable, clips. Finally, in the ‘make and do’ category we have four additional segments in which pictures are painted, sandwiches are rolled, yoghurt is mixed and animals are created from junk.

Ask any tot - Play School rocks! And overall, Play School’s first DVD release is fantastic. If you are searching for a DVD for your young ones between one and five then this would undoubtedly be my pick. Still the favoured television show in our house by far, and now this DVD release has taken equal billing amongst similar peers. Very highly recommended.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2855
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  •   And I quote...
    "Ask any tot - Play School rocks!"
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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