“Blue skadoo, we can too!”
Dora’s Musical School Days / Blue’s Big Musical Movie is a bit of a misnomer. They aren’t two feature films rather two discs packaged together. The Dora disc is four loosely related episodes of Dora the Explorer, while Blue’s Big Musical Movie has a runtime of just under 80 minutes, making it a very brief feature film.
Dora the Explorer, which began in 2000, is a preschoolers’ show about a little girl named Dora (Kathleen Herles) and her best friend Boots (Harrison Chad). They teach kids about basic colors, shapes, and numbers, while also improving recall and introducing youngsters to the Spanish language.
On television since 1996, Blue’s Clues is another show aimed at the preschool crowd. The star of this powerhouse is Blue, the animated puppy who lives with Steve, her non-animated owner. Each episode teaches children about solving problems through observation and deduction. Blue has a mystery kids will need to solve and by doing so they learn basic concepts to help them as they enter school.
So let’s jump right in and start with Dora’s Musical School Days:
* “La Maestra de Musica” — When Boots’ teacher’s bike breaks down, it looks like she’ll be late for school — but Dora, Boots and their friends band together to help her.
* “Boots to the Rescue” — When Dora (Caitlin Sanchez) leaves her song in Boots’ room (Regan Mizrahi), it’s up to her simian friend to get it to her at school.
* “Happy Old Troll” — Dora and Boots search for all the things which make the Grumpy Old Troll (Chris Gifford) happy so he will do his happy dance for them.
* “A Letter for Swiper” — When the letter carrier breaks her glasses Dora and Boots deliver her special letters for her, including one for Swiper (Marc Weiner).
What’s engaging about Dora are the multi-ethnic characters combined with repetition and catchy bits of song. One in a long line of kids’ shows which break the fourth wall, Dora has managed to grab a foothold and prove its staying power. With the choice to play all the episodes or choose one at a time, parents can easily moderate the amount of Dora they’re willing to be exposed to.
The video transfer is a low-key palette, an interesting choice for a kids’ show, especially when you consider the high energy of the show and the voices in particular. I guess the creators were hoping to balance it all out somehow. The blues and blacks are the most vivid by far and really pop in comparison to the rest of the colors. It’s a distinct look which has come to represent the show, which is presented in a somewhat outdated 1.33:1 full-screen format. It’s no surprise that with a bilingual show like this, there are multiple audio options, specifically Dolby Digital 2.0 in English, French, and Spanish.
As far as special features go they’re sparse, merely a sneak peak at Wonder Pets!
Now it’s time to turn our attention to the second disc in this set, Blue’s Big Musical Movie. Steve (Steve Burns) and Blue (Traci Paige Johnson) are excited to see us because today’s the day of the big backyard musical show. It’s a sign of a well-written show when something as simple as a backyard production can have enough intricacy to sustain a movie-length script. Slippery Soap (Cody Ross Pitts) is worried about falling on stage while Mailbox (Seth O’Hickory) has to remember his stand-up routine. Periwinkle (Cameron Bowen) wants Steve to watch her magic tricks while Side Table Drawer (Aleisha Allen) is too shy to ask to sing in the show. Special guest Ray Charles is even on hand to help Steve compose a new song.
Blue’s Big Musical Movie is quite engaging, with the minor glitches which arise from trying to put on a production getting an educational and entertaining spin. The way the characters interact with the at-home audience is still copied after so many years and the songs will easily get stuck in your head. It’s one of the least obnoxious offerings in children’s programming in a long while and it’s easy to feel good about sharing with your family.
It’s a surprise how well the show holds up from a technical standpoint. The 1.33:1 aspect ratio is not the preferred one yet the video transfer is quite strong. The blue-screen work hasn’t aged poorly at all and while the palette may be a little paler than current shows’ the animation remains effective. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 in English and is yet another aspect of the disc which hasn’t lost its effectiveness over the years.
Special features include music videos, a guessing game, and a behind-the-scenes featurette going a bit more in-depth than expected.
This one is easy to recommend. With a selection of Dora episodes and a genuinely engaging story during Blue’s Big Musical Movie, parents will have no problems putting either disc on and letting little ones go crazy responding to the voices on the TV.