“Hootenanny, hootenanny, yuck, yuck!”
Justin Time is a preschooler show featured on the NBC Kids block of programming known as Sprouts. Justin (Gage Munroe, I Declare War) is different from most protagonists as his main companions are imaginary. His adventures aim to teach values such as being well-mannered and polite, as well as knowing when to ask for help. During the course of his adventures he always travels to real-world locales and facts about the locations, customs, animals and the like are continually incorporated.
Each episode follows roughly the same formula. Justin has a problem he isn’t sure how to handle. He begins talking with his imaginary friend Squidgy (Scott McCord, Total Drama) and their discussion leads to an make-believe adventure where the duo team up with Olive (Jenna Warren, The Doozers), Justin’s other imaginary friend. She acts as a guide, adopting the profession and garb necessary to host the adventure. Justin learns through a parallel situation how to handle the real issue awaiting him at home. When one of his parents call to him, he says goodbye and he and Squidgy return to his home, ready to deal with whatever he needs to.
Justin Time: Far Away Friends collects together four episodes, each with two stories, from the series’ first season…
* “Secret Surprise”
Justin and Squidgy become ninjas who try and figure out what the emperor wants for his birthday.
* “Mammoth Mistake”
Olive needs Justin and Squidgy to help her convince Monty the Mammoth she’s not upset with him after he accidentally breaks her sculpture.
* “The Rubbery Dumplings”
A gang of barbarians keep stealing the food Olive makes, but with Justin and Squidgy’s help she’s able to thwart them.
* “Hootenanny Hoedown”
Justin is convinced his giant wagon is the best for the West but he soon finds himself challenged.
* “Marcello’s Meatballs”
Princess Sophia only eats spaghetti and meatballs. Justin and Squidgy must help Olive cook something to impress her.
* “Where’s the Oasis?”
When Justin accidentally loses their map he must decide whether or not to confess or to blindly wander the Sahara desert.
* “Brave Sir Justin”
Justin proclaims himself fearless but then must confront his secret fear: darkness.
* “Cleopatra’s Cat”
When Cleopatra’s cat runs away, Justin must confess the mishap since he was in charge of watching the pet.
In a world where kids have ever-decreasing attention spans and assume the world will be handed to them on a silver platter, a show like Justin Time is refreshing. It’s nice to see a show try to teach manners and common courtesy, as well as the need to solve your own problems. Not that Justin never asks for help, far from it, but he’s always motivated to figure things out, and that’s a quality you can’t help but want to see instilled in young ones.
Justin Time has a distinct animation. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is surprisingly light though it’s well-saturated and not pale by accident. This highlights the pops of color which punctuate parts of scenes and creates a look other animated shows simply don’t sport. I’m bummed by the simple Dolby Digital 2.0. Its flatness does nothing to enhance the show. It’s serviceable but not noticeable.
There are no special features.
Justin Time: Far Away Friends makes for entertaining viewing. Justin, Squidgy, and Olive always band together to help one another and in doing so demonstrate to the target audience how to be a decent human being. The episodes are fast-paced, the look of the show is distinct enough to stand out and the theme song is quite catchy.