TV Review: Super WHY! and Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure

Hi all…

Although I’m a parent of two young girls and watch a great deal of PBS programming, I have to admit that until now I’ve not seen any episodes of Super WHY!. I was informed by my daughters that they had seen this show previously, though this was the first I’d even heard of it. Now that I’ve seen it, I can see why it’s popular with their target ages of 3 to 6.

Super WHY! aims to boost literacy by providing multiple styles of learning using fairy tales as the medium. The four main characters or “Super Readers” include Whyatt Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Princess Pea, and Pig. These four characters either come directly from or are related to characters in popular fairy tales.

Like many of the shows aimed at preschool or pre-kindergarten-aged children, every episode follows a repeated pattern. A story problem is introduced and the Super Readers assemble to solve it by using alphabet, word, spelling, and reading skills. Each clue they find adds one or more letters to a series of blanks that will provide the answer they need.

In Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure, the Super Readers have to figure out why Red Riding Hood (or just “Red”) has no energy to play with her friends at the park. Could it have something to do with her sweet tooth?

To find the answer, they must explore the story of “Hansel and Gretel.” In the story, they meet the grouchy witch, who lives in a house of cookies and candy and also has issues with having the energy to play with the kids. Again, could the witch’s sweet tooth be causing the problem?

The Super Readers convince the witch to stop nibbling on her house and start snacking on healthy choices like carrots. Red and the witch both start snacking on healthy fruits and vegetables and drinking water instead of soda, which gets them back out and playing again.

At the end of the epsiode, they convinced the witch to change the story so she lived in a house made of healthy snacks instead of one of gingerbread and candy. I thought that was an interesting aspect of the Super Reader’s mission and a way to invest viewers more in the outcome of the show.

My daughters were hooked once the readers entered the story of Hansel and Gretel, which was great to see. And my youngest, entering kindergarten next fall, was following along with the alphabet and word aspects, while my 3rd grader had no issues with the spelling and reading aspects. However, I was pleased to see that it held both of their attentions for the duration of the episode.

I was entertained by the difference between the 3D graphics used for most of the show versus the flat characters used for Hansel, Gretel, and the witch once they were in the storybook. It made it easy to see who was important as they progressed through the story and learned more.

Overall, I think Super WHY! appears to be another great series on PBS. And “Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Snack” was a fun, educational way to teach kids why eating sugary snacks is bad and healthy snacks is good! Be sure to check it out with your preschoolers and kindergarten kids.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these SuperWHY! adventures on DVD!

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Unstable Fables: Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

Hi all!

Watch as the Jim Henson Company presents a new take on an old story. Goldilocks and the 3 Bears takes the traditional story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and gives it an animated, reality TV spin.

[Rating:2/4]

Mac Bear runs a fish shack in the land of fairy tales, who is in steep competition with a new sushi restaurant crowding into his territory. Ruby Bear is a homemaker who dreams of making it big in show business. And Junior Bear is a smart bear trying to navigate the mine field of junior high school. They are a tight family unit who actually like spending time, talking, and eating meals together.

Goldilocks has a home makeover show called “Totally Fab Rehab” and chooses the Bears’ home as the next one to make over after receiving a video from Junior explaining that they would really want a taste of the “sweet life.” In her vacant blond mind, she decides that what they really want is a home made over entirely in candy. Candy windows, candy canes on the walls, candy furniture… And of course this doesn’t go well.

Once the reality of the candy house sinks in (and Hansel and Gretel make their surprise exit), Goldilocks’ agent, Jay Weasel, pitches a new show to the network… “Goldilocks and the Three Bears Show”… which is a reality show shot for 30 days. The cameras follow Goldilocks and the Bears from the time they start living together, and we see how fame and fortune affects these people who used to be doing ok as a family.

Throw in an American Idol-style talent contest, a lot of interesting secondary characters, and you have an animated story that wasn’t half bad.

Tom Arnold, Brooke Shields, and Jamie Lynn Spears headline the voice actors for the movie, providing voices for Mac Bear (Papa), Ruby Bear (Mama), and Goldilocks. Junior Bear (Baby) was voiced by Colton Parsons.

My biggest problem with this film wasn’t the animation or the story, it was wondering who the target audience for the film actually was. One minute they’re doing satire of “reality” television and the next they send a character into sugar shock due to eating too much candy.

That said, the script was actually pretty well written, with witty bits meant for parents as well as jokes aimed squarely at the kids.

Besides the movie itself, the DVD has a few extras…

“Making the Goldilocks & The Three Bears Show” talks to the producers, director, and writers who created the story and brought it to life. The trick was to balance the modern world with the world of fables and still provide a message about the power of families.

“A Lesson on How to Draw a Character” takes us to the Jim Henson Creature Shop with the kids from the Melrose Elementary School. Director Howard Baker introduces the kids (and us) to the art of storyboarding for movies and how to draw for animation. It’s very interesting to see how a storyboard gets created and transformed into an actual movie. And it’s fun to watch the kids take a script and turn it into a panel in the storyboard.

In addition, they’ve included the trailer for Goldilocks and Sneak Peeks of a few other movies in the Unstable Fables collection, including 3 Pigs & A Baby, Tortoise vs. Hare, Doogal and The Reef.

This isn’t the best animated feature I’ve ever seen, but it was ok. We’ll give it 2 out of 4 stars and see what else the animation arm of the Jim Henson company has to show us.

Be sure to check out Goldilocks & the 3 Bears Show at your favorite rental or movie store!

–Fitz

p.s. You can find it at Amazon here:

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