Carry Me: Big Cook, Little Cook Review
Now these are a good idea in spite of the obvious temptation to say that a DVD keep case is a sturdy enough thing in itself. Clearly the intention behind these releases is a silence from children as they set out on a trip with the BBC no doubt realising that a colourful carry case is a whole lot more exciting a thing to be seen with than a rather more dull keep case. And they're not wrong on that, as one feels that most parents will agree that almost every trip out in a car is accompanied by a trail of books, DVDs, cassettes and toys, all of them stuffed into bags and shoved down into the spaces between car seats. The back of my own car is a collection of books, colouring-in pencils and toys, including Bratz, Barbie and Action Man, whilst the glove compartment now holds a couple of Disney tapes, two Bratz albums and the High School Musical soundtrack. Any attempt to move any of this out seems to result in some slight shift to my children's toy radar, picking up on the change as though they'd caught me in the act.
It doesn't seem to matter a jot how well any of this is organised, with children proving the rule that the best toy there is so happens to be the toy they're carrying at this moment. These Carry Me Collections are a marvellous thing, produced by the BBC from their programming for the CBeebies channel and running at between an hour and ninety minutes each. Costing less than a fiver each - many online retailers are actually selling these at £3.99 or less - they're perfect for those weekends away when a child refuses to move from home until they're sure that they have something to take with them. And, of course, there's the bonus of parents knowing that the night ahead will be a whole lot easier in the house with an hour or so of pre-planned CBeebies to get their children off to sleep in a bed that doesn't have the comfort factor of being their own.
With a woo-hoo, a wahey and a, "The oven is hot, hot, hot!", it's time to visit the best little cafe in the land and in the company of Ben and Small (Stephen Marsh and, a Dennis Pennis for kids, Dan Wright). Telling the stories of the Frog Price, Betty The Bus Driver, Sylvester The Snake and Wee Willie Winkie, they dance, sing and Small gets various ingredients thrown over him. Along the way, they cook bagels, pesto, a couscous-and-green-pepper frog and, for Wee Willie Winkie, an eight o'clock chocolate cake. Small finds out where peppers come from, how bagels and pasta is made and how you can get drinking chocolate from cocoa beans but he's back in time to help Ben cook and to let their guests eat their treat behind the closed doors of the cafe. Unfortunately, as much as Small wants to play, there's still some dishes to be washed and some tidying up to be done, all before the cafe closes and Ben and Small tuck themselves into bed for the night!
There are eight Carry Me releases in all, going from the helping hands of Balamory, through the make'n'do of Tikkabilla and on to the comedy kitchen double-act of Big Cook Little Cook. A description of each release is available if you follow the links below, which includes further links to online retailers are available. The seven other shows are Balamory, Tweenies, Boogie Beebies, Bobinogs, Little Robots, Tikkabilla and The Roly Mo Show.
These are very enjoyable releases and at little more than a few pounds for each Carry Me, are a perfect impulse buy or one to accompany a planned night away. Of course, they make less sense if they're simply bought to have around the house but my two-year-old has been very happy with the odd watch of Little Robots, Tikkabilla, Tweenies and Balamory over the last few weeks as and when she has a little quiet time in front of the television, preferably without her older brother and sister demanding Raven, Bratz or W.I.T.C.H. instead. Each one of these shows, regardless of one's own favourites, have been produced by the BBC to a very high standard, able to attract the attention of a pre-school audience whilst not concerning parents with the cheapness of it all. And in these shows, there are real stars and moments to treasure, none more so than Justin and Sarah-Jane in Higgledy House, the unrequited love affair between Sporty and Rusty in Little Robots, the touches of romance in Balamory - and how it ended with PC Plum and Miss Hoolie still at an arm's length from one another! - and the Tweenies learning not to give Jake such a hard time. Marvellous moments each and every one and ones that pre-schoolers will appreciate just as much.
Showing much more foresight than many other broadcasters, the BBC have been producing material in widescreen for much longer than much of their competition, leaving everything in these Carry Me Collections in 1.78:1 Anamorphic widescreen. The quality of these discs, none of which push the capacity of the format, very much depend on the nature of the original production with Little Robots, the best looking of all these shows, looking the best on DVD whilst Tikkabilla, made for the most undemanding of eyes, looks the most ordinary. Little Robots is crisp, clean and has a stop-motion palette not that far removed from the CG of Blue Sky's Robots, whilst the Macromedia Flash of Bobinogs comes up a treat on DVD. Tweenies and Balamory are both fairly good but Boogie Beebies and Tikkabilla are the two that fare the worst, not completely to do with the transfer but that they don't have quite the same amount of chunky colours as do the rest, with the blue screen of Boogie Beebies never looking particularly good.
Everything about the DD2.0 audio tracks is very competently handled, not least that they sound clean and without any obvious problems with background noise or audio effects. There's some stereo separation and, if you listen carefully, some use of the rear channels but these CBeebies productions tend to be more frantic than most shows and such things are not really noticeable in the wash of action in each. Once again, the BBC are to be congratulated for included English subtitles on each of these releases, realising that not every child is capable of hearing. And not every hearing-able child was born to parents of the same.
None of these Carry Me Collections have any bonus material.
Much of this material is better suited to two- to four-year-olds rather than to anyone older with six- or seven-year-olds likely to be proclaiming themselves bored by the likes of Boogie Beebies or Tikkabilla. These are perfect, then, for those trips away when you can't guarantee that where you're going might not have CBeebies or a ready supply of child-friendly DVDs but will have a DVD player. And, of course, the case alone will ease that journey out to a car for the child who simply has to be carrying something with them for the trip, which is surely the point of these releases all along.