CBeebies Carry Me Collection 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.
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 better description of each release is as below, with a link included to the individual reviews where further links to online retailers are available.
Balamory (76m45s): We're on the ferry to Balamory to see Miss Hoolie take a couple of days off work and set herself off on a trip abroad! Or to the mainland, at least. Dancing on the top of the open-topped bus that leads out of Balamory, Miss Hoolie heads off with Archie and Edie to Fingal's Cave where a boat full of children let them know that it's not only magical and fantastical but also very scary! It's back to Balamory for the annual sand castle competition but Spencer's all in a muddle about how to organise it, calling in favours from Penny and Susie for the catering, Miss Hoolie for buckets and spades and Edie for a bus to the seaside. On a cold day, Josie Jump enlists the help of PC Plum to discover who it is that's stealing nuts whilst, in the fourth and last episode on this disc, Plum has much to do when he welcomes a Canadian Mountie to Balamory. Sadly, the Mountie doesn't bring his horse with a little help from Archie and a bicycle made for two, Plum shows his visitor around the village in fine style.
Big Cook Little Cook (76m20s): 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!
Tweenies (76m25s): Hey! Hey! Are you ready to play? Yes, indeed as a very underrated kids show arrives in a Carry Me case, with bossy Bella, rough'n'ready Milo, girly Fizz and, youngest of the lot, Jake arriving at their day nursery ready to have a whole lot of fun. Story Time, Messy Time, Song Time, News Time and even Surprise Time pass quickly by as Judy and Max, a less-than-dependable child carer if ever there was one, help the tweenies to make some sense of the world around them. Tweenies, in spite of it being around for longer than I've had children, is still an inventive thing, mixing music, jokes and arts'n'crafts to make a quite wonderful show, exactly the kind of thing that will capture the attentions of a two- or three-year-old so effortless that you'd think it was feeding them chocolate. And it's all thanks to a great little cast, who, even Doodles the dog, are entertaining, funny and get to learn all about how to be nice. Along the way, the tweenies find out about fire engines when Bella throws their football up a tree, learn about manners and how not to put Jake last all of the time and what might happen when Max leaves the nursery. Finally, the tweenies learn about practical jokes, whoopee cushions and all, but it would seem that Milo and Bella are picking on Jake, who's not at all happy that a magic teddy bear is refusing to talk to him after failing to rustle up a sausage-and-smoked-salmon sandwich. Laughed at, not given a go on the slide and shouted at by Max, poor Jake!
Boogie Beebies (69m31s): Combating a nation of potential couch potatoes, Boogie Beebies arrives like a children's version of a drill sergeant, getting kids up on their feet for a whole lot of dancing. To the relief of parents who'll join in just to get their children up, none of this is particularly difficult, even when Pete urges the kids on to play football on the spot and Nataylia has them climb a mountain, complete with a pack thrown over their shoulder. The five episodes see the children waking up, going shopping, building a house, taking their tea and, perhaps a little late for tea, bake some cupcakes.
Bobinogs (66m04s): All the way from Wales! On guitar...Mike Peters! Not quite as it's the turn of the Bobinogs, CBeebies very own supergroup, to pop out. Originally tucked inside a child's hat, the Bobinogs burst out to create their own jolly little tunes with Bib singing, Bobin on keyboards and Ogi on drums and, being so bang up to date, scratching. Proving that life in the pop world isn't all X Factor, playing shopping malls and reading stories of their cocaine addiction in the News Of The World, the Bobinogs take a dog for a walk, write a song for the Bobi-Babies - let's see McFly do that! - and dress up for a fairytale. If the whole thing looks like it was made using Macromedia Flash, that's because it was but with the help of their Bobinoculars, the Bobinogs gaze out at people like you and me and find that pop really can save us! With the voice of God guiding them, it would also seen that pop and the Bobinogs are on a righteous mission to do so.
Little Robots (70m26s): As one who was regularly taken to scrap yards and public dumps in childhood, purely as a means to find interesting if not entirely useful things, there's much joy at the arrival of Little Robots and their tales of making good of things, Womble-like, that others throw away. The story begins when Tiny wakes up on a scrap yard and fixing his own arm first, sets about getting his friends going once again. Joining him are Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Baby...no, not Ginger and Baby but Messy, Spotty, Stretchy, Rusty, Stripy, Noisy and The Sparky Twins, two identical little robots who arc when they high-five! Creating their own world to live in and rotating the sky from nighttime to daylight, Tiny sets each day in motion and, over seven episodes, finds odds and ends to help pass each day, be it a scooter and roller skates, a trampoline, the accoutrements that make a superhero and what to do when much too much junk arrives in the yard one day. A rescuing of Stretchy from underneath all the metal, that's what.
Tikkabilla (84m02s): We, being grumpy old adults who, thinking of Texan bars, Brian Cant and The A Team, say they don't make 'em like they used to! Well, we're wrong as they clearly do when it comes to Tikkabilla, which is Play School by a different name and starring perhaps the friskiest cast for a television show ever assembled. Going through the round, square or arched window, Tikkabilla takes its viewers out to playgrounds, schools and homes in search of things to make and do before Tamba welcomes them back to sing, dance, make things and to tell the time with the Tikkabilla clock. Before long, it's off to Higgledy House with Sarah-Jane and Justin Fletcher - Justin is the undisputed star of CBeebies! - and a lot of silent-movie larking about to have the kids giggling along with him. And even this grumpy old thirtysomething at Justin's idea of having just the right amount of popcorn!
The Roly Mo Show (70m55s): Yugo! Migo! We-go! Amigo! Let's a-go-go! Being honest, The Roly Mo Show isn't something that my children ever expressed any particular interest in so we're all coming to this anew. Roly Mo is a mole, a green-and-purple striped one, who's built a library in his underground dwelling and is going it alone after his starring role with the Fimbles. Roly Mo is a kindly old soul, like no one so much as a friend of the family whose glass or two of whiskey is bringing out is tallest tales and who, in the fifteen minutes or so that he's given in each episode, has much to deal with, not least the giggling and quite mad pairing of Yugo and Migo. Not letting Roly Mo get anything close to a quiet life is Little Bo, who arrives home each day from school with something of a dilemma...playing the recorder, doing a show and tell - or a shout and yell as Migo would have it - and learning to rollerskate. You might have thought it hard for moles to rollerskate but Roly Mo proves that's not the case. Perhaps it's in his name.
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.