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Introduction
I remember the preceding months before my daughter was born, many people commented that my life would change immensely after her birth but I didn’t completely believe them. Well to some extent their comments ring true, but one of the biggest changes was in an area I didn’t expect, my DVD collection! Gone are the senseless violent movies, they have been replaced by Disney movies and other children’s titles. I now see myself as a connoisseur of children’s TV, and I am no longer the boss of the DVD remote in my household. One of the latest programmes I have come across is Wide Eye and this is a review of the DVD.

Wide Eye - The Adventures Of Little Hoot And Flea
The Series
Wide Eye is set in Natterjack Forest, a colourful land inhabited by a bunch of exuberant and friendly characters. The main characters are Little Hoot, a baby owl and his best friend Flea, an energetic toad. There are many other characters in the programme such as arch mischief maker Wily Komodo, Conchita, the colourful and fluffy chinchilla, 99 the dozy, bumbling centipede, Hetty Hornet and Rangatang. Keeping watch over the characters is the sensible owl Wide Eye who is well respected by all. This particular DVD contains five episodes; Little Hoot learns to fly, Toad in a teapot, Rangatang’s shop, Spotty Little Hoot and The Weather Machine. Each episode lasts for just over ten minutes, and is just about the right length to keep the target audience (3-6 year olds) occupied without getting bored.

Reading the press release for Wide Eye, it is clear that a lot of research has gone into the programme. All the scripts have been endorsed by the Pre-School Learning Alliance (a national educational charity representing and supporting 16,000 pre-schools) to ensure that the language and topics covered are appropriate for the target audience. The programmes are all theme-driven, with each episode dealing with a social message or development topic relevant to the pre-school child, be it friendship, sharing, cultural differences or bullying. While this programme was a little mature for my daughter (she is just over 1 year old), I would say that it is obvious that children around 5 yrs old will learn a lot from this show. Each episode is well structured, has an interesting storyline as well as some humorous moments. Wide Eye is a well constructed and highly educational children’s programme that parents and children alike will enjoy.

Video
Wide Eye is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, which turned out to look a lot better than I expected. Abbey Home Media have produced a transfer which is pleasing to the eye, and has one of the most vibrant colour palettes I have come across on a children’s TV DVD. The image is in pristine condition with no sign of grain or glitches. The backgrounds and characters are full of life, and children should be drawn to their colourful appearances which are portrayed well here. There was no sign of edge enhancements and compression artifacts were nowhere to be seen. This is the first DVD I have had the pleasure to review from Abbey Home Media and I have to admit to being impressed. This is a first class transfer.  

Wide Eye - The Adventures Of Little Hoot And Flea
Audio
Just the one soundtrack with this disc, but that comes as no real surprise. Most DVDs of this nature are exactly the same in this respect. The soundtrack supplied with this release is an English 2.0 Dolby Digital track and it does its job well. The only aspect of this track that is worth commenting on is the dialogue, and the voices are clear and audible throughout. The best way to describe this aspect of the disc is as simple but adequate. Rather surprisingly there are no subtitles included with this release which is poor by today’s standards, and something I expected from a programme which is endorsed by an educational charity. The only other things to comment on are the menus which are simplistic, but are ideal for children who should be able to navigate around easily.    

Extras
Normally children’s DVDs are pretty sparse as far as extras are concerned. Therefore it’s nice to see that Abbey Home Media have made an effort and included a few extras which will keep children occupied for a little while at least. The first extra is called Meet the characters and focuses on twelve of the characters from the programme. Each character is accompanied by a nice colour illustration and short paragraph explaining their main characteristics. The next extra is called Wide Eye’s Song, and as the title suggests, this is the main theme song from the programme. The video lasts for just over a minute and was a pleasant surprise. I expected this extra to be identical to the opening theme song, but it is slightly longer and features different animation. The final extra is entitled Play the guessing game. This is extra is a standard quiz, but nevertheless it should keep kids happy for a few minutes. So there we have it, only a handful of extras but better than nothing!

Wide Eye - The Adventures Of Little Hoot And Flea
Overall
Wide Eye is the latest in a long line of children’s TV programmes. It is far more sensible than programmes such as Teletubbies and Tweenies (although it should be noted that the target audience for these programmes is probably younger), and in my opinion it will stimulate your child’s mind far better than the aforementioned programmes. A lot of research has gone into making Wide Eye a programme which entertains young children while at the same time helping them to develop social skills. The DVD itself is a pleasant surprise; a first class transfer bundled together with an adequate soundtrack and a small number of of extras makes this a release which you should not hesitate to purchase for your children.


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