ToyDirectory
December 17, 2017

TDmonthly Magazine

November 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 11


TDmonthly’s DVD Expert

Bach Teaches, Ugly Learns and Poof! Enchants with Magic

By Mark Zaslove
November 2007

These three DVDs manage to educate as well as entertain, each one a distinctive vision of some very specialized tastes:

Mr. Bach Comes to Call by THE CHILDREN’S GROUP INC.
Age: 2 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls
MSRP: $21.98

A strange modern-day Johann Sebastian Bach arrives to help out tween girl, Elizabeth, who wants to do anything but practice piano. Bach shows off by playing one of his own pieces, conquering Elizabeth's initial skepticism. He even brings along his own boys’ choir (or at least a three-piece group). Bach and Elizabeth wander around town, seeing all the various uses of music in our day and age, including guitar-playing kids, toy-store glockenspiels and a very cool church organ.

Bach gives an ongoing dissertation about his past life and promotes Elizabeth's practicing. At the end, we find that his visit is inspired by the use of his music: "Wherever my music is being played, I am alive."

Shot "on-the-cheap" in video, the acting is trying at times (though Bach, played by Mark McKenna, is pretty good), as is the direction. The editing works fairly well.

A parental warning: There is a bit of a "creep" factor, as this strange man just shows up inside the house and starts talking to Elizabeth without mom and dad around. Music is fine to teach kids, but going off with strangers is a no-no.

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Creativity
Bells & Whistles
Usefulness


Poof! You're a Magician! by MAGIC OF CURTIS
Age: 8 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls
MSRP: $14.99

Curtis Eugene Lovell II is the professional magician who leads the viewer through this how-to video in the art of magic with everyday objects. The late-20s illusionist begins the DVD with a re-creation of Houdini's Water Escape, before proceeding to demonstrate how to do magic "anywhere."

From vanishing coins to cutting and restoring rope to mind-reading (he does a nice "Levitating Assistant" illusion in the middle of a park), Curtis is adept at his tricks … and at liberating spectators from their money.

Rudimentarily shot and recorded, the focus is the magic, and the choice of tricks shown and taught are good ones — effective to watch and reasonably easy to do. The filmmaker does set up the secret vs. the effect well with picture-in-picture presentation.

This is another one of a long line of "learn magic" DVDs that are fine for beginners, if not standouts.

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The Ugly Duckling and Me: School Days by ALLUMINATION FILMWORKS
Age: 5 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls
MSRP: $14.98

This series is about a weird ugly duckling named “Ugly” who's adopted by a rat named Ratso. The DVD has three episodes centering around a school theme.

In the initial episode, it's Ugly's first day at school. Ratso falls for Ugly's teacher (literally and figuratively), there are some rough-tough bully chickens that give Ugly a hard time, and highjinks ensue with Ugly finding a way to fit in and stand up to the bullies.

In the second episode, Ratso, after getting Ugly to play hooky, ends up having to go to school himself. Not being very scholastic or well-mannered, Ratso has a tough time until he learns the joys of learning ... and becomes a teacher's pet!

The last episode has Ugly trying not to be like his dad after he learns that children take after their parents. So Ugly tries to do everything exactly opposite of what Ratso would do, leading to almost losing his father ... forever!

The production is great! Honest. There’s good CGI animation, well-designed characters and great timing. The male voices are uninspiring or irritating, but the female characters are a bit stronger. There's nothing in the plots that hasn’t been seen endless times in other cartoons, and though there are good gags, there aren't enough.

This is a good video to look at, and little ones should get a kick out of the rest.

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