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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Where’s Spot? And Other Stories DVD Review

Where’s Spot? And Other Stories DVD Review

By Jessica Friedman

Spot, Spot

Lovable Spot

He’s soft and cuddly, and he smiles a lot.

If there ever was a pup to cheer you up,

It’s Spot, Spot, Spot.

During my childhood, there were two television channels that ruled my life: Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Both of these networks have changed drastically over the years, showing greater preference for reaching pre-teen markets now than for children under 10. However, in the nineties, each of these channels was famous for its outstanding programming geared specifically toward children. Of the many shows available to me as a child, one is indelibly etched in my mind as a nostalgic favorite above them all: Disney Channel’s Lunchbox. While I loved watching David the Gnome and Noozles on Nick, Lunchbox was superior to me because of its rarity. Since my spendthrift family never actually paid for the Disney Channel (or any premium channels, for that matter), I would only be able to view Lunchbox when Disney offered what was essentially a preview week of their programming to entice people to pay for subscriptions.

When I was able to watch Lunchbox, it was always such a joy to see the British imports that the program included. Aside from Curious George and Paddington Bear, Lunchbox featured Spot, a series based on the children’s books of the same name. I LOVED dogs as a child (and still do), so a show about a tan and brown dog and his very cute and British adventures appealed to me as an Anglophile and as a person obsessed with dogs. Here is a video clip of the show I remember so fondly, including the theme song that I can still sing word-for-word (the words appear at the start of this review, in case you didn’t recognize them):

As an enormous fan of Spot the puppy, I was thrilled to hear about the release on DVD of Where’s Spot? And Other Stories to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Spot television series on BBC.

The Spot tv show was based on the interactive “lift-the-flap” children’s books written and illustrated by Eric Hill. In these simple books, Hill creates a fantastically minimalistic world for Spot and the reader; the curious puppy typically only has adventures at the park or around his house. With the success of the book series, Hill helped to create a television show featuring Spot, the puppy’s family, and his various animal friends. The 30th Anniversary Edition DVD includes six regular episodes (“Where’s Spot?” “Spot’s Lost Bone,” “Spot at the Playground,” “Spot Goes to the Park,” “Spot Finds a Key,” “Spot Goes Splash!”) that really remind you of what it’s like to be a kid and how the smallest tasks seemed like huge adventures. In this DVD, the character of Spot is voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas of Home Improvement fame, so if you’re a JTT fan from back in the day, you will get a kick out of hearing him voice the adorable puppy.

The picture quality is acceptable considering the age of the series. Some of the extras seem to exhibit ghosting, but this is a minor problem and does not affect the main program. The drawing style of the Spot book series is very simple and minimalistic, usually with a white background to make the setting and characters pop, and this feature has carried over to the tv series. The sound quality is great, and the DVD boasts Dolby Digital surround sound. While the DVD sadly does not include the theme song I loved as a child, each episode on the DVD is accompanied by its own special song, which gives the series a new feel.

The DVD also features a number of fun extras, such as three bonus episodes (Spot is voiced by Haley Joel Osment of Sixth Sense fame in these episodes), Spot’s Shapes and Colors games (great games that help children learn their shapes and colors in a really fun and interactive way), and, my personal favorite, Eric Hill reads the book “Where’s Spot?” This final extra feature is so incredibly heartwarming and amusing, especially because Hill has a little Spot toy dog next to him that he is reading to the entire time. Also, Hill’s reading style reminds my husband of Christopher Lee, so we both really enjoyed the British author’s warmth and his whimsical reading of his famous children’s book.

If you are a fan of children’s cartoons, have children who love dogs and would be interested in such a cartoon series, or you are a nostalgia freak like my husband and myself, then do yourself a favor and get this DVD. It is absolutely worth it for the Eric Hill extra feature alone!

The 30th Anniversary Edition Spot DVD is available for purchase through BBC America’s website:

Buy here


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