Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bedtime for Frances

Hit Entertainment
& The Jim Henson Company

The Frances books by Russell Hoban are classics that many of us remember from our childhood. I have them now for my kids, but they aren't nearly as fascinated by them as I was at that age. That may be due to the stripped down style of the simple illustrations, which children today may find a bit outdated.

This DVD pumps color and life into Frances and her family! The Jim Henson Digital Puppetry Studio uses their technology to puppeteer and voice digitally animated characters in real time. It's the badgers we love from the original series, enhanced by brilliant colors and non-stop motion. Best of all, the disc is tucked inside a custom-made hardback edition of Bedtime for Frances, making for a great little gift package. In addition to an interactive read-a-long of the book, the disc also contains three new animated adventures.

A Whiny Sister For Frances: Family Day is announced as a trip to Lizard Land, Frances falls asleep in her lizard hat dreaming of the big day. In contrast, her parents are up all night attending to her sick sister: drinks, vaporizer ... bucket. The next morning, Frances is furious to find the trip postponed because Gloria has the flu. Initially unsympathetic, Frances mulls it over in her thinking spot under the dining room table. She realizes they can still have a great family day if she pitches in to help Gloria.

A Cupcake for Frances: Our star is super excited about hosting the piano recital at her house. Instead of practicing, she focuses on getting the cupcakes decorated just right while Albert works on his piece. Jealous of his diligence, Frances eats his cupcakes and lies about it to her parents. After visiting her thinking spot, she realizes the right thing to do is to come clean, giving Albert eat her cupcake.

These episodes contain great messages for kids about the right thing to do, or reinforce daily behavior like proper teeth brushing and getting to bed on time. The animation is enjoyable, with enjoyable characters as well as surroundings (love all the house details). Frances regularly breaks into a short song about her predicaments, which are catchy and original. The only down side is Gloria's voice, which is overly cutesy childlike and nerve-grating. Luckily, she doesn't do a lot of talking.

Overall, we liked this very much. Leave it to The Jim Henson Company to do a wonderful job adapting a classic children's book to make it appealing to a whole new audience. We are most impressed by what a great deal the packaging is. Getting a hardback book in lieu of a plastic case - can't beat that! But even better is the fact that I can enjoy a much loved story from my childhood in a brand new way.

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