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HTF REVIEW: Fox's "Follow Along DVDs" - movies with Kids Captioning



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#1 of 8 Michael Osadciw

Michael Osadciw

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Posted August 04 2007 - 08:04 AM




[img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/2/2a/ronsreviews_covers_84474.jpg">

FOLLOW ALONG DVD
WAVE ONE

ANASTASIA, FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST, GARFIELD: THE MOVIE, GOOD BOY!, ICE AGE, MISS SPIDER’S SUNNY PATCH KIDS, ROBOTS, THE SANDLOT, STELLALUNA, THUMBELINA

[img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/9/93/htf_imgcache_5619.gif[/img]
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Various Release Dates
Length: 106min
Genre: Family

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 full frame, 2.35:1 widescreen enhanced (Anastasia only)
Colour/B&W: Colour

Audio (Any of the below):
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround

    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Kids Captioning: English, Spanish

    [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/5/52/htf_imgcache_882.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/9/9c/htf_imgcache_883.gif[/img]





  • Release Date: July 10, 2007.


    Kids are spending too much time in front of the TV these days. The television has become a substitution for a friend, a parent, and real outdoor activities with its increasingly available content to fill any void in one’s life. TV is king.

    “Have you read the latest Harry Potter book?” asks a young girl, delighted with her new hardcover with the familiar tales of wizardry.
    “I’ll wait for the movie.” replied her friend, a boy, whose interests lie more with Playstation games and catching salamanders under rocks beside the nearby creek. “It’s more interesting and exciting.”

    This is a familiar scenario for today’s youth where alternate forms of entertainment are being offered. The storybook in-hand has decreased in popularity and holding out for the movie experience is on the rise, Fox Home Entertainment has come up with a solution to help increase literacy for those tube-addicted kids. The Follow Along DVD series includes favourite Fox titles enjoyed by children with a special “Kids Captioning” feature; similar to Karaoke, subtitles can be activated on screen and are brightly highlighted when the words by the characters are spoken. So while we’ve trained our children to have excellent audio/visual skills, the captioning promotes reading and vocabulary.

    “Captioned programming combine[d with] print, pictures and sound…help children become fluent readers.” explains Helen Hoffner, Ed.D. The work of the National Captioning Institute (NCI) shows that children and adults can improve their literacy skills by reading captions. I can personally relate to this. While visiting Greece several years back and having to stay there for a few months, I spent about an hour a day watching television programs with English captions. Not only did I learn more Greek words in a short period of time, but I also learned a bit about how to use them in different situations.

    The Follow Along DVDs can be used in the home and be extended to the classroom as well. As long as there are no viewing violations (eek) for a classroom environment, I can agree that these discs could be beneficial to teachers to help motivate slow and reluctant readers. I’ll be giving these discs a spin in my Grade 6 class just to see how my students react to them.

    The discs are packaged in bright green keepcases with a handle, and bright yellow with the movie’s cover art wrapped around under the plastic. The discs are scratch resistant and are meant to play within 30 seconds of inserting it into the player.

    Are there any drawbacks? Some movies are a bit of an advanced read. If the dialogue is spoken quickly then the text is highlighted much faster making it difficult to read on cue. This could be a bit of a challenge for slower readers, especially when the movie contains advanced words. A grade level indicator on the disc’s packaging would be a good suggestion for future waves to match the child’s reading level with the disc’s content.


    [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/1/1a/htf_imgcache_884.gif[/img]VIDEO QUALITY: N/A /5

    The video quality of each of these discs is equivalent to previous releases. The only difference this time around is that the movies are full frame only with the exception of Anastasia, which is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is widescreen enhanced. I understand why Fox chose to do this. These discs were designed to be put in a player and played immediately, assuming the child isn’t capable of navigating through aspect ratios in the menu and is without parental help. These discs automatically cue in 30 seconds should a start button not be selected. Most of these titles will take advantage of the millions of 1.33:1 SDTVs in peoples’ homes and will maximize the image area. And if these are to be used in schools, I haven’t worked in a school with a widescreen TV yet (actually, there was one - used for the front door security…but that doesn’t count). What about the few of you using widescreen TVs? You are out of luck, really. But just ask yourself this question: will your child even notice the distortion if stretched on the TV? Not likely, unless you’ve trained your child to be critical. I do think enhanced widescreen versions of these would be useful on portable DVD players. I also think these discs are great for road trips when your child wants to watch a movie, and all portable/car screens are widescreen.


    [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/1/1a/htf_imgcache_884.gif[/img]AUDIO QUALITY: N/A /5

    The soundtracks of these movies have their 5.1 offerings intact. Nothing appears different with soundtrack options when comparing them to their original releases. Dolby Surround options in both English and Spanish are selectable on certain titles if needed.

    TACTILE FUN!! N/A / [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img]
    TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF

    Some of these titles have great LFE and make for great tactile fun! Ice Age is probably my favourite out of all of these releases for LFE.


    [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/1/1a/htf_imgcache_884.gif[/img]SPECIAL FEATURES: N/A /5

    There are no special features on these discs. You’ll have to refer to the original releases to get the goodies.


    IN THE END...

    If I were to make one more suggestion for future waves of these discs, it would be to include both full screen and widescreen versions of the movie on the same disc, but have the disc default playback (after the 30 seconds) for the full screen version. It will add a bit of cost for the Fox to use a DVD-9 instead of a DVD-5, but at least those using widescreen TVs won’t be left with a distorted image. Special features can continue to be left out on these discs. Even though adding a kids caption would be a useful feature on all forthcoming DVDs (why not add that as a subtitle option on every DVD?), the keepcases and discs are clearly designed to be handled by kids and are appropriately marketed as such.

    Michael Osadciw
    August 04, 2007.

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    #2 of 8 Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen

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    Posted August 04 2007 - 09:25 AM

    Having these "Fool-Screen" is insulting. If they're designed to teach kids how to read, they should also teach them about proper film presentation. What's with all the bullshit about "Fool-Screen" being OK for "Kids and families"?? Are they gonna want stuff shot in 4x3 cropped to fit 16x9 screens as well? Besides, letterboxed on a 4x3 TV, the text can be shown on the bottom, covering less of the picture. These DVDs might give kids better grades in reading, but they're gonna flunk geometry!

    Do the subtitles do anything besides change color when the words are spoken? It seems like they could have them do a few more interesting things, like appear as balloons like in a comic strip. The second DVD release of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" advertised something called "Action-Captions", but I never got to see what that looked like; I already had the older disc and I don't think they included it on the newer ones. The old read-along book and record sets helped a lot in my learning how to read, so this might be a good idea for today's kids as long as they don't assume they're complete morons.
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    #3 of 8 Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw

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    Posted August 04 2007 - 09:51 AM

    Jesse, are you trying to kill me? I nearly had a heart attack laughing at your post. You kill me!

    Quote:
    If they're designed to teach kids how to read, they should also teach them about proper film presentation.

    Quote:
    Are they gonna want stuff shot in 4x3 cropped to fit 16x9 screens as well? Besides, letterboxed on a 4x3 TV, the text can be shown on the bottom, covering less of the picture. These DVDs might give kids better grades in reading, but they're gonna flunk geometry!

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    #4 of 8 JakeLip

    JakeLip

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    Posted August 05 2007 - 08:19 AM

    Thanks for this review. I saw Anastasia at Borders last week and was a bit thrown because it's one of my favorite movies and I've bought it twice already and wondered if I needed to buy them again. Your review made clear the concept of this line more than I felt the packaging did, and I don't feel the need to triple dip. This is an interesting idea, but I don't know how successful it will be. Please share what your students think of them; by sixth grade I was already an avid reader, so I would be annoyed that the subtitles were distracting from the experience of the film. But, hey, you never know.
     

     


    #5 of 8 Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon

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    Posted August 05 2007 - 10:03 AM

    Michael: I don't think Jesse was trying to make you laugh. I agree with him. I see no reason why full-screen presentation of the widescreen films is necessary. It seems like it would actually be beneficial to have the text appear in the black below the image. Posted Image

    I could also go off on the pathetic state of affairs that children are not being taught about the joys of reading without the need to pair reading with a popular kids movie. But I won't. All blame belongs to those responsible for the kids that would allow such a conversation--like the one in the second paragraph of your review--to take place.

    This series would be unnecessary in my home. Does that mean I should condemn it for everyone else? No. But, then again, if parents/guardians can't be bothered to take kids to a library or read to them at night what makes us think they would seek these DVDs out? Seems like a "feel good" marketing concept that's not too well thought out.

    Thanks for the review, though. Like JakeLip pointed out...it has not been well-marketed at all. I included these in the Weekly RoundUp when they premiered a few weeks ago and had no idea what they were all about.

    There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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    #6 of 8 JakeLip

    JakeLip

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    Posted August 05 2007 - 04:18 PM

    The more I think about these, the more questions come up about their purpose. I still think the idea is interesting, but it feels like something that would be better served as a shorter, text-screen recreation of the film as a bonus feature, like the read-alongs Disney used to include on some of their Gold Collection titles. But even then, wouldn't it be easier and better for the parents to buy thier child a book? Certianly the parent has the authority to turn off the television and make their child read for a while and/or read something TO the child. I'm really curious to know how these are selling because the concept doesn't seem to have been very throughly thought out.
     

     


    #7 of 8 Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon

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    Posted August 05 2007 - 04:31 PM

    And, Michael...going by your logic of why it's okay for these to be fullscreen:

    Quote:
    Most of these titles will take advantage of the millions of 1.33:1 SDTVs in peoples’ homes and will maximize the image area. And if these are to be used in schools, I haven’t worked in a school with a widescreen TV yet.

    Then why did they retain their 5.1 soundtracks? How many schools have surround systems in the classroom?

    The schools might as well just issue these things on film strips. Or, better yet, just buy the kids some books!

    There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


    HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

    Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


    #8 of 8 Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw

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    Posted August 08 2007 - 05:46 PM

    Mike: the major films have all had a fullscreen edition. Both widescreen and fullscreen were offered then on a DVD-9. These are just DVD-5s. I know what you are trying to say about the soundtrack...but it doesn't seem that stereo-only soundtracks were created for the DVDs. Fox can cheaply port over the 5.1 surround track and the DVD player will automatically mix it down to 2.0.

    Anyways...back to the purpose of these discs...neither you or I have control what happens at home. I can ask parents to give my students extra support at home until the cows come home but only a handful of parents will. If these discs serve a purpose for those parents who haven't encouraged their kids to pick up a good book, than that is the disc's purpose.

    As much as I'd like to believe it's possible, we can't save the world...

    Mike

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