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.
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.
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 /
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.
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.
August 04, 2007.
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