Directed by John Over
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 92 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 14.99
Release Date: February 19, 2008
Review Date: February 17, 2008
Jakers! is a sweet, mildly educational animated series for preschool and young primary grade children. This release Treasure Hunt on Raloo Farm is the latest batch of episodes for a show which has won both the Emmy and the even more prestigious Humanitas Award for children’s programming. The honors are well deserved as the series takes its cartoon animals and plugs them into situations any child can identify with and learn from. What’s more, the colorful CGI animation is sure to be a hit with children who at this age will be more accustomed to this style of animation rather than the traditional line animation of a generation or more ago.
“Jakers!” is an Irish expression resembling our “Gosh” or “Wow!” The adorable animals who often utter it reside on Raloo Farm in Ireland. Each episode finds a grandfather pig recalling an adventure from his younger days in order to teach his two grand-pigs a subtle lesson about life and living. In the flashbacks, the grandfather is Piggley (Maile Flanagan), and his two closest chums are the duck Dannan (Tara Strong) and the bull Ferny (Russi Taylor). This DVD contains four episodes with the playful threesome:
“Treasure Hunt” finds the three wanting to put off doing their chores until the wise father turns the work into a game.
“Our Dragon’s Egg” helps the trio learn that for creatures to thrive, they must be allowed to stay in their own environments in ordered to be properly nurtured.
“Dannan Does a Jig” helps children learn that doing something doesn’t always have to be about winning or being the best but only about doing one’s best and having fun in the attempt.
“Growing Pains” provides a gentle lesson about the difficult job of being an adult and having to bear a lot of responsibility.
The animation is beautifully done, the Irish accents are lilting without being too overpowering for American children, and comic relief often comes in the person of, of all people, Mel Brooks who voices the role of Wiley the Sheep who’s always trying to assert his authority in the meadow.
I was totally unacquainted with this program until viewing this DVD. It’s one I think younger children would really enjoy. (The series airs on PBS.)
The program’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a beautiful anamorphic transfer. The colors are bright and appealing, and sharpness of foreground characters is very good. Only a slight smearing in some of the backgrounds prevent this from earning the highest possible video score. The episodes are each divided into 4 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround track is surprisingly lyrical and very full-bodied. Voices are well recorded, and the background musical score plays beautifully in the front and rear channels.
“Piggley’s Storyteller Playhouse” is a live action show segment featuring various adult actors performing stories through rap, mime, singing, and group activities. There are four segments, each with a different adult leading a group of children through a storytelling activity. Each anamorphic segment lasts 3 ¼ minutes.
“Meet the Grandparents” is four segments in which a grandparent (grandmothers in the four cases on this disc) tell a story about life when she was small. The segments encourage young children to talk with their grandparents to find out about life in an earlier era. The anamorphic segments each last a minute.
“The Great Fairy Test” is a read along story which the viewer may read aloud himself or let the off-screen narrator read if the words are too difficult. (This did seem more suitable for second or third graders or those with some prior reading experience rather than pre-schoolers.)
I found Jakers! quite charming and utterly endearing with its canny blend of excellent CGI animation and some gentle, easy-to-take life lessons. I think anyone with young children would find it likewise.