The true test of any kids’ DVD is whether or not it engages the kiddos and holds up to repeated viewings. The latest offering from the back catalog of the short-lived Nickelodeon series The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, The Cat’s Family and Friends passes the litmus test. I was worried my five-year-old viewing partner would be beyond the three short stories contained here when we sat down one wintry afternoon to watch. But surprisingly, when the show ended, my companion asked to watch the whole thing all over again.
There are a number of key elements to the Jim Henson Company’s approach to the show that lend it an air of familiarity — the characters are plucked from the pages of Theodor Geisel’s famous library, including the Cat in the Hat, Yertle the Turtle, and Horton the Elephant. Although not featured in any of the stories contained in this volume, you can even glimpse the Grinch and his dog Max in the opening credits. Apart from the easily recognizable characters, there is the way they are brought to life by Henson’s Creature Shop. Seeing Geisel’s beloved characters come to life literally adds dimension to them. What’s unique here is that these three-dimensional puppets are married to a computer-generated world.
The characters, though familiar, are placed in all-new original stories that thankfully don’t try to reengineer source material. While staying true to their origins, the characters are able to explore new lessons (some subtle, some not so subtle) and remain very much in the spirit of their creator.
The most engaging of the stories in this volume is “The Road to Ka-Larry”. In it, Sue Snue is charged with delivering a box filled with precious gifts to Regina, the Queen of Ka-Larry. On her mission, Sue is accompanied by Mr. Fox and Mr. Knox (both from Seuss’ 1965 classic, Fox in Socks), who use contents of the box to help them along on their journey. There is a subtle building of suspense through Sue’s anxiety as she realizes the very gifts she has been asked to convey are being picked off one-by-one.
The other two stories were a little too meh for me, but my viewing companion had no problems with any of them. In “The Snoozer”, the beloved eponymous statue turns up missing and Yertle is accused of taking it. Teaching a good lesson about not jumping to conclusions, Horton, the good-hearted elephant, stands up to the Jane Kangaroo-led mob of Wubbulous citizens in Yertle’s defense. “Talkin’ with the Cat” stresses the importance of bridging our differences and stars the Cat in the Hat, along with Little Cats A, B, and P.
Running approximately 72 minutes, and boasting a beautiful transfer that pops off your screen in the way you expect the world of Seuss to do so, the full-frame presentation and Dolby 2.0 audio is exactly appropriate. The Cat’s Family and Friends subtitle for this volume is a bit of a stretch when looking for a thematic link between the three episodes, but there really is no need to complain about it. It’s just good to have some low-key, well-done kids’ fare available.