Monsters, Inc.: Read Along

Monsters, Inc.: Read Along (2002)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Extras: Featurette, Trailers, Web Links

Disney is undertaking another step to make sure the DVD is becoming a common household item by releasing Read Along DVDs for some of their most beloved films, such as ’Monsters, Inc’, ’Toy Story’ and ’The Little Mermaid.’ These DVDs are filled with content that can keep children entertained for hours while teaching them to read with their favorite characters. For this review we consulted the ’Monsters, Inc.’ DVD.

The entire contents of the DVD is presented in 5 different languages – English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, which makes these DVDs even powerful companions to teach your child foreign languages. The disc contains different sections to choose from.

’The Story’ is a read along that resembles a book the most. With images from the movie, the text is displayed in large letters on the screen as the narrator reads it. ’The Songs’ contains three songs from the film, also annotated in large letters to read along.

A behind-the-scenes featurette is also included, showing viewers how the music videos for the movie were created, and introducing us to the musicians who were responsible for these catchy songs.

’Vocabulary’ is a section that teaches many words from the movie – once again, optionally in five languages. ’Magical World of Disney’ is a section with trailers for other Disney products, and in the ’Game’ section, an small memory/trivia game about the movie is awaiting your youngsters.

On the technical side, the release sadly leaves somewhat to be desired. The black level of the picture is set incorrectly, creating a washed-out image with no real blacks. Shadows are gray and oftentimes grainy. The image quality also varies quite a bit between segments. The storybook section is riddled with compression artifacts and poor color reproduction, while sections like ’The songs’ is rich in color and very sharp without overt compression artifacts. The featurette is decent enough, though edge-enhancement and some compression artifacts plague the picture. One could argue that children won’t be so concerned with the quality of a DVD, but I do not think this should distract from the fact that – like most children’s releases – not a lot of effort has been put into the quality assurance of this release. I think children, like adults, deserve high quality releases.

Overall the ’Monsters, Inc.’ Read Along DVD is a nice release and I liked especially the multiple language support. While visually flawed, the release is well-balanced and leaves a good impression, especially at the $14.99 price point. The biggest question however remains, do you want your children to grow up and learn and experience the world in front of a TV set, or by reading real books? You be the judge of that.