Baby Beethoven

Baby Beethoven (2002)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Extras: DVD-ROM Coloring book

For some time now the Baby Einstein series of DVDs is being released through the Walt Disney label and it was time for me to take a look at their latest offering, ’Baby Beethoven.’ All Baby Einstein releases are directly targeted a babies and toddlers of very specific ages, offering an entertaining and stimulating audio and video experience that is designed to help your child develop. Colorful shapes, interesting noises, cute characters and harmonic music, all create a very gentle atmosphere in which your child can observe and learn as the program goes on.

And it works… the programming on these discs has an almost hypnotic effect on children as they gaze at the screen in wonder, trying to follow the patterns and colors. They giggle and wee at the sounds, run back and forth and rock to the beat of the music. All the while the programming has a very soothing quality, I found, and is just as much fun to watch for adults – although the pedagogic value on them may be dubious in that case. The music alone is well worth a sit-through. On this disc we get to listen to selected pieces from Ludwig Van Beethoven’s body of work, mostly excerpts from his nine symphonies. The music is re-arranged and has a very whimsical and comforting quality, and truly stands out.

’Baby Beethoven’ is unfortunately one of those children’s releases where the programming is top notch but the technical presentation is outright abysmal. The image is soft and fuzzy, almost constantly riddled with serious pixelation as soon as more than a quarter of the screen is moving. Further the image seriously lacks overall detail and definition, turning everything in a blurr. I can excuse some limitations because the material was most likely shot on video, but the majority of flaws that come through here are by large a result of inadequate authoring and processing. Since the running length of the material is just about 60 minutes, and even the added materials and audio-only section are limited, this sort of diminished quality is not really acceptable.

Ultimately it’s your call whether you request a high quality presentation or if you prioritize the quality of the programming. Personally, I do believe the programming outweighs the technical limitations but I shudder every time I look at the screen and see countless 32×32 pixel blobs racing over the screen.