Monday, August 28, 2006

Choose Your Own Free DVD

You may have read Jay’s love letter to Choose Your Own Adventure books. Lucky for us, the makers of a new Choose Your Own Adventure DVD series also read that post…and sent us a free DVD! Since we’re always looking for an excuse to squeeze in some quality Disco Mermaid time, we decided to review their first release (The Abominable Snowman) together. We went to Eve’s house (because she has the biggest TV), ordered pizza (where we each got to Choose Our Own Topping…pepperoni, black olives, and mushrooms), went to the living room (where we each got to Choose Our Own Seat…Robin and Eve on the couch, Jay on the floor), and popped in the DVD. Here's what happened on our adventures:

The main characters were narrated by William H. Macy, Frankie Muniz, Lacey Chabert, and Daryl Sabara. At several points in the movie a timer popped up and we had to select between two options to continue the story.

PRE-CHOICE...or HOW THE ADVENTURE BEGINS:
Uncle Rudy (already in Nepal) invites Benjamin, Crista, and Marco to join him in a Yeti search. The three children meet a Sherpa guide and hop on a plane to link up with their uncle. But the plane starts having engine trouble mid-flight…

PRO-CHOICE...or OUR CHOSEN ADVENTURES:
Robin - stays in the plane, crash lands, survives an avalanche, follows yak poop to a house, leaves house, survives a snow storm and falling ice, finds Uncle Rudy, visits a temple, argues with Uncle Rudy about the dangers of too much adventure, offered the choice of a safe and lonely life or a risky adventurous life…chooses adventure, Sherpa turns into a Yeti and flies everyone Peter Pan-style to Shangri-La (elapsed time: 22 minutes)
Jay - parachutes out of the plane, chooses between two Sherpas, goes to base camp, survives cracking ice lake, follows Yeti prints, partakes in a snowball fight, runs screaming from a bear (elapsed time: 15.5 minutes)
Eve - follows Jay until the Yeti prints, follows Uncle Rudy’s prints instead, goes to a monastery, gets sick (though it looks like a bad acid trip), catches up with Uncle Rudy, becomes a member of a famous explorers society, takes a picture of two Yetis, leaves for a brand new adventure in Paris (elapsed time: 22 minutes)

PERSONALITY PROFILE (not part of the DVD, just something we figured out based on our choices):
Robin - the cautious Disco Mermaid, but easily talked into letting loose
Jay - the goal oriented (read: anal) Disco Mermaid, sometimes sacrifices the journey for the destination (leading to premature death by bear claw)
Eve - the adventurous Disco Mermaid, always winds up in Paris

EVALUATIONS:
Robin - I really love the idea of using DVDs for a ChooseYour Own Adventure series. There were some big stars involved, too—the guy from Fargo, the kid from Malcolm in the Middle, the cute little girl from Party of Five, and the talented one from Desperate Housewives. I think kids, probably six and over, will enjoy choosing what’s going to happen next. I wish I could’ve had longer to make my decisions—the clock ticking made me feel rushed and scared of making the wrong choices. And if there’s more than one person in the room, or if you’re a highly dysfunctional group (i.e. Robin-Jay-Eve) there may be a lot of shush-ing going on in order to follow the story line. And speaking of story line, luckily, I made all the “right” decisions and my adventure ended with me flying through the sky while holding hands with aYeti…something I’ve always wanted to do!
Jay - I thought it was great! I can see kids having just as much fun with this as with the books (it’ll probably even encourage them to read the books for further adventures…always a good thing). I liked the humor (especially the penguin butt joke), enjoyed the animation, and found myself really caught up in discovering what would happen because of my choices. Because I recently read several of the books with my niece and nephew, I wasn’t too thrown by the weird endings (the DVD doesn’t try to follow the book, and both forms of adventure often have abrupt or random story endings). I’d give these as gifts over regular DVDs because they don’t allow the viewer to be passive.
Eve - The first thing I noticed was how weird Frankie Muniz’s voice sounded. Kind of a mix of a young Joe Pesci and Kermit the Frog. Once I got over that, I found the DVD quite entertaining. But although it started out with promise, the endings all seemed a little abrupt and strange. I chose to have fun on my adventure and chose the wild paths, like “parachute out of the plane” and “go to the Buddhist temple.” I did find the Abominable Snow-guy at the end, but it was surreal and quick…I saw him through the window of a building and he was hanging out in the shrubs with a little Abominable Snow-girl. They waved and I…I mean, the characters…waved back, we took a picture of them, and then we decided to get up and go to Paris! Huh?? Again, I did have fun, and I think children will, too. The humor and duration seemed appropriate for kids 6-9, and although we were screaming about how little time we had to make our decisions, I think keeping things quick paced is a good idea for the little ones…like you’re on a real adventure and have to decide your fate fast. This would be a great activity for sleepovers or family nights in. Fighting over which path to take before the little timer thing ran out was the most fun part for us. Well, that and watching Jay get eaten by a bear within the first three minutes…that was awesome!

BONUS FEATURES:
- a music video with clips from the movie
- “In the Shadow of the Himalayas: How People Live in Nepal” - a great 28-minute documentary about Nepal (where the movie is set) which uses students from Seattle and their sister school in Katmandu to keep it kid-friendly
- a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette (which Jay kept pausing whenever Lacey Chabert appeared on the screen)
- an Adventure Journal tucked into the DVD case with lots of fun facts and photos of Nepal (including info on Sherpas, animals, the language, and myths)

CONCLUSION:
It’s amazing no one turned the Choose Your Own Adventure books into interactive movies until now. The makers of this DVD series will probably sell a ton of copies because of the animated movie alone. But they took the concept beyond what was necessary and made it a fun educational experience, as well.

4 comments:

Nancy said...

Thank you! You've just solved 4 future Christmas/birthday present challenges for me. May have to get one for myself too, though would definitely want the two adventure buddies, pizza and whatever liquid refreshments might be appropriate.

Debby G. said...

If I blog about Lexuses, do you think Toyota will send me one? It's worth a shot, no?

Disco Mermaids said...

We're gonna test that theory even further, Debby. We have a post in the works honoring Krispy Kreme donuts.

- Jay

Anonymous said...

The "Personality Profiles" part supports my ongoing theory about Eve being the id, Jay the ego and Robin the superego. By the way, I can totally picture y'all sitting in Eve's living room freaking out over having to make a choice and it brings a smile to my face! Lamy