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For quite some time now, ever since he was very young, my son has loved watching Balamory on television and this review covers one of his very first, yet still one of his favourite, DVD's.
WHAT IS BALAMORY ALL ABOUT?
Balamory forms part of the children's group of programs on Cbeebies. Unlike a lot of children's tv where studio backlots play a large part in the making of the program, Balamory is actually set in real-life Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.
Balamory comprises a number of colourful characters. Literally! In my opinion, the creators of the program have thought very carefully as to how to portray the various characters using colours. Confused? Let me explain. Each character has been allocated a colour, and throughout all the programs, that character remains in the same coloured clothes, and what's more, they each live in a house which, again, is painted in their own special colour. This obviously enables the young viewers to familiarise themselves with each of the characters. Ask any avid mini-viewer of Balamory what colour house Miss Hoolie lives in, and you can be sure you will be given the right answer!
Anyone who intends buying this DVD for that special little person in their life may be interested to learn a little about the characters in the show. In all, there are nine main characters:
"Miss Hoolie" is in charge of the one and only nursery school on the island and basically presents each program. She lives in a green house and dresses in green clothes.
"Archie" is the inventor. Now this may just be a matter of personal opinion, but as Archie is a rather cherubic figure of 6 foot or more, why have they dressed him in PINK? And what's worse, he lives in a pink castle! Not exactly the style one would associate with an inventor but with his yoghurt pot tops and bits of string, he does manage to come up with the goods.
"Spencer" is the local painter. He will paint your house or paint
your picture. Whatever you need doing, Spencer will help. Now Spencer's colour is orange. He wears an orange t-shirt, an orange hat and lives in an orange house. A very bright character in more ways than one.
"Edie McCredie" is the local mechanic who drives the school bus in her spare time. Now I do love to see a bit of equal opportunities cropping up in today's tv and Balamory is no exception. Female mechanics are few and far between. Edie has allegedly travelled all over the world, especially Africa and Australia, and her own personal colour is blue. Unfortunately, there is one thing that I have never understood - her school bus is yellow.
"Josie Jump" is, naturally, the most energetic member of the Balamory team. Dressed from head to toe in yellow, Josie loves to dance and bop about encouraging the children of the nursery to be as active as she is.
"PC Plum" is the local policeman who knows all about the birds and animals on Balamory. He helps little frogs to cross the road (huh?) and travels round the island on his bicycle helping those in need. The only character not to have an abode to match his attire, PC Plum lives in the white house. No, not THE white house.
"Penny Pocket and Susie Sweet" are a pair of characters who run the local shop/café. Penny Pocket is wheelchair bound and serves the locals with anything from gifts to coloured pencils and fruit. Susie Sweet (apparently an ex-resident of Take the High Road - zzzzzzzzzzz) bakes all the cakes and pastries in the shop's café.
OK, NOW ONTO THE DVD ITSELF
The DVD comprises four different Balamory stories. However, before you get to watch the episodes, Miss Hoolie gives a short introduction with a brief outline of each story and a little information on some of the bonus features.
The stories featured on the DVD are as follows:-
1) Jungle Story
2) Sound Story
3) Story Blanket
4) The Tortoise and the Hare
I do not intend to give any details of the stories themselves so as not to spoil things for anyone who may wish to buy the DVD, but each Balamory story always follows the same routine.
For anyone not familiar with the program, each episode is introduced by Miss Hoolie from the nursery and each morning, one of the main characters comes to visit. They bring with them their problems or little snippets of gossip, and in order to try to resolve things or get some help, Miss Hoolie always suggests they go and visit one of the other main characters. This is where the Coloured House Song comes into play and the children have to guess which house we are going to visit. On their visit, they decide they need to go see another Balamory character, and we then get to hear that character's theme tune. Throughout each episode, the cast are constantly going over what has happened in the story so far so that the young viewers are able to keep a handle on what is happening.
As with a lot of children's programs, there is more often than not a moral at the end of each story and the aim is obviously to teach the children whilst they are having fun.
The program ends with each character standing outside their home and waving goodbye to the viewers.
The DVD has listed The Tortoise and the Hare as a bonus episode, but in my opinion, this is just a fourth story. There is no difference between the presentation of this episode and the other three so I have included it in my list of episodes earlier in the review.
There are a couple of pieces of bonus material in addition to the Tortoise and the Hare story where the children can interact.
Firstly, there is a Miss Hoolie sing-a-long where your young viewer can joint in one of the songs.
Secondly, and in my opinion this is the best bonus feature, there is Miss Hoolie's Story Game where your child can help create a story. Again, Miss Hoolie introduces the section and the viewer gets to choose the Balamory characters who they would like to see as the centre of the story which Miss Hoolie will then narrate, and all they have to do is to sit back, relax and enjoy.
I personally love the main menu section of the DVD. It is set up in the form of portholes. Each episode begins with the ferry crossing over to Balamory from the mainland and each ferry porthole is the icon for:-
1) Play All
2) Choose Episode
3) Bonus Material
If none of the icons are selected, every few seconds, a Balamory character will pop up and offer suggestions as to what you may like to watch, such as choosing an episode or playing all of the DVD.
PRESENTATION AND ARTWORK
As with all children's DVDs, both the front and back covers of the case are bright and colourful. The front cover shows Miss Hoolie looking as jolly as ever, and the back of the cover gives a little information on each of the stories, together with an idea of what special features are included. Naturally, the cover is green to compliment Miss Hoolie's picture on the front!
U (Universal - particularly suitable for young children)
I bought this copy of 'Balamory - What's the Story Miss Hoolie?' from Woolworth's for £9.99. but as there is no wonder of Woollies any more, a check on e-bay or Amazon may get you a better deal.
AND NOW FOR THE TECHNICAL BITS
Running Time: 56 minutes
Sound: Dolby Stereo
Regions: 2 and 4
Hope you and your little angels enjoy!
Thanks for reading.
(also on Ciao)
Featuring the episodes: 'Jungle Story', 'Sound Story' and 'Story Blanket'.