WildKrattscoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  No
2011, 570 min. (20 episodes), Color
Not Rated (for children)
PBS
Aspect ratio:  16×9
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Bonus features:  D
Includes:  5 discs in 4 slim keep cases with slipcase
Trailer

It’s not exactly family movie night material, but episodes of Wild Kratts—a half-animated, half-live nature show featuring the brothers who gave us Zoboomafoo—will entertain and inform children ages 3-8.

Chris and Martin Kratt’s series, which airs on PBS KIDS GO, is a hybrid that combines the brothers’ nature show activities with a cartoon segment that feels like a cross between The Magic School Bus and a Disney animated series like Kim Possible or Phineas and Ferb.

Each episode of Wild Kratts: Wildest Animal Adventures begins with the real-life brothers in the wild, pointing out an animal with a curious trait—say, for example, the Basilisk lizard that can walk and run on water—and then the brothers morph into cartoon versions of themselves in order to explore the animal’s “powers” and, with the help of a suit that looks a little like a cousin to Iron Man’s, acquire that animal power. It all happens within the animated framework of a story that often involves saving a particular animal from human encroachment, a world problem, or even a Disney-style villain. Though the characters seem unnecessary, there’s also a crew at the computer center in Tortuga helping the brothers once they’ve transformed or are on their way in various animal-shaped vehicles to get a better look. It’s clearly a way to include children of both genders in the show, but they really feel like window dressing, and some children will prefer more nature footage to the Tortuga gang “interruptions.” 

The brothers say they got into animation because it gave them a chance to feed their (and children’s) imaginations and project what it might be like to have the ability to fly, swim, leap, see at night, or any of the other animal “superpowers.”  And it is kind of fun. Again, I’m not sure that the show needed villains—especially ones that remind you of standard cartoon bad guys—but obviously the brothers thought that it might be yet another “hook” to get kids less innately fascinated by nature into the show. Among the villains are a chef named Gourmand who uses endangered species to serve up specialties like shark-fin soup, or Donita Donata, a fashionista who travels the world in a pink jet or boat and makes her fortune selling Donita Donata’s Live Jewelry of Nature—animal clothing or accessories.

WildKrattsscreenThis five-disc set includes 20 episodes out of the series’ 100+: Creature adventures Mom of a Croc, Whale of a Squid, Aardvark Town, Flight of the Draco, Mystery of the Squirmy Wormy, Platypus Cafe, Build-it Beaver, Voyage of the Butterflier XT, Honey Seekers, and Bass Class; Lost at Sea episodes Speaking Dolphinese and Blowfish Blowout; Jungle Animals adventures Walk on the Wetside, A Huge Orange Problem, Birds of a Feather, and Googly-Eye: The Night Guru; and Predator Power episodes Stuck on Sharks, Mimic, Little Howler, and Raptor Roundup. Also included are printable PDF activity sheets. Total runtime for the set is 9.5 hours—and that’s a lot of Kratts.

Why these episodes? The only thing I can conclude is that the brothers grouped this set together because the episodes, with the exception of “Platypus Cafe,” don’t get very wild or threatening. I mean, in some of them something goes wrong and one of the brothers becomes, say, an out-of-control Tasmanian devil/human hybrid or a Kraken-like sea monster. The episodes here don’t have quite that ‘50s horror element, though in “Platypus Cafe” the villain does try to do humans harm, and not just animals. Overall, though, it’s a show that succeeds at incorporating lessons on nature, ecology, and planetary responsibility with the kind of cartoons that help make the message less pedantic. My son would have loved this show if it were around when he was younger, but as a nature guy himself he would have preferred more live footage than the intro-outro we get for each episode.

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