Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids
PBS Kids’ animated series Nature Cat is one of the network’s newest shows with now just two seasons under its belt. The series’ second season officially wraps in just two weeks on July 16 with the show’s new “movie” The Return of Bad Dog Bart. In the short time that the series has been on the air, it has also quickly become quite popular among audiences. It’s become so popular, in fact, that early last month (June 5 to be exact), it saw the release of its debut DVD, Onward & Pondward. The DVD’s title is a toss of the hat to Nature Cat’s catch phrase — “Onward and yonward!” – and also hints at the DVD’s central theme, that of all things water. That theme and the connection of said theme to the DVD’s seven (technically six episodes, as the final episode is a two-part episode) forms the foundation of the DVD’s presentation. The lessons tied into the stories are collectively just as important to discuss as the stories, and will be discussed a little later. The disc’s pricing rounds out its most important elements. Each element plays into this debut DVD offering from Nature Cat in its own way. All things considered, they make Onward & Pondward a fully successful first effort and hopefully just the series’ first collection.
Onward & Pondward, the debut DVD offering from PBS Kids’ hit animated series Nature Cat is a fully successful first collection of episodes from said show. Hopefully it is just the series’ first episode compilation, too. The stories featured in this collection are, collectively, a big part of the DVD’s success. By and large, the episodes – all of which are lifted from the series’ first season — follow the DVD’s water-themed title with each tale taking Nature Cat and his friends Hal the dog, Squeaks the mouse and Daisy the bunny on new, unique adventures each time. “Welcome to Vernal Pond’ takes Nature Cat and company to a pond that appears every spring and is gone by fall. In that span of time, dozens of creatures use the seasonal pond to spawn, including salamanders, toads and even fairy shrimp of all things. “Puddle Pool Party” takes the group to a special pool party, only to find out that it can only happen under a certain circumstance – a circumstance that leads to an easily accessible lesson about the water cycle, which will be discussed later. “Stream and Shout” takes Nature Cat and his friends on a journey to find where streams start and end (making for another easily accessible lesson) while “Swamp Thing” is a fun story that families will enjoy especially on Halloween while also learning yet another key lesson. “There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills” finds the group panning for gold in a stream (again, the water link is there, although it’s slightly lesser than the other episodes). “Earth Day Today” links the water theme as the group tries to retrieve a water bottle floating in a river. Again, it is a loose connection, but a connection nonetheless. That episode’s companion, “Earth Day Every Day” doesn’t touch on the water theme, but being that it is part of the overall Earth Day episode, it gets the pass. Keeping that in mind, it’s good to see here that the episodes in general follow that noted central theme while also making their lessons just as original and accessible. It creates a solid foundation for the DVD’s presentation. The lessons tied into the stories strengthen that foundation even more.
As noted already, the stories included in this DVD present lessons that are both accessible for young viewers and are original from one to the next. The term “original” means here that they don’t repeat from one episode to the next. Case in point, the lesson presented in the DVD’s opening episode, “Welcome To Vernal Pond.” This episode is essentially a story that teaches a basic biology lesson about ecosystems. The very use of the seasonal pond in itself explains that ecosystems can exist seasonally. On the slightly deeper level, it teaches about the animals that live within the given ecosystem. In the case of the vernal pond, the seasonal pond was used by toads, ducks, salamanders and even fairy shrimp. The shrimp themselves are good to note in that most adults (this critic included) probably have never heard of them. Apparently they do in fact live in vernal ponds, and are even eaten by birds (in this case, likely ducks). So to that end, including these tiny creatures might catch older viewers’ interest just as much as younger viewers and could, in turn, lead to family research. In other words, it could be a catalyst for family learning and by connection, family togetherness. Considering this, having such a seemingly simple lesson that clearly has a farther reach shows quite clearly the importance of the stories’ lessons. It is just one way in which the lessons prove so important. “Puddle Pool Party” presents an accessible lesson about the water cycle through the use of Squeaks’ attempt to have a pool party. When it’s found that the puddle she saw was gone, this leads to the discussion about evaporation and condensation, and how the two are key parts of that cycle. It’s a great and easily accessible lesson that is sure to stick with the series’ young viewers thanks to fun and easy way in which it is explained. The geology lesson presented in “There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills” – one has got to love how the show’s writers used that old-time phrase for the episode’s title – centers on Squeaks’ discovery of gold in a stream. This leads everyone to return to the stream to pan for even more gold. At first, they find what’s known as “fool’s gold,” and determine it to be so because of certain classifications. Those classifications are in fact the lesson. They tell the difference between real and false gold. Of course, it leads to the fun story that finds Nature Cat having to get the gold back from Ronald in the process. Yes, it has a happy ending. But again, the originality and accessibility of the lesson presented here shows yet again the importance of the stories’ lessons. The lesson about waterways presented in “Stream & Shout,” the lesson centered on swamp life in “Swamp Thing” and the equally key lesson about ecology in the two-part Earth Day episode each show in their own ways, too, the importance of the stories’ lesson. They cannot be ignored in discussing that importance. When they are considered along with the lessons more directly noted here, the whole of the lessons proves without doubt the importance overall of the lessons tied into each episode’s story. When the stories and lessons are joined together, they make for plenty of reason for elementary educators and families alike to own this DVD. Of course they still are not the DVD’s only positives. Its relatively affordable average price point also proves to be a positive.
Using the nation’s four major retailers – Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon – alongside PBS’ own pricing, the average price point of Nature Cat: Onward & Pondward proves to be approximately $9.70. That makes the unit price approximately $1.39 per episode. Given, that’s a little more expensive than the cost of PBS Kids’ recently released Dinosaur Train DVD, Meeting New Friends, but is still relatively affordable at under $10 overall. The noted unit price for one episode is less than the cost of a single-night DVD rental from Redbox, by comparison. That shows how affordable this DVD is in the bigger picture. As if that isn’t enough positive, buying this DVD also supports PBS. That is more than enough reason for any family that values education and entertainment to own this DVD. When all of this is considered along with the lessons, which are clearly valuable for a young person’s education (and entertainment), and the entertaining stories themselves, the whole of the elements makes Onward & Pondward a DVD into which any family will want to dive. Yes, that terrible pun was fully intended.
Onward & Pondward is a wonderful first home offering from PBS Kids’ animated series Nature Cat. It is an offering that audiences familiar and not so familiar with the show will all enjoy. That is proven in part through seven stories that stand out from one another in their originality and that entertain audiences of all ages in the process. The lessons tied into the episodes are just as engaging as the fun, family-friendly stories. They strengthen the foundation of the DVD’s presentation even more. The DVD’s relatively affordable average price point puts the finishing touch to the collection. Given, even when tax is added, the price point does top $10, but only barely. To that point, seven episodes at only $1.39 per episode is affordable. This cannot be denied. When this is considered along with the entertainment and education offered through the disc’s 88-minute run time, one can’t deny that this first home Nature Cat release is a successful debut DVD from the series. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on Onward & Pondward is available online now along with plenty of Nature Cat activities, games, printables and more at:
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