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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: The Cat's Playhouse (1998)

"Come on along, get up and let's shout 'Hooray' now!"
- The Cat in the Hat, from his peppy theme song

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 10, 2003

Stars: Martin P. Robinson, Anthony Asbury, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, John E. Kennedy
Director: David Gumpel, Emily Squires, Rick Velleu, Kathryn Mullen

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:12m:01s
Release Date: October 21, 2003
UPC: 043396101050
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The heirs of Theodore Geisel have a lot to answer for. Admittedly, this television series, produced by The Jim Henson Company, isn't the worst of the sins against the work of Dr. Seuss—any parent who plopped down their money to see either Jim Carrey as the Grinch or Mike Myers as The Cat in the Hat can attest to that. What's here isn't an offense of the first order against Seussiana; it isn't very good, though, and it's only modestly entertaining.

The pairing of Seuss and Henson seems like an odd one—there's a whimsy and a flair in Seuss's books that don't mesh especially well with the earnestness of Henson's shows for children. And what's here isn't a straight up adaptation of the good doctor's works; instead, it's sort of a Seuss soup, with characters from many of his books wafting in and out, more or less at random. (Look for Sam I Am, for one, and Yertle the Turtle, for another.) The production team tries now and again to capture Seuss's cadence; their moves aren't wrong, but it sounds ersatz. (E.g.: "I'm a sad cat, a sad cat today, because my red tie has gone, gone away!") It's straightforward meter, without any of the nonsense words, internal rhymes, and overall inventiveness of Seuss's best work.

Anyway, what you'll find here are three half-hour television episodes. In time for spring cleaning in the first, The Cat in the Hat Cleans Up His Act; the Cat has lost his signature bow tie, and the hunt is on. There's not much of a story, though, so the Cat makes two trips to the Wubbuloscope, for stories within the story. That's the element of each episode, in fact—in the second, rain prevents a proper spring outing, so it's time for The Cat in the Hat's Indoor Picnic; and in the third, nobody remembers that it's Terence McBird's big special day (or so he thinks), until what's sprung on him is The Cat in the Hat's Big Birthday Surprise. They've all got a meandering quality and choppy narrative, which does not make for gripping television.

There's nothing awful about any of these; but it's not Dr. Seuss's delightful books brought to life, it's not the best work that the Henson people have done (by a long shot), and it just isn't that much fun, really. You'll be better off either taking a trip to the library for a look at the real Seuss, or popping in a disc that truly will entertain the little people. Quick bit of trivia for Moms and Dads: the last two episodes were written by Mo Rocca, whose hilarious work on The Daily Show couldn't be farther afield from what you'll find here.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Colors are garish and brassy, deliberately so; the transfer is a professional one, with a steady palette and a very few bits of debris in the frame.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: There's some scratchiness on the soundtrack, but that's likely from the original episodes, not a result of the transfer. What's here doesn't sound especially warm, but it's adequate.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 3 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bingo, Family Fun, the Swan Princess collection
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The Family Fun trailer promotes Sony's other kids' releases, including Bear in the Big Blue House and Jay Jay the Jet Plane. Mighty skimpy on the extras here.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

I would not watch these in a house. I would not watch these with a mouse. I would not watch these here or there, I would not watch these anywhere!


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