DVDs and CDs for the elementary crowd
From fairies to pandas and penguins, with a little Beethoven thrown in, these movies and music will keep children watching again and again ... and again.
DVDs for elementary-school-age children:Skip to next paragraph
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ARCTIC EXPOSURE WITH NIGEL MARVEN (Animal Planet, $24.95)
This fantastic six-part documentary series is perfect for elementary-age children (heading the list of adorable babies are polar bears, harp seals, and arctic foxes). Host Marven manages to evoke both Marlin Perkins and Nigel Thornberry as he enthusiastically guides viewers through a year in one of nature's more forbidding climates. Marven's knowledge is encyclopedic, but he's also not above making snow angels or flinging a cup of boiling water into the air so viewers can see it freeze before it hits the ground. Warning: There are a few nongraphic hunting scenes, but nothing that disturbed my sensitive 6-year-old.
KUNG-FU PANDA (Dreamworks, $29.99)
A roly-poly panda (Jack Black, blessedly toning it down for once) is the improbable Chosen One in this animated action comedy. Dustin Hoffman voices the red panda charged with the task of turning clumsy Po into a Dragon warrior capable of facing the fearsome Tai Lung (Ian McShane), while Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, and Lucy Liu help voice the Furious Five. Nothing can match the opening sequence's stylized animation for sheer "bodacity" (as Po puts it), but "Kung Fu Panda" is as easygoing and good-natured as its hero. Extras include an audio commentary with the directors, a feature on how to help pandas in the wild, a "Kung Fu Fighting" music video, and more.
TINKER BELL (Walt Disney Video, $29.99)
After having placed a tiara on most of the girls in America, Disney is now ready to outfit them with a pair of wings with its new Fairies franchise. The first marketing salvo – er, movie – "Tinker Bell," gives J.M. Barrie's classic fairy a personality makeover. Peter Pan is nowhere in sight (nor is Tink's murderous jealousy). Instead she's a spunky, brand-new fairy who's a little nonplussed by her unglamorous role as tinker for Pixie Hollow. (It's like discovering you're gifted at wood shop when all your friends are heading off to Juilliard.) The CG animation is quite good for direct-to-DVD, the vocal cast includes Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston and Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth, and the message about learning to value your own abilities is welcome. Parents will need a high tolerance for both commercialism and pixie dust, but girls from 3 to 9 will likely be enthralled.
DVDs for preschoolers: