08 August 2007

Danger Rangers DVDs teach kids about common safety pitfalls

Through action adventure storylines and songs catchy enough to be labeled "brain worms," the Danger Rangers work toward their real mission to battle the 90% of childhood injuries which are preventable through education. Season 1 also covers a vast array of safety topics ranging from animals to caves to medicine to wheeled vehicles.

In order to review Educational Adventures' Danger Rangers, we recruited a crack team of young viewers for assistance. Our two teams (team MO: ages 4 and 6 and team MAT: ages 3, 5, and 7) were all enthusiastic at the promise of new videos.

Team MO watched both "Safe and Sound" (a program on hearing safety) and "Water Works" (a program on pool and other water safety) while team MAT saw only "Water Works."

For an educational video, the Danger Rangers feel much like a mass market cartoon (this is definitely a compliment). The animation is better than average with more frames per minute than many cartoons (more panels are drawn- so you don't get static characters with moving mouths). The voice actors shine and have been featured in a wide variety of other popular animated shows. The casting is actually star-studded enough that geeks in the audience keep waiting for Burt the Turtle to discuss how he "use[d] to bullseye womp rats in [his] T-16 back home."

A lot happens in the approximately half hour programs- enough to make my head spin, but that seems to be a symptom of my age. The kids (all ages) sat glued to each episode for its duration. Their attention was rapt to the point more than one mouth was at least slightly agape. At first we thought we might be dealing with a pretty easy audience, but after "Water Works" the eldest (age 7) of team MAT was absolutely ecstatic about watching a video on the Constitution he'd checked out from the library. His siblings really wanted Sponge Bob, but he had no interest. This varied audience loved the Danger Rangers.

For over a week I found myself singing the song from "Water Works" after only one viewing of the video (but I'm very susceptible to brain worms).

Team MO spent the evening they watched "Safe and Sound" saying "TOO LOUD" every time the adults turned on music or watched television. I guess this "too loud" chorus lasted through next day with everything from the clock radio to the in-car dvd player. The other day Team MO was sharing an mp3 player with dual headsets and they were keeping the music at a modest level without prompting, so I think the video had definite influence.

The stories are very cartoony and PACKED with information. There are moments where you're pretty sure the kids aren't getting every element of the storyline (a band manager in "Safe and Sound" talks about signing record deals and giving out swag to pacify listeners irked by their volume). But, this doesn't remotely bother the kids or seem to curb their learning of the safety topics. They seem to process and retain all the safety information after one viewing of an episode despite the expansive plots. There is even a refresher episode, "Kitty's Surprise Party," that recaps many of the lessons of Season 1.

The programs can be reinforced at other times with storybooks and coloring/activity books that correspond with each episode. It doesn't appear that Danger Rangers will go the mass merchandising/branding route as Dora the explorer where they sell everything from dinner plates to roller skates to underwear.

The Danger Rangers website has games, songs, downloads (activity pages, backgrounds, and more music), video clips from a number of episodes, and great resources for parents, teachers, and other adult-types. They are currently offering a free DVD of episode of "Mission 547: Safety Rules!" (which costs $5.99 after shipping and handling) to new Danger Ranger Kids Club Members. It's a good way to try one of their episodes at a reduced cost. Danger Rangers DVDs are normally $12.99 each. You can also check for Danger Rangers tv broadcasts in your community. This upbeat, safety-focused series would be a great recommendation for acquisition by your local library or broadcast by a local television station.

The DVDs offer both English and Spanish language versions of each episode. The recommended ages are 3 to 8, but the show has appeal (according to Nielsen corporation) with kids of both genders from ages 3 to 11.

The Danger Rangers offer a great way to start matter-of-fact, non-terrifying safety conversations with young kids.

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For those parents who have Tivo, I found that Danger Ranger has a free download option if your Tivo is set up on broadband. I've never really found anything there that I wanted, but recognized the name after reading this post.

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