Picks and Pans Main: Junior
WEE SING: THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!
Producers Pam Beall and Susan Nipp's series of live-action sing-alongs may be starting to wear on parents' nerves. This, the fifth Wee Sing tape, features a very annoying tot who speaks in holiday rhymes.
But will couch sprouts object? Hardly. "Isn't it amazing how she remembers all those lines?" said Kate Carcaterra, 8, of the cloying "Two Little Christmas Trees."
More amazing is the 60-minute tape's convoluted plot, which switches from Santa's workshop to a pre-Christmas living room as it tracks the plight of a clumsy elf. Of course, all this is but backdrop to the songs, a somewhat unusual if kid-friendly assortment, including "Gusty the Elf."
Surprisingly, Nick, 4, most admired "the part where Santa Claus came down the chimney. Also, I liked the song when, gee, he bumped his knee, and oh boy, he broke his toy." On the Wee Sing hit parade, Nick rated "Best Christmas" as "better than 'King Cole's Party,' " while Kate put it neck and neck with "Grandpa's Magical Toys." ' (Price Stern Sloan, $19.95)
THE UGLY DUCKLING THUMBELINA
While Olivia Newton-John (see page 53) won't make anyone forget Alistair Cooke, she makes a chipper hostess for these two pleasant half-hour animated tapes from the Hanna-Barbera Timeless Tales series.
Newton-John introduces the theme: "Even a duck needs a friend, someone to tell him, 'it's okay to be different.' " Then two real children—gushing such hip words as "Radical!" and "Awesome!"—search an attic for the storybook that comes to life.
Gordon Kent adapted Hans Christian Andersen's tales. His "Ugly Duckling" is loosely interpreted; the duckling, for instance, nearly becomes swanburger for two gators. "Thumbelina" is truer to the original—it's also on the drawn-out side—as the little doll wards off two suitors: an aging mole and a toad who wants her to bear his tadpoles. Both stories include passable songs, such as the duckling's "I'm on My Own." The animation is cheery, the morals aren't harped on, and Newton-John wraps things up with a pro-environment message.
The tapes are strikingly calm by comparison with most modern animated productions. So much the better. (Hanna-Barbera, $14.95 each)