The world of digital video is a great equalizer. Have an idea for a movie? Think you can do things better than what is currently on the market? Have the ability to push the red button on a camera? How about a relatively new computer (Macs are easier than PCs)? You’re all set to go out and make a movie! Digital video takes out so many of the difficulties and expenses in making a video, virtually anyone can go out and film an idea.
Many people fail to realize though that the ability to do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should do it. To quote the very wise Ian Malcolm, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.” The ability of an individual to make a movie doesn’t mean that the movie should be made.
Clearly, there are some things that are produced and marketed that just shouldn’t be. Then there are things so wonderful and creative that they are instantly scooped up by mammoth vertically integrated corporations that co-opt the entire project and turn the creators into wealthy people. And lastly, there’s a third group, the debatable, up in the air group.
Into this third, amorphous category enters the relatively new company, Little Playdates. The Little Playdates Company puts out a DVD series entitled, not surprisingly, Little Playdates, which currently has three titles in the series: Little Friends, Little Adventurers, and Critter Friends (this last one is due out in mid-June).
The concept is pretty simple: children like watching children, so let’s provide videos of children doing things like climbing around fire trucks, pretending to work in a supermarket, or just generally playing together and having a grand old time. These little snippets of video (none of the segments lasts more than few minutes) have children playing and have lively, popular children’s songs playing to accompany the video.
I can testify that at least one child, roughly twelve months in age, is completely entranced by watching the children in the video for the first five minutes of the program, at which point she moves on to other things. It does seem to be a well-established truth though that children are interested in looking at/watching other children, so that part of the concept does work. Whether or not children learn anything by watching kids pretend to be supermarket cashiers is far more debatable.
On their website, Little Playdates states that they felt that there was a “a need for something different, something that could both entertain and educate our children without the traditional puppets or animated characters.” They have certainly created something without said puppets or animations, but it is unclear why they feel such a thing is necessary. Did I miss the great hue and cry against animated character and traditional puppets? Not that there’s anything wrong with actual people, but I like my puppets.
Either way, the Little Playdates Company has won some awards for these videos, including the Adding Wisdom Award and having had Little Adventurers named as one of Dr. Toy’s Best Products.
As for the production values, the videos do seem like little more than a simple prosumer model video camera was used (you can see a reflection of the camera and operator in one scene) along with an editing program. There are many moments in the videos that look like little more than a parent videotaping children at play, which honestly made me feel weird at some points, none of these being my children.
Even so, the videos are relatively innocuous, and seem moderately entertaining to young ones. There are moments in the songs that grate, but they are over soon enough and as long as you don’t put the accompanying soundtrack on repeat in your CD player they shouldn’t pose a big problem.
The Little Playdates series of DVDs is available directly from The Little Playdates Company website.