VeggieTales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah’s Umbrella appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve watched a lot of VeggieTales DVDs, and they all tend to look a lot alike. That trend continued with Umbrella.
The show looked crisp and detailed. Some other shows in the series could be a bit soft, but this one appeared well-developed. Some light jagged edges appeared, and a few examples of moiré effects occurred as well, but these were minor. Edge enhancement and print flaws appeared absent during this clean image.
The world of VeggieTales offered a very bright and varied palette, and Umbrella followed with a strong batch of colors. The tones went with a broad look, and the DVD replicated these well. The hues were clear and distinctive. Black levels were also nicely deep and rich, and though shadow detail was only a minor consideration, all of those sorts of shots came across as appropriately clean and visible. Ultimately, Promise provided a satisfying visual experience.
Also fairly strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Umbrella. For the most part, this soundfield stayed with an emphasis on the forward spectrum, where it offered nicely broad and engaging audio. With its action sequences, Umbrella provided relatively active audio. Elements moved nicely across the front and formed a good feeling of environment. The effects meshed together well, especially during the show’s action sequences.
The surrounds also added a fair amount to the mix. The rear speakers kicked in some good material at times. The action sequences worked best and contributed a fun feel.
Sound quality seemed consistent with prior releases. Audio quality seemed to be fine across the board. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and it showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and when appropriate they came to life quite vividly. Bass response was loud and deep. This was a good track that contributed to the effectiveness of the piece.
If you’ve watched other VeggieTales DVDs, you’ll know what to expect from the extras of Umbrella, though we find a skimpier than usual collection. We start with an audio commentary from director/actor Mike Nawrocki and writer Tim Hodge, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss the project’s roots and development, story and character notes, animation issues, influences, songs and score, the actors and performances, the visual style, story subjects/changes, and various challenges.
VeggieTales commentaries tend to be hit or miss, but this is one of the better ones. Nawrocki does most of the talking, and he gives us a lot of good information about the program. Hodge also chimes in frequently and adds nice notes when he speaks. The pair interact well and make this a consistently engaging and useful discussion.
A few text questions appear under Discussion Guide. This is simply a way for families to chat about various issues with the kids.
An Art Gallery features 14 screens and comes with commentary from Nawrocki and art director Joe Spadaford. You can skip through the art at will or just let it run with the narration; the latter runs nine minutes. We see concept and character drawings while we learn about the various design topics. I like the art and think the notes offer good explanations of the choices.
Next we get a Sing-Along presentation for “Sippy Cup”. This three-minute, 12-second clip shows the veggies as they croon the song. It displays the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, and the audio button allows you to turn on or off the vocals. Simply the same scene from the show, it does nothing for me, but kids might enjoy it.
Next we learn How to Draw two characters. This teaches how to make Minnesota Cuke (12 minutes, 35 seconds) and Julia (11:33). Hosted by Joe Spadaford, both offer reasonably informative and fun tutorials.
An ad for Saint Nicholas: A Veggie Christmas Story opens the DVD. It also appears in the Previews area along with clips for Heroes of the Bible, Big River Rescue, 3-2-1 Penguins: Blast in Space,Abe and the Amazing Promise, Here I Am to Worship, MOPS, CURE International and Operation Christmas Child.
An extended adventure dominates the newest VeggieTales program. I think Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah’s Umbrella demonstrates its religious bent more forcefully than I’d like, but it boasts some inventive moments and turns into good entertainment. The DVD boasts excellent visuals, decent audio, and a few decent supplements. Chalk this up as another nice VeggieTales release.