What Tadoo? J. Gary Mitchell Film Company, 57 minutes, $19.95. (800) 301-4050. Ages 4-8. "Say no, get away, tell someone, yell"--that four-part message is at the heart of this carefully age-appropriate video, meant to give young children the confidence to protect themselves in unsettling or dangerous situations involving intimidation, physical and sexual abuse.
Using a well-integrated and imaginative mix of puppetry, animation and live action, this winner of a number of film, video and family media awards was developed with child abuse experts. It offers several scenarios dealing with stranger danger, awareness of "uh-oh feelings," when not to keep secrets and the way to conquer fear with the "ACT Guidelines"--"Admit you're afraid, Call on your inner strength, and Tell someone until you get help."
The sensitive film's "it's not your fault" approach also addresses the guilt, confusion or ambivalence a child might feel. Most important, empowerment, not scare-mongering, is what happens here.
S.E.E. Me Sing. Shooting Star Media. 25 minutes. $19.95. (888) 536-SIGN. This introductory video to a live-action series teaches both hearing and hearing-impaired children how to sign along with songs, offering its enjoyable lessons in Signed Exact English in a make-believe fairy tale setting.
Princess Jaima introduces viewers to her castle family, which includes King Bearheart, Dragos the Dragon and trolls. She demonstrates the alphabet and the signs for animals and actions, and she signs songs, some of which accompany fun claymation segments. Although obviously a sampler, the video, with its playful, let's-dress-up-and-pretend quality, is pleasantly accessible to all.
The Thief and the Cobbler. Miramax Family Films/Buena Vista Home Video. 73 minutes. $14.99. Don't judge this amazing visual feast by the shortness of its theatrical release a couple of years back. Created by Richard Williams, the Oscar-winning director of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," and 30 years in the making, this animated fantasy featuring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Winters, Vincent Price and Jennifer Beals, is a family treat.
The story--a thief (Winters), a young cobbler (Broderick) and a princess (Beals) save the kingdom from an evil grand vizier (Price)--is a simple one. However, the exquisite, optical illusion style, Persian fairy-tale designs are spectacular.