WordWorld: The Christmas Star/A Christmas Present for Dog (2008)

FYI: This show is watched by our 4-year-old. Her feedback will be included in this review.

WorldWorld is a PBS show (originally 2007-2011) that teaches preschoolers basic spelling and phonics along with some other positive messages. I've always found it generally amusing, although the in-world rules raise a lot of questions. 

All the things, including the characters, are physically made up of the letters that spell their names. And if you can spell something, you can create it. For example, if you line up the letters H, A, T, you now have a hat. So it's a bit like the Star Trek question of why anything would be scarce in a world with replicators, but it's an exponentially larger issue here because the characters find letters basically anywhere (they don't seem to be a finite resource) and in several episodes, it's established that you can pluralize words to create infinite stuff. 

Each half-hour episode includes two separate stories.


The Christmas Star

This story opens with Frog, Duck, and Dog decorating for Christmas inside Frog's log, singing offkey. They build a TREE (putting T R E E together) and begin to decorate that, using single letters as ornaments. 

Frog mentions that he always puts a special star on the top of his tree. Duck asks why. Frog says there's always a beautiful bright star in the sky for Christmas. Okay, sure, that's as good a story as most.

Frog can't find his star, but he doesn't seem too upset. Later that night, Duck decides that he wants to capture the "real" Christmas Star for Frog's tree. (This places this story in a small subgenre about using a literal star as a decoration.)

Duck sings a solo about his plan, and the music in the show is usually pretty decent, switching genre and style to suit each story. This song is a bit longer than most and it's very jazzy, clearly inspired by holiday standards.

At this point, my daughter voiced some concerns. In another episode Duck flew south for the winter, so why is he back for Christmas? I admitted I didn't know. 

Duck does see a low shooting star and manages to lasso it, but after a brief sequence in which the star tows him all over the countryside, he's thrown off, and the star returns to the sky. 

Duck is crushed because he doesn't have a great present for Frog, but he goes to sleep.

Meanwhile, Frog sees how disappointed Duck is. He and Dog build a CAP (a Santa hat) and quietly deliver a secret present to Duck's nest.

A few other friends arrive in the morning to celebrate. Duck wakes up, still upset, but finally notices that he has a present. He is excited about it, but another character has to explain that it's the letters S T A R. The group builds STAR and they finish decorating the tree. 

A Christmas Present for Dog

This story opens with Pig, Ant, Bear, and Dog writing letters to Santa on Christmas Eve, and singing about it. Pig wants a new sled, Ant wants a cookie, and Bear wants a doll. Dog (who doesn't speak, only barks) gets Bear to help him with his letter - he wants a ball, and they spell BALL on his paper. 

They release the letters near the fireplace and they fly up the chimney into the sky. 

Santa (unseen, but heard) flies overhead and drops letters down into each house that assemble themselves into each gift. However, the last L in BALL bounces off Dog's chimney instead of falling in, so he's left with just B A L in the morning. 

He's disappointed, but he goes out to see the others. Bear and Dog look around for another L to make Dog's ball. (There's a giant room full of letters in Dog's house, but everyone conveniently forgets that when it isn't part of the plot of a particular episode.)

Bear and Dog run across Pig and Sheep. Sheep admires Pig's new sled, and he decides that he doesn't need a new sled after all and gives it to Sheep for Christmas. Pig sings a little verse about how giving is better than anything.

At this point, my daughter objected, asking why they didn't just take turns. She definitely had a point. I was wondering why they didn't just build a second sled. It isn't hard.

Going on, Bear and Dog see Ant share his Christmas cookie with all his cousin ants, being left with none for himself. He also sings the little giving song.

Bear decides to take apart her new doll to get a new L for Dog, and she sings the giving song as well. Bear and Dog build the BALL and play with it. 

I'm not sure a story about giving up your gift to make someone happy has any emotional weight in a world when all the gifts can hypothetically be immediately replaced. However, my kid almost immediately started practicing writing words with LL in them, so I guess the actual point got through. 

Neither of these are brilliant Christmas stories, but they're cheerful, pleasant, and educational, and the music isn't bad. As a parent, that's a pretty good deal.