Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman
Adaptation of beloved children's books empowers kids
In the series' first foray, "The Abominable Snowman," a group of kids travel to Nepal to meet up with Uncle Rudy (voiced by William H. Macy), an explorer intent on finding the legendary Yeti. On the way, they encounter various strangers, mishaps and unexpected conditions that require making a decision.
Benji North (Frankie Muniz) is a young technical genius that's great with his brain, but wary of adventures after losing his explorer parents. His sister Christa (Lacey Chabert) has an affinity for animals, while their younger adopted brother Marco (Daryl Sabara) has great instincts, if only they would listen to him. Along with native Sherpa guide Pasang (Phil LaMarr), they risk their lives after their scheduled rendezvous with Uncle Rudy gets sidetracked.
A quick training session shows how to use the DVD remote's left and right arrow buttons to make selections. The only confusing aspect is that occasionally you have to pay attention to the action on screen because the choices show up as icons while the characters discuss their options. It's not always obvious that the picture of a building means base camp or a silhouette of people running means abandoning a guide. But in the end, it's not really difficult, and if you're really a lazy schlub, the DVD will make a random choice for you when the timer runs out.
As a veteran "Choose Your Own Adventure" reader, I had two concerns. First, I wanted an easy way to backtrack to the road not taken in the event that my initial choice wasn't so wise (I used to use my fingers as bookmarks). The disc actually made this process easier. Each time one story line ended, a screen allows you to go back to any decision point to begin again.
Second, I wanted death. Not only is this a realistic conclusion for kids adventuring without adult supervision, but you really can't underestimate a kid's fascination with death. While I was horrified as a child when a wrong choice would get me buried alive, the gruesome ending was always a bit of a thrill. The deaths in this movie are only implied -- like falling into a tiger pit -- but they still make a point. In addition, meeting such an ignominious end not only spurs the viewer to learn from mistakes, but also gives a safe, vicarious outlet for a child's need to try new things.
The action gets underway pretty quickly. After a brief intro to the characters, all of sudden the viewer is forced asked to decide whether the Norths should go down with a malfunctioning airplane or parachute out. Some decisions are more obvious, like choosing to trust a stranger the kids just met, and in one particular case, the choice is philosophically surreal. Throughout, the film drops cultural tidbits and always keeps you guessing. And if you're lucky, you'll run across the product placement for Life cereal. Yes, Life cereal in the wilds of Nepal. Did I also mention that the film has a cheeky sense of humor?
The "In the Shadow of the Himalayas: How People Live in Nepal" bonus feature is a fairly lengthy instructional documentary that keeps the information simple, but not really that gripping, especially after the film's action. The music video for the song called, no lie, "Choose Your Own Adventure," is just a bunch of scenes from the film edited together, and actually contains several spoilers if you haven't necessarily traveled those paths yet. The song itself is up there with "It's a Small World" for annoying repetition and has that hip, generic Radio Disney sound.
The behind-the-scenes feature has interviews with some of the principal voice actors including Muniz and Chabert. Kids will find it interesting that both the younger stars as well as the older producers on the project are fans of the "Choose" books. Once again, the feature includes a huge spoiler: the ultimate ending when you enter the abominable snowman world.
The "Travel Journal" is an activity booklet packaged with the disc that teaches kids about Nepal, gives travel tips and offers a chance to join the Adventurer's Club.
Overall, the animation is fun and accessible, like many of the anime-influenced cartoons on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel today. In the end, "Abominable Snowman" is a great introduction to the series and is a well thought out product that is truly a fun interactive experience that will appeal to a wide range of kids of all ages and probably their parents as well.
STUDIO: Goldhil Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: July 25
RATING: Not Rated
PRICE: $19.98 each
TIME: 80 min. (average for one adventure)
DVD EXTRAS: "In the Shadows of the Himalayas: How People Live in Nepal" documentary; behind the scenes; music video; collectible travel journal