A FEW NOTES ABOUT THE "MOTE" @ 27 November 2010 05:20 PM
Kids love to have "pretend" version of equipment, appliances and other "grownup" stuff, so why wouldn't they want to have their own TV remote? The new "Mickey Mote" doesn't change channels or control volume, but it does allow young children to answer multiple choice questions on specially-equipped Playhouse Disney DVDs.

This feature was formerly known on earlier releases as "Discovery Mode." You could choose a setting on the DVD so your home remote could allow your child to answer the questions, which randomly stop the story action throughout select episodes and feature length specials (more about just how "select" in a moment).

So you can already do pretty much the same thing with a regular remote that you can do with a Mickey Mote, but where's the colorful fun in that? And do you really want to have a small child fiddle with a complicated remote and maybe get strawberry jam all over it? That's the idea, and it's not a bad one if you want to add just a little more interaction to shows that already stop their action frequently to ask the viewers what to do, or to count things, etc. in the manner of Blues's Clues and Dora the Explorer. (I personally prefer the more plot-driven features because they are richer in content than the shorter episodes.

Parents shouldn't just load the batteries, start the DVDs, hand the child a Mickey Mote and let it go at that. First it has to be set in a specific way with a specific sequence of steps. It's not complicated, but if you skip a step it won't work. It comes with printed instructions and on-screen directions. Once you've set the Mickey Mote, it's ready to use.

Then you must choose from two play levels on the settings of the DVD and the episode starts. Here's where we had some issues. On Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Numbers Roundup, which is packaged with the Mickey Mote, there are short episodes that seem chosen at random after you select the activity mode. In other words, you might see "Mickey's Big Surprise" one time, set it again and then see "Mickey's Round Up the Next." We tried it over and over again and it seems to allow no control over which episodes it shows after you choose the activity mode -- and for the life of me, I can't figure out how to use it for the bonus episode at all.

So your child can of course watch all five episodes but I couldn't tell you how to see all four plus the bonus one on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Numbers Roundup with the Mote.

It's much better with feature-length episodes like that of another new Playhouse Disney DVD release, Handy Manny Big Construction Job. You set the DVD for the mote, and the whole 67 minute story follows with lots of Mickey Mote interactivity. We also tried it with an earlier release, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland, and the same holds true.

We had a three year old over for the holiday and she loved using the remote, and since her attention span is less than those of me and my older kids, she was perfectly delighted with Numbers Roundup. We did not get the opportunity to see if she would become frustrated if she couldn't "Mote" on all the episodes, but perhaps it's a bigger deal to us than to the little ones.

Me -- I still love putting the Magic Screen on the TV, getting out the Magic Crayons and helping Winky Dink in one of his adventures. Now THAT'S interactivity!

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