Early in my quest for good Chinese materials I discovered that I have to go for the kids stuff. I purchased some kids DVD's from the local Chinese mall, picked up a book here and there and researched what I could online. Honestly I was disappointed in what I found. The material was either too easy (can anyone say "dui") or too difficult. Then I came across Muzzy in Mandarin and read glowing reviews but the ridiculous price kept me away. Sure, there's the 30 day "return if you don't like it", but if you do like it, then you have to pay $200.
A month ago I said what the hell and ordered it. After waiting a week or so it finally arrived.
Guess what? It's great. I wish I would have had this when I started learning.
First the good stuff. The package includes 2 DVD's, clocking in at around an hour and a half. I'm sure it would fit on one DVD and I don't know why they didn't do that. There are 6 parts, 3 on each disc but the "episodes" run together so you don't even notice. You have the options of English, Pinyin, Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), and no subtitles (my preference so far). You also get 2 more DVD's with the same lessons in English, a book with the entire transcript in Chinese, English, and Pinyin, a DVD of additional vocab, and an audio CD I haven't even opened.
The quality is top notch. Honestly after watching it I'm completely baffled why others haven't produced something this good. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult. The animation looks like it's from the late 70's or early 80's. The dialog is simple enough. It builds upon itself and introduces new concepts and words perfectly. The only "problem" is carried over from the English edition I'm guessing because there is a part covering the English alphabet (A-Z) and the Chinese pronunciation of . Completely skips CH-ZH pronunciation.
It's intended for children to sit in front of for hours upon hours upon hours... This is no "I'll watch it a few times and have it!". Repetition is key and they tell you so in the information that comes with the package.
Using the ChinesePod scale I would say the material is at an Elementary level, though if I were at a Newbie level I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up. If you can imagine Elementary material, but instead of a 30 second dialog two 40 minute cartoons with no English.
This is what I'm happy about. I want more and more Chinese input but at the same time I need to understand what is being said too. I can't listen to the Intermediate ChinesePod lessons because there's too much I don't understand. Muzzy provides the perfect solution. First the material is at my level. There is enough that I do understand interspersed with what I do not that I stay motivated and hungry for more. When something comes up that I don't understand I can either put on the subtitles or grab the enclosed book and grab a dictionary. Then the next time I watch it I'll know what is being said. And the next time, etc, etc. And eventually I'll be as familiar with "dong1tian1" as I am with "wo3 bu4 zhi1dao4".
The bad part: the price. $200 is RIDICULOUS for what amounts to 2 40 minute sessions. $200!!!! Even if it came with the 2nd part (which is currently an additional, you heard right, an additional $200 for 2 more 40 minutes sessions) would it be worth $200? Hell no!
OK, that's the only bad thing, but it's very bad. Very, very, bad.
If you forget about how much it costs then I would say this is by far the best learning material I've come across. The dialog is engaging (even for adults) and the visuals are incredibly helpful. I read a review from a parent that complained the material was a little too much for their child (a green, pointy nosed character, unrequited love, sticking a telephone in the bathtub, etc). I'll leave that to those of you who are parents to decide on.