Videos and DVDs

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Where to rent PBS videos?

August 2005

The PBS video/DVD catalog arrived in the mail today, and made me wonder where is the best place to rent PBS DVDs? My local video rental place has a few, but only a very few and it seems mostly Jane Austin and Smiley's people. Are there any places to rent the more obscure Novas or hisotry DVDs? Does Netflix have a PBS category? Carolyn

Netflix does have a PBS category (a subset of Television). A search for ''Nova'' turned up something like 56 hits, almost all of which were episodes of the series. I've been a Netflix member for only a month or so, but I'm really enjoying the service and seeing lots of documentaries, foreign films, and classics that we somehow never rented at the video store. And since I can't make a decision under pressure (e.g. at the video store), having the leisure to browse the catalog and add as many movies as I like to my queue is great. Carrie

Try the library! Our local library in Alameda has a great selection of PBS selections. Jessica

Where to find good kids' videos

March 2001

Where do I get videos besides Disney movies? Terry

We recently discovered the Berkeley Public Library video collection. While the main library is being remodeled, all videos are at the West Berkeley Branch, which is on the north side of University Avenue about a block east of San Pablo. They have a large collection of children's videos. Every Saturday my almost-4-y.o. and I go and pick out two videos for her (and one for me!) -- the limit per card is three videos at a time. Not only are they free, but you can keep them for a whole week. Recently we have enjoyed Babar, Thomas the Tank Engine, Corduroy, Clifford, Hungry Caterpillar stories, etc. We especially enjoyed Children's Stories from Africa with a fantastic storyteller with beautiful clothing and percussion instruments, and kids dancing and singing after each story. They have some in other languages, too. Oakland Main and branches have a good collection too. Most tapes for this age group are about 1/2 hour long. The Videots rental store on College near Ashby has a good variety of kids videos too, that way you can rent before you buy (they sell off old ones as well, we got a Cat in the Hat one which is a big favorite). Reel Video has lots, too, though the store is so big you can almost lose a toddler in there ;>. Though my daughter is drawn to the bright covers on the shelves, for the most part I have been able to limit the Disney saturation pretty well; I find most of them overwhelmingly fast and oud, even the Pooh ones -- kind of like a long commercial, though I must confess our weakness for Toy Story. (Last note: this week my tape is the opera La Traviata, and my daughter has been watching it every day, transfixed -- go figure!).

Check out the library! No reason to purchase videos if you're not sure what you want yet. The Berkeley Library on University near San Pablo has a pretty good selection to start you out. Letitia

To the woman who actually wanted videos--You have my sympathies for the pile of Barney videos. We survived for our first year of video watching with one old ratty Barney tape. I've found the best, cheapest and easiest way to have a good selection of videos on hand is to tape the shows my kid loves on PBS. My daughter (5 yrs) loves Zaboomafoo, Mister Rogers, and Zoom. We have 2-3 full tapes (2hrs each) for each show and she rewatches them again and again. Every month or so we retire a tape and use it to retape fresh stuff. It does mean that you need to learn how to use the recording feature of your VCR, but it's well worth it! Diane

Amoeba Records and Rasputin Records (both on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley) have large selections of used children's videos. They both have the usual complement of Disney features, but also lots of other stuff, usually at prices well below retail. The other great thing about buying used videos (at least at Amoeba) is that they have a return policy. If you bring the video back with the receipt within 7 days, they will refund 75% of the purchase price (in store credit). Another idea: find shows that your kids like (and you approve of) and tape them for future viewing. We have many tapes filled with Zooboomafoo, Madeline, Blues Clues, etc. (for some of these shows it helps if you know someone with cable). Randal

The Albany public library has tons of kids videos, mostly non-Disney, lots of educational videos, and they're free! Melinda

Try your local public library! Our (San Leandro) library has an extensive video collection for borrowing. Last night we took home a Lamb Chop video (a HUGE success with our 4 year old), and Ray Bradbury's The Electric Grandmother. Both were about 1 hour, and definitely not your usual Disney fare. I imagine that the Library will be more likely to stock educational videos as well. Good luck! Dawn

Silver Screen Video (El Cerrito Plaza) has a pretty good selection of non-Disney videos and I know other stores do as well. My kids (4 1/2 and 7 1/2) really like the National Geographic series for kids - narrated by Dudley Moore as Spin (the world). There is one movie per continent, I believe. Lots of animals and lots of music. They like Magic School Bus videos as well and the girls have good roles in those.

The Discovery Corner Store at the Lawrence Hall of Science has a good variety of nature, science, and other fun videos. They are open seven days a week, from 10-5, and if you are just planning to go to the store, you can tell them so at the Hall's front desk, so you don't have to pay to get in. suzanne

Gosh, try Toy Go Round or Play it Again Toys on Solano. They have used kids videos. Here's a strange one - I aquired a used copy of Cyrano de Bergerac in French (w/Gerard Depardieu), when my little girl was 1.5 or 2 years old. She seemed fascinated by it - I think it was the language - so I'm not surprised about the child who loves La Traviata - I think I'll try that one!!! Cindy CTurtlesrus

Why don't you try your local public library? I use the Albany library and have found several fun, educational videos. For example: a National Geographic children's video on bears and other Sierra animals with lots of good music; and a series of videos called Up Close and Personal with tapes on farm animals, trains, trucks, horses. They're great! Alisa

Used Kids' Videos


RE: where the find a used copy of the Lion King The probability is relatively high that you may find a used Lion King video in Rasputin's Records on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley. Mikhail

To the person looking for used kids videos, you can find them -- lots of Disney -- in the basement-level of Rasputin's Music at the corner of Telegraph and Channing Way. Stefanie

Used Disney Videos: I believe I saw some for sale at HalfPrice Books on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, near Dwight. Dianna

The best place I have found to buy used videos is Amoeba Records on Telegraph (in Berkeley; the store on Haight in S.F. also has a good selection). They have a separate section of kids videos, including lots of Disney. They also have a 7-day return policy -- 75% in store credit for any reason, full refund in credit if defective. Rasputin's also has used videos in the basement of their store. Randal

I don't know whether or not they currently have the Lion King, but I have bought used Disney videos at Toy Go 'Round on Solano Avenue. Also, Costco sells them new at lower cost than other retail outlets. Cathy

Video Rentals


My two children and I had a bad experience that I'd like to post here. A few weeks ago, my daughter (8) was having her first sleepover. She really wanted to have a movie as part of the evening. My son (5), my daughter, her friend (7) and I went to 5 Star Video on Solano before our 4:15 swimming class. The girls took a few minutes to select their movie Balto and then brought it to me. They then went to the front of the store to look at the Bug's Life display (or some other kid's movie display). They passed the candy container on the desk and the employee said to them, those aren't for free This kind of bugged me, but I let it pass. The employee looked at me and said, They took some candy. I went right over and said Kids, this man says you took some candy did you? No they hadn't, and I checked my own kids' pockets to make sure. I went back to the counter and told the guy that they didn't have any candy. He refused to believe me. I assured him again that they didn't have candy. He told me as he wisked the movie off the counter, I'm denying you service then. He told me in front of my children, that I was a mother who didn't watch her kids.

I called Andy, the owner, that day and the next and he was mildly sympathetic. I asked that he have his employee apologize to my children. I have never heard back from him. I'm posting this story so that I can finish it for myself. The only time I will go back to the video store is when I go to have them destroy my credit card slip and tell them why I won't be returning.

I was sorry to read of the bad experience at 5-star video. The whole thing sounded very out of character for the employees at the store. I've rented from that store for about 6 years and have never had a single bad experience, nor have I witnessed one. The staff there have been quite considerate of us when we brought our kids in to pick out movies, and my wife has had many conversations with certain of the staff about kids movies and our kids in particular. On many occaisions I've gone in to browse, and left not finding anything that I wanted to watch just then. Often, the staff there has wished me a good evening anyway.

I don't blame the parent for not wanting to give that store their custom in the future. They know their children and the staff member's behavior seemed nothing short of rude. Still, six years of better than good service for me and my family can't be ignored either. I just wanted to let people know that it is not the usual treatment from the staff at that store. I hope the parent gets some redress.

Our family has had excellent service at 5 Star Video on Solano. The staff has been helpful in person and on the phone. They have helped us and our children choose videos, and have gladly outlined the plot or let us know how silly or sexy or upsetting a particular movie might be. They have always been nice to us and to our children. I am sorry to hear that one family had such a bad experience at the store. Our experiences have all been good.

I have patronized 5-Star Video for years now, and my neighbor, who recommended the place to me, has been renting videos there since it opened without any problem. I like the store very much and find the personal service (the staff watches all videos and can give a personal opinion of the content) rather refreshing. In fact, I wouldn't go anywhere else. Sorry to hear you had problems, I'm sure it was a fluke.

videos with sign language

October 2001

Does anyone know where I can find videos with sign language? I currently have one put out by Randon House called Sign Me a Story with Linda Bove. Thankyou Mallorieb1

The Say, Sing & Sign series has a number of ASL videos. They are instructional videos for kids. Each tape addresses a different topic (for example: animals, numbers, alphabet, colors). The signs are taught and then used in songs. My kids (3 & 4 y.o.)love them. I find that they will sing and sign along with the tape as well as incorporate their signs into regular conversation. They have no other exposure to ASL. I purchased my tapes at but I'm sure if you search other places they're out there. Good luck! Caroline

Amazon has a few videos: Talking Hands I want to learn Sign Language And Sign Songs and perhaps most compelling... Land Before Time Sign Edition.