In 1997 Julie Aigner-Clark became frustrated with the lack of baby and children's products out there with which she could share her love and knowledge of art and classical music. She desperately wanted to share with her little daughter the wonderful worlds of Beethoven, Shakespeare, Monet, and the like. But everything out there was for older kids or adults. Julie finally decided to do something about that and shot the first Baby Einstein video in her home. It was called the Baby Einstein Language Nursery. She chose the name because Albert Einstein was a man with passion about music, the arts, and made important discoveries. With classical music as the soundtrack, Julie depicted real world images, mostly colorful and engaging children's toys being played with. It was elegant in its simplicity, the perfect thing to fetch the interest and attention of babies. There were no complicated characters or plotlines to contend with, things babies wouldn't understand anyway. The videos and DVDs are, in a sense, created from a baby's perspective. The wondrous colors and images served as a vehicle to drive classical music and other important humanities into their heads. There was an interactive element to it if the child viewed it with an adult. It was especially effective is the child had some of the toys depicted. She worked closely with a man named Bill Weinstein, who was in charge of reorchestrating the music of the classical composers to appeal to the young ears that would be listening to them.
Word of mouth was very helpful to Ms. Clark in Baby Einstein's early years. Word quickly spread of this wonderful video from parent-to-parent and suddenly Baby Einstein was a success! Julie's venture became the Baby Einstein Company, LLC and she expanded and developed an entire suite of developmental products including DVDs, music CDs, toys and games. Parents loved the Baby Einstein products because it not only exposed their little ones to the beautiful world around them but they also exposed them to foreign languages, as many of the DVDs either have French and Spanish words intermixed with English or they can be played in either French or Spanish. It would also be remiss not to mention the Baby Einstein puppets, the only actual characters in the videos. The two most popular are the lion and the giraffe. They are simple in their construction and make the babies laugh with their silly little antics and expressions. Not long after Baby Einstein became well known, none other than the Walt Disney Company began to take notice.
In November, 2001 Disney acquired Baby Einstein. With the backing of such a huge corporation, the budgets for the DVDs and videos expanded and more Baby Einstein products were created. Toys and other juvenile products were created and distributed around the world, making Baby Einstein an international success. In 2005 Little Einstein was introduced. Basically it is Baby Einstein grown up a little, products meant for toddlers and preschoolers. They include images more mature tykes can understand and songs they can sing while still introducing them to the world around them in a form they can digest easily, as Baby Einstein has done for babies.
Below is a complete list of all the DVDs and/or videos that have been produced by Baby Einstein as of mid-2005.
- Baby Einstein Language Nursery: The aforementioned first Baby Einstein video that combined playful images and foreign languages with classical music and art. It embodies all of the original vision of Julie Clark. Appropriate for babies of all ages. Multiple award-winner including Parents' Choice "Parents' Choice Award" (1997)
- Baby Mozart Music Festival: Appropriate for babies one month and up. It was named Video of the Year (1998) by Child, Parenting and Specialty Retailer magazines. It combines Mozart's favorite compositions with colors and toys...and of course the puppets.
- Baby Bach Musical Adventure: Pretty much like the Baby Mozart, only with Bach compositions. It has won many awards, including the Dove Foundation Family Approved Seal
- Baby Van Gogh World of Colors: This exposes the babies to the full spectrum of rich and vibrant colors via the works of the late great Van Gogh with selections of classical music from his era as a backdrop. Its awards includes a Kids First! Endorsement.
- Neighborhood Animals: Babies are introduced to the various animals that live in and around the home like dogs, cats, and frogs. The music is from the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is appropriate for age 1 year and up. Its awards includes a Kids First! Endorsement.
- Baby Newton Discovering Shapes: It introduces babies to five shapes to the music of Vivaldi. Its awards includes a Kids First! Endorsement. For ages 1 year and up.
- Baby Santa's Music Box: Holiday music from around the world! Appropriate for ages 1 month and up.
- Baby Shakespeare World of Poetry: Poetry is depicted in motion surrounded by playful real world imagery. It is a recipient of the Dove Foundation Family approved seal among other accolades. It is for 1 year and up.
- Baby Beethoven Symphony of Fun: This is much like the Baby Bach and Baby Mozart videos in that it includes some of Beethoven's finest works like Symphonies 1, 5, 6, 8 and 9. Winner of Dr. Toy’s 100 BEST Children’s Product 2002. For ages 0-3.
- Baby Monet Discovering the Seasons: This DVD introduces the little ones to the four seasons with the music of Vivaldi and Monet's art stylings. For six months and up.
- Baby Galileo Discovering the Sky: A fantastic introduction to the sky above including the sun, clouds, stars and even galaxies. Winner of iParenting Media "2003 Great Holiday Product Awards" (2003) and features music by Mozart, Chopin, Strauss and Tchaikovsky.
- Baby Neptune Discovering Water: This Parent's Choice Recommendation (2003) introduces babies to water and features Handel's Water Music.
- Baby MacDonald A Day on the Farm: Introduces children to the sights and sounds of the farm and intermixes live action animal shots with the puppets. For ages 9 months and up.
- Baby Noah Animal Expedition: This Parents' Choice "Parents' Choice Approved" (2005) award-winning video/DVD takes your child on a musical voyage around the world to meet over 20 animals in their natural habitats. For ages 1 year and up.
- Baby da Vinci From Head to Toe: This interesting show introduces babies and toddlers to their bodies from their heads to their feet in Spanish, French and English. It features compositions by Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel. Parenting Magazine - "Parenting Mom Tested!" Video of the Year (2004) and Parents' Choice "Parents' Choice Approved" (2005).
As for my personal experience with Baby Einstein, Baby Beethoven was the first one we purchased and it is my son's favorite. We have been playing it for him since the time he was a month old until now (he's nine months as of the writing of this article). None of the others seem to hold his interest as long and Beethoven garners the biggest smiles from him. I think this is because it was made in the period where Disney came in and gave Baby Einstien a bigger budget but it was maintaining much of Julie Clark's original vision: a perfect combo of classical music and images they enjoy. It is more refined than the early videos and I think that the later ones, like Baby Galileo and Baby da Vinci, while interesting in their own right, just don't adhere as much to Ms. Clark's intentions. It is clear to see as the videos are more and more "Disneyfied" that they become visually more spectacular but no longer, or hardly, incorporate the elements that made Baby Einstein a success in its early years. If you watch them in chronological order, you see less and less of Julie's influence as the DVDs/videos become more of a production.
Perhaps most telling of this gradual process of pushing Julie Clark out of the picture is that the intro that Ms. Clark narrates for Baby Beethoven starts out "Hi, I'm Julie Clark, founder of the Baby Einstein Company. For more information about our developmental programs..." On the later videos, even though it's still Ms. Clark's voice, this has changed to "For more information about our developmental products for toddlers and preschoolers..."
All in all, Julie Clark had a wonderful idea for a business and a product. Not only has Baby Einstein obviously been very good for her, it is also a great thing for babies and toddlers everywhere. As we are finding out more and more, the younger you are, the more like a sponge your brain is and the earlier you start introducing it to information, the better -- but it has to be entertaining and pleasing to their young eyes. And Baby Einstein recognizes this concept perfectly. As a father who has been reading to him since he was still in the womb, I am very happy to have them for my son. And so is he.
Baby Einstein products are available on their site (there is a full shopping cart system set up). You can also find them at any local Toys "R" Us. As with anything, you can find them on Ebay and get good deals on them, but as with buying any DVDs on Ebay, buyer beware. Do your best to make sure they have the proper region code and that they are authentic and not knock-offs because a lot of Baby Einstein products you'll find there are being sold from outside of the US.
UPDATE: I like Ereneta's writeup and agree with a good portion of it. I know mine wasn't very critical and maybe I should have been more critical (I DO realize that this is not the greatest thing since sliced bread). But now it's a nice, balanced node at least, one highly critical and one more informative with some praise. And we do like to flip on the classical station in the car for him so he can hear the real stuff.:)