You need a reciever or Processor if you want to do it right, the distance delay, crossover and levels are set by these units, go used they are stupid cheap.
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You could easily do a 2.1 system with active speakers and no pre/pro to simplify things. Some of the virtual surround processing (like SRS TruSurround) in DVD players is surprisingly good.
Otherwise, as Chadnliz said, you lose too many necessary features. Any decent AV receiver should do. Pick Pioneer to match that great TV.
Well, I don't really think that processors and receivers are too complicated for parents. I'm a parent. I can generally figure out what button to push to turn it on. All the complicated stuff is done automatically. I'm sure that you will have great fun setting it up for them anyways.
I would suggest going one of two ways. Get a basic receiver, a Pioneer to match the TV like Bob suggested would be great. On the other hand, if they are a bit technophobic and don't want a lot of clutter, then consider the all-in-one disc player/processor/amp units like those made by Arcam or Linn or NAD or whoever else.
Also, if my kids were going to do something nice like this for me (fat chance), I would probably like a Blu-Ray player too, and a Caribbean vacation.
I was thinking maybe a sony TA-P9000ES matched with a Rotel RMB-1085. I should be able to get hold of them for under $1500 and I thought this combo would beat any receiver out there. What do y'all think? Good point about the distance delays and crossover Chadnliz, I hadn't thought of that. Does anyone know what the DV-983 can do in terms of audio signal management? It just feels like a waste to get a receiver or processor when all my folks will want to do is turn it on, watch movies, and turn the volume up or down. These new players have all this great processing capability and then we're supposed to shell out more cash to duplicate it with a receiver? Any good TV nowadays has video processing also. This is just wasteful IMO-redundant. I really would rather make it work with an analog multichannel preamp and a good separate power amp.