Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Columbia-TriStar, standard 1.33:1, languages: English Digital Stereo [CC], subtitles: English, Spanish, single side-single layer, 3 chapters, rated NR, 72 min., $24.95, street date 3/14/2000.
Contains 3 Fun Episodes:
Mouse Party: It's Tutter's birthday, and Bear and his friends are preparing a surprise party for him. Watch as Tutter enjoys his surprise, birthday cake, and presents too!
Bear's Birthday Bash: Bear's plans to relax on his birthday are quickly foiled when his friends plan a big party for him instead!
Dancin' the Day Away: Visit the Big Blue House, as Tutter's friends teach him how to dance!
Contains these fun sing-along songs: Dancin' the Day Away; Happy Happy Birthday; The Bear Cha Cha Cha; Otter Rap; When I'm Older; Everybody in the Tub.
As some of you may know, I don't run out and buy every DVD I review. We get some discs complimentary from the studios, and I must admit this is a pretty sweet little perk. Not only do they not cost me anything, but I also occasionally get some far before street date, which is always exciting.
However, with all the fun comes some less exciting material. That's where Bear in the Big Blue House enters the picture.
That statement should not be interpreted as a slam on the Bear series; actually, I'd never heard of the show prior to my receipt of this DVD, so I had no distinctly negative feelings about it (unlike, say, Barney). No, my lack of enthusiasm came from the fact that it was doubtful I'd be too entertained and delighted by a Muppet-filled TV show apparently aimed at tiny children.
Since I take my reviews seriously, though, I sat down and watched Bear; to my small surprise, it actually is a decently entertaining program for adults. Don't take that as an endorsement that anyone over eight or so will want to plop down and spend an hour or so with Bear and his friends, because it's not something I'd choose to watch for its own merits; however, it does appear much more fun and charming for all audiences than I'd expect, so don't freak if your kids want you to watch it with them.
Because my childhood days are long gone, I can't really estimate Bear's appeal to that crowd, but I'd guess it should play well. The characters are sweet and friendly and all offer distinctive and gently witty personalities, and the shows encompass a small scope but keep the pace moving at an acceptably quick pace.
This DVD features three 24-minute episodes of Bear. We get "Mouse Party", in which Bear and his cohorts throw a surprise birthday party for Tutter (the titular mouse); "Bear's Birthday Bash", in which the cohorts toss a surprise throw-down for Bear himself; and "Dancin' the Day Away", which finally eliminates the entire "birthday" conceit and simply celebrates the joys of dancing.
All three shows are pleasant and charming. Although the proceedings remain low-key for the most part, they provide some fun and laughs for kids throughout the program. The scripts are relatively clever and even though the songs are very derivative, they still have some bounce and spark. Will I ever watch Bear again? Not a chance, but if I had kids, I'd be more than happy to let them view the show; it seems like a very well-produced children's program.
Bear in the Big Blue House: Party Time With Bear appears in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it betrays some flaws at times, the DVD offers a pretty good picture.
Sharpness seems consistently fine throughout the program, with very little softness on display. Moiré effects never cause a problem, but I did notice a number of examples of jagged edges throughout the shows. Since the program comes from videotape, no grain or other print flaws appear, but the original material seems just a bit flat.
Colors are a strong point of this DVD; as one might expect from a kids' show, hue are bold and brilliant, and they look quite nice. Only the semi-drabness that results from the original videotape keeps them from being absolutely top-notch all the time. Black levels are adequate, but I can't discuss shadow detail; this is a rather brightly-lit production, and I didn't notice any shadows! All in all, the DVD looks very good.
The stereo soundtrack of Bear is decent but fairly unambitious. Most of the audio seems monaural, with all dialogue and effects emanating from the center channel. Music spreads nicely to the side speakers but still remains pretty centered. Quality is adequate, with clear and relatively natural speech, clean effects and acceptably broad music (though the latter lacks a lot of low end). I was surprised that the DVD didn't include at least a Dolby Surround mix, but what appears seems okay.
Bear tosses in a few extras, but not much. We get trailers for Madeline, Stuart Little, The Nuttiest Nutcracker, The Adventures of Elmo In Grouchland, and Muppets From Space. Also, the menu will let you access each of the six songs in the programs and makes them "singalongs" by adding large, kid-friendly text at the bottom of the screen.
On its own, Bear in the Big Blue House: Party Time With Bear doesn't hold much appeal for adults, but it seems like a lot of fun for kids, and adults who want to watch along with their little ones will probably find the experience to be enjoyable. Picture and sound are both good, though the DVD lacks substantial extras. Overall, Bear is a good choice for younger viewers.
Current as of 4/14/2000
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