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Reviews of Bear in the Big Blue House on DVD: Visiting the Doctor with Bear Storytelling with Bear Sense-sational! Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Bear in the Big Blue House: Early to Bed, Early to Rise DVD Review

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Show Details
Executive Producers: Mitchell Kriegman, Brian Henson, Alex Rockwell

Creator: Mitchell Kriegman / Writers: Mitchell Kriegman, Andy Yerkes

Directors: Mitchell Kriegman, Hugh Martin

Cast: Noel MacNeal (Bear), Peter Linz (Tutter), Vicki Kenderes-Eibner (Ojo), Jim Kroupa (Otto), Tyler Bunch (Treelo), Lynne Thigpen (Luna), Tara Mooney (Shadow)

DVD Details
Running Time: 72 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Stereo Surround (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005; White Keepcase
Episodes Originally Aired Between 1997 and 1999
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); Suggested Retail Price: $14.99

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For as long as anyone can remember, man and all of the other creatures in the world have needed daily sleep. You and I know this and accept this.
We don't regularly question why on average one-third of our day is spent lying unconscious with our eyes closed on a bed in a darkened room, just like we never wonder how remarkable it is that all the parts of our body function together healthily until the day we get sick.

But kids are different. They possess an eager curiosity that once lost to the jading maturation process is rarely easy to rediscover. Kids want to know all about things we take for granted. That's where the anthropomorphic 7-foot Bear and his furry friends at the Big Blue House come in.

"Bear in the Big Blue House": Early to Bed, Early to Rise -- one of thirteen volumes of the Daytime Emmy-winning children's series now available on Disney DVD -- strives to inform young viewers why sleep is important and to explain how certain phenomena are part-and-parcel with the routine rest requirement. As the second part of the title indicates, this volume also educates on how to start one's day properly, making sure the morning is filled with reaffirming rituals.

Bear goes through a short bedtime checklist with Ojo. Flying through the air while singing a song about dreaming...is there anything Bear can't do?!

The disc presents three 24-minute episodes of the Playhouse Disney television series in their entirety. Each show succeeds in imparting important life lessons in the "Bear in the Big Blue House" way. That entails an appealing cast of colorful puppet characters, the friendly, understanding host Bear, lively, memorable musical numbers, and a dash of humor for audiences young and old. Like the best of children's television, "Bear" delivers entertainment which just happens to be wholly educational. These useful lessons could not be presented in a less dry fashion than this.

"Bear" doesn't speak down to its child audience. It employs a fair amount of formulas and each episode starts and ends in roughly the same fashion. But it's a clever show that relates to viewers through its experiences. Just like Jerry Seinfeld would reaffirm our bewilderment and confusion with trick-or-treating or the supermarket, the young bear cub Ojo and exuberant mouse Tutter grapple with waking up in a cranky mood or being too excited to sleep. Of course there's little of Jerry's sarcasm, but most of the occurrences at the Big Blue House prove highly identifiable for youths, an audience more likely to answer difficulty falling asleep with climbing into bed between Mom and Dad than by wandering downstairs to catch some "Cheers" on TV Land, as I did last night.

Bear agrees to a game of 'Go Fish' with his unexpected nighttime guests Doc Hogg and Jeremiah. Bear consults with Shadow, the musical storytelling silhouette.

The three shows on the disc are:

"Go to Sleep"
It's nighttime at the Big Blue House and after Bear helps Ojo settle into bed, he intends to do the same himself. That is, until Doc Hogg and Jeremiah show up for some snacking and "Go Fish."
Bear obliges to play cards, but he's soon sidetracked by an antsy Tutter and a song from Shadow. This episode emphasizes the importance of sleep.

"Morning Glory"
Everyone has slept over at the Big Blue House, and with the rising of the Sun (who shares some words with Bear), they're soon waking up and starting a new day. Before they can go out on their adventures, Bear helps them with some healthy morning rituals, from breakfast to brushing teeth. Children will relate to the various experiences on display, from coming to terms with a wild but believable dream to having to immediately take a bathroom break.

"A Winter's Nap"
Bear is all set for a relaxing nap on a winter afternoon, but others demand his attention. Ojo wonders why the ducks have disappeared from Otter Pond. Treelo is curious to know what the white stuff falling from the sky is. When Bear finally starts to doze, Pip and Pop request his presence and Tutter, who had also been trying to get a nap, gives up and joins the fun.

Though many of Disney's "Bear in the Big Blue House" DVDs are simply ports of discs previously released by Columbia/TriStar, Early to Bed, Early to Rise is a new-to-DVD volume (it was apparently released just to VHS in 2002) and a fine one at that. Like the other DVDs in the series both before and after Disney's February 2004 purchase of The Muppets Holding Company, it provides 72 minutes of entertainment for a $14.99 suggested retail price, with 4 sing-along songs as bonus features.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As usual, "Bear in the Big Blue House" delivers keen cinematic visuals and is presented in the director's preferred 2.39:1 Cinemascope ratio. Actually, I'm just having a little bit of fun. You already know the drill from our three previous "Bear" reviews (assuming you've read them, and you should have!), and this disc is no different. The show is offered in 1.33:1 fullscreen as it should be, since that's what it's framed for and aired in. Video quality is wholly satisfying; the element is impeccably clean, colors are vibrant and do not bleed, sharpness and brightness are consistent and commendable. Overall, it's a top-notch television series presentation, which even big-budget sitcoms don't always receive.

Audio comes in the form of a Dolby Stereo Surround track and it too poses no problems. As can be expected, it's very center-heavy, but the surrounds do a decent job of echoing the front channels for the crowd-pleasing musical moments. Dialogue is crisp and always intelligible (save for Treelo, the sometimes-indecipherable lemur), and that's important when you're dealing with an educational program for youngsters.

The middle of a line in the middle of a sing-along: Bear croons "In the Middle of the Winter." The spirited and animated main menu for "Early to Bed, Early to Rise."

BONUS FEATURES and DESIGN

Like the other DVDs of the series, the disc boasts four sing-along songs for musical numbers that appear in the presented episodes. They are "Next Stop Dreamland" (1:23), "Brush Brush Bree" (1:11), "Clean Up the House" (0:45), "In the Middle of the Winter" (1:25).
A "Play All" option maybe should have been provided, and a "spell check" might have been in order, but otherwise, this is a tiny but terrific inclusion. The songs are eminently catchy and if your youngster hasn't already taken a liking to them in the shows, they will after watching them here. Fulfilling the "sing-along" function, the colorful captions offer a chance for literate viewers to follow along with the sharp lyrics.

Other "Bonus Features" provided are more like "additional options." Selecting the Continuous "Play-Through" option from the menu puts the volume on permanent cycle, repeating the three episodes with no need for further pressing of buttons. Pediatrician's clerks should be thankful; they're probably who the option is most useful for, though the Visiting the Doctor with Bear might be a more apt selection. The disc also offers subtitles and audio in Spanish.

Like the other discs in the series, the 4x3 Main Menu is animated and is somewhat inspired by the opening credits. Here, the gang rotates with their heads upon pillows, conveying the DVD's theme. Each episode runs just shy of 24 minutes and is presented as an individual chapter stop. As such, there's no way to quickly access a particular scene within a show, which might be nice and certainly would be easy. Choosing any episode from the Scene Selection menu ensures that just that one show will play.

In the Disney DVD tradition, the disc starts off with a series of promos for titles the studio feels will be of interest to viewers. They are for Wave 3 of the Disney Princess DVD line, the fall's Pooh-themed Disney Learning Adventures, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, and "Bear in the Big Blue House" on DVD (a dated general spot for the first ten volumes released). The Sneak Peeks menu offers additional previews for Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, the ubiquitously-promoted Chicken Little, and "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney.

The entire gang gets together to discuss their day in "Morning Glory." Look what Bear's lil' friends have made him! That's right - it's a snowbear!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Early to Bed, Early to Rise is another new volume of the commendable children's program "Bear in the Big Blue House." The disc offers the same solid three-episode, 4 sing-along, $14.99 SRP structure, so if you've been taken in by other "Bear" DVDs, this one will likely win you over in the same way. Thematically, the three episodes primarily deal with going to sleep and waking up, two things that almost everyone does on a regular basis. The shows cover a variety of topics within that heading, answering questions and easing fears. Valuable life lessons, entertaining stories, brilliant design...what more could you want? Oh yeah, music?! There's plenty of that and it's a treat, too. So seriously, what more could you want? Anything?

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Bear in the Big Blue House: Sense-sational! Bear in the Big Blue House: Visiting the Doctor with Bear
Bear in the Big Blue House: Storytelling with Bear The Muppet Show: Season One Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) Muppet Treasure Island (1996, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition)
The Jungle Book Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 2 Hannah Montana: Livin' the Rock Star Life!
The Muppet Movie (1979, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) The Great Muppet Caper (1981, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition)
JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go Disney Learning Adventures: Mickey and the Beanstalk DuckTales: Volume 1
Little Einsteins: Mission Celebration! Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World The Best of The Mickey Mouse Club

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Reviewed June 21, 2005.