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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: Sense-sational! DVD Review

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

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

Directors: Dean Gordon, Chuck Vinson

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 2002
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); Suggested Retail Price: $14.99

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By Aaron Wallace

One of the Disney Channel's star series is "Bear in the Big Blue House", an engaging show created for preschool-age children that airs as part of the Playhouse Disney programming block. The central character, of course, is Bear, and it is his big, blue house that provides the setting. Joining the large and loveable host is a large assortment of various animals, all of whom look to Bear for entertainment and guidance.
Each morning's new episode seeks to impart a lesson on education, friendship, and life in general to its young viewers in a relatable manner.

This teaching is accomplished through wordplay, catchy music, and inventive activities. The key to its success in this area is that it rarely patronizes. Instead, the ability of a child to keep up with elevated entertainment is recognized and respected. This trait is unique among children's television entertainment and that places it near shows like "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street", from which "Bear" borrows basic elements.

Viewers can count on a formula in every episode: Bear will use his giant nose to sniff out the audience before exploring the topic of the day, during which he'll sing a few songs, talk with real-life children, hear a familiar story (with a spin) from his friend Shadow, resolve any problems he's been working with, and finally go up to greet his moon friend Luna to sing farewell to his audience. Routines like these can often hamper a show's potential for creativity, but that isn't the case here. That's because they comprise only a small part of each episode and provide a structure around which creative learning can develop. If repetition is the key to learning, "Bear in the Big Blue House" is an apt instructor because it manages to reinforce without feeling overly repetitive.

Bear's kitchen becomes a 'Smelleseum' in the first episode, "Smell-O-Rama." The five senses are a mystery for these three, but they intend to solve them in the cleverly-titled "The Senseless Detectives."

It's not difficult to find the appeal of a show like Bear in the Big Blue House. Each episode is lively and fresh as it solicits not only attention, but also thought and interaction from its young viewers.

The series is no longer in production, but it can still be found on the Disney Channel and DVD. Sense-sational! is one of 13 Big Blue House discs now available from Disney DVD. As the title implies, the common theme here is exploration of the five senses. Unfortunately, the three episodes are more loosely correlated than one might have hoped. The first deals with Bear's favorite sense (smell), while the second is the only one to deal with all five senses. The final episode has little do with the senses at all, but instead focuses on water. Sure, water can be seen and touched like almost anything else, but I don't think that's what a title like Sense-sational! is going for.

The Emmy award-winning series again comes to DVD with entirely satisfactory DVD treatment and offers plenty of fun.

A look at one of Shadow's stories. Are those hidden Mickeys
flying around over the food? In each episode, Bear has some of his live-action child
friends answer a question.

The three episodes on the disc are:

Kodak EasyShare Printers
"Smell-O-Rama"
Bear and his friends take a hard look at the sense of smell: its uses, differences in scent preference among various animals, and the fun one can have with smelling.

"The Senseless Detectives"
The Big Blue House is home to a mystery - the mystery of senses. Bear and the gang look for how all five of their senses help them learn about the world around them.

"Water, Water Everywhere"
It's no surprise that this episode isn't mentioned on the packaging, because it doesn't have much to do with senses. Instead, it's all about water - the things it's used for, where it can be found, its properties (don't worry, there's nothing too scientific), and the ways it can be used for fun.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The show is presented is 1.33:1 "fullscreen," the ratio in which it is aired on television, with perfect quality. The picture is crisply clean, the many colors boast vibrancy, and I found no problems of any kind.

Audio comes by way of a Dolby Stereo Surround audio track, which is all you need for such a television show. The sound quality matches the problem-free video. A Spanish language track and subtitles are also included.

Sing along with "What's That Smell?" Another sing-along, the aptly-titled "Water, Water, Water", combines dancing and singing with animation.

BONUS FEATURES and DESIGN

As usual, four sing-along songs make up the only bonus features on the disc. Since "Bear in the Big Blue House"'s music is one of its strongest attributes,
this makes for a very fitting feature to add on to the DVD, and it's one that those in the target audience will likely really enjoy. The included songs are: "What's That Smell?", "Smellorama", "Making Sense of the World", and "Water, Water, Water."

The 4x3 animated menus start off just like each episode does, with a shot of Bear's Big Blue House opening up, followed by Bear and his friends on the main menu. Each episode runs approximately 24 minutes. The "Scene Selection" option is actually an episode selector; there are no chapter stops within each episode. An alternative "Play All" option runs through the three episodes back-to-back. The final playback option is "Continuous Play," which starts the 72 minute program over again as soon as it ends without returning to the menu. Retailers and the like might find this feature useful, but it's not likely to be of much use to the average consumer.

The disc opens with previews for upcoming installments in the Disney Princess and Disney Learning Adventures DVD lines, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, and an outdated promo for more "Bear in the Big Blue House" on DVD. The second page of the Sneak Peeks menu also offers a look at Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has A Glitch, Chicken Little, and the Disney Channel's "JoJo's Circus."

The Big Blue House seen here in "Water, Water Everywhere" is different than the other two episodes. A little imagination turns the Big Blue House into a ship sailing on the high seas.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Bear in the Big Blue House" is some of the better preschool programming that cable television has seen in recent years, and it almost ranks with the very best. Funny and relevant, it's a pleasure to watch. The show is of course aimed at young children, but parents are likely to find themselves enjoying it as well, and anyone who is a fan of the Muppets might embrace this Henson production. The Sense-sational! DVD release isn't the best of the "Big Blue House" DVDs, simply because the third episode doesn't have much to do with the advertised theme, and because episodes dealing with the senses don't make for as wide a spectrum of appeal. Still, if this is the topic you're looking for, you could do a lot worse than Bear and his friends as the ones to talk about it. The winning series, satisfactory DVD treatment, and low retail price make this one worth considering, but you might want to first peruse the other "Bear" installments before buying.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Bear in the Big Blue House: Storytelling with Bear Bear in the Big Blue House: Visiting the Doctor with Bear
Bear in the Big Blue House: Early to Bed, Early to Rise Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: A Great Day of Discovery
JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go JoJo's Circus: Take a Bow! Little Einsteins: Team Up for Adventure
A Very Playhouse Disney Holiday The Muppet Show: Season One Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) Muppet Treasure Island (Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition)
The Muppet Movie (Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) The Great Muppet Caper (Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition)
Disney Learning Adventures: Mickey and the Beanstalk Disney Learning Adventures: Winnie the Pooh - Wonderful Word Adventure

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Reviewed June 20, 2005.