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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: Visiting the Doctor with Bear DVD Review

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

Creator: Mitchell Kriegman / Writers: P. Kevin Strader, Chris Moore

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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Combine the setting and design of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and the look and feel of the Muppets and what do you get? "Bear in the Big Blue House", a fun show designed to impart life lessons to preschoolers in an entertaining fashion.

As the title makes abundantly clear, this half-hour series is set in a large blue house, where a collection of furry animals live together under one roof. The show's star/host is Bear, a tall, warm, fatherly figure who looks after the rest of the residents and addresses young viewers directly.
Bear is joined by young girl bear cub Ojo, a mouse named Tutter, otters Pip and Pop, and Treelo the lemur. Together, their daily adventures provide learning experiences useful to young viewers who are likely encountering some of the same things.

Watching a few episodes, you'll soon notice that there are a few routines to the show. Bear's introduction to viewers always begins with him smelling something (them!). When Bear is addressing the audience, graphics will sometimes appear on screen to spell out words or depict activities he is discussing. Later, there is often a bit of video footage of real kids talking about their experiences with the subject of the episode. Sometimes, Bear will get a visit from his friend Shadow, who shares a short musical story. Each episode concludes at nighttime with Bear telling Luna (voiced by the late Lynne Thigpen of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" fame), another friend who happens to be the moon, about some things that happened. They sing their "Goodbye Song", which is the last of several upbeat musical numbers in the show. The well-written and catchy song-and-dance sequences are another important trademark of the show. They're so invigorating that it's easy to forgive that the speaking and singing voices don't really jive; kids might not even notice anyway.

Bear addresses the viewer, while a graphic highlights a key word. Bear reassures young Ojo in "The Big Blue Housecall."

"Bear in the Big Blue House" ran for several seasons, launching in 1997 and continuing production through 2002. It remains in reruns on Playhouse Disney, the Disney Channel's daytime programming block the show has always called home, and has even spawned a live performance show. It is easy to see the series' appeal. It is expertly designed to teach lessons and encourage viewer interaction. As anyone who has had a boring schoolteacher knows, learning can easily become dry or uninteresting. Gladly, that is not the case here, as the show skillfully blends its values into engaging and challenging situations that children can wholly relate to. The program design incorporates just the right amount of the aforementioned repetition to give the sense of familiarity ( la Mr. Rogers) while still delivering plenty of unique storylines and opportunities to sing and dance along. The characters are appealing, from the large but playful title character to his housemates who are smaller in size but not personality.

What makes "Bear in the Big Blue House" even more endearing is that it's the type of show that parents can enjoy with their child. A strong wit is always present, one which lends itself to humor that parents can laugh at too. Thus, the wonderful flair and jocularity of the Muppets is on display, appropriately enough for a show emulates its look (of convincing furry puppets) and emanates from the same production company.

This particular volume, Visiting the Doctor with Bear is one of thirteen available on Disney DVD including four new discs being released this month. Like the others, it houses three episodes from this Daytime Emmy award-winning series. As the title suggests, the episodes deal with a visit to the doctor. The middle episode most specifically deals with that common childhood experience, while the first show covers a doctor's house visit for annual checkups and the third celebrates healthy activity in a loose and more general fashion. One minor complaint to point out is that Shadow's one short story sequence is repeated in the two episodes in which she appears. Obviously, some songs and segments are recurring, so perhaps Shadow's contributions repeat too. I'm not sure.

Four-way calling leads to catchy singing. Doc Hogg observes how much Treelo has grown.

The three shows on the disc are:

"The Big Blue Housecall"
The porcine physician Doctor Hogg visits the Big Blue House for annual checkups, and Ojo is worried about getting shots. But Bear reassures her with a song, and she passes along her newfound courage and knowledge of vaccinations to her fellow patients.

"That Healing Feeling"
Tutter hurts his tail and Bear calls Doc Hogg, who recommends the mouse come into the office. Tutter is nervous, but Ojo comes along for support. Together, they enjoy the waiting room and find out what a fracture is.

"Picture of Health"
Bear is very excited to do his Woodlawn Workout, but he keeps getting sidetracked, first by Pip and Pop playing doctor and then helping Tutter know when he needs a rest.

Visiting the Doctor with Bear was previously released to DVD in the fall of 2001 by Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment. When Disney bought The Muppets Holding Company early in 2004, they acquired the distribution rights to this show and other creations from the Jim Henson studio, such as The Muppet Show, the first season of which is coming to DVD as a special box set this August. Outside of the sneak peeks (and perhaps the menus, but maybe not), this disc sounds identical in content to the Columbia release of the same name.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The episodes are presented in the 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio in which they aired. The show looks great, with no noticeable problems to distract from its colorful visuals.

Sound is equally free of problems. It comes by way of a Dolby Stereo Surround track. Both the dialogue and the frequent musical interludes are nicely conveyed. A Spanish dub is also offered, as are subtitles.

Sing-along: "Everybody Say Ah" Sing-along: "Picture of Health"

BONUS FEATURES and DESIGN

Though the back of the DVD lists three bonus features,
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only one would fall within most readers' conceptions of a bonus feature. Still, the others (Spanish language and subtitles, a Continuous "Play-Through" option) are a nice touch for those who'd be interested in them. The other inclusion also graced the Columbia DVD release: four sing-along songs, which bear the "Music & More" heading of Disney's EasyFind menu system and are only playable individually. The sing-alongs are for the following tunes: "Everybody Say Ah" (1:24), "Hello, Doctor" (1:57), "Picture of Health" (1:22) and the recurring "Goodbye Song" (1:00). Gladly, these are not just the scenes from the episodes with the standard subtitle track, but separate video clips with catchy and colorful animated lyrics to help sing along. Any young fan of the show is sure to be taken with the musical numbers, so this is a nice treat and I suppose the standard subtitle track will have to do for the several memorable other songs not presented this way.

The spirited 4x3 animated menus open up like the beginning of the show and feature all of the likable Blue House characters around a spinning circle which holds the listings. The rest of the gang rotates next to Doc Hogg on the side. Each episode runs just a few seconds shy of 24 minutes. There are no chapter stops within episodes; using the "Scene Selection" menu, the entire episode of your choosing plays and you are returned to the menu. The "Play All" option serves to run through all 72 minutes of show content on the DVD and with the previously-mentioned "Continuous Play-Through" listing, the disc repeats ad nauseam.

As has been Buena Vista's tradition for years, the disc opens with sneak peeks for other movies and DVDs the distributing studio offers. At the DVD's start, there are spots for this fall's Disney Princess DVDs, October's Winnie the Pooh Learning Adventures, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, and "Bear in the Big Blue House" DVDs in general. From the Sneak Peeks menus, additional promos are offered for Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, the upcoming big screen CGI comedy Chicken Little, and "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney.

Tutter gets examined by Doc Hogg in "That Healing Feeling." Bear and Luna sing goodnight.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The few complaints one can come up with about "Bear in the Big Blue House" are minor. With its terrifically relevant lessons, colorful cast of characters, inspired musical numbers, and first-rate program design, there's no question that this Playhouse Disney series merits a recommendation for preschoolers. It's entertaining education for life and one which has a sense of humor that parents too can appreciate. While there's no reason to upgrade if you already have the identical Columbia DVD, this disc boasts a good value. It delivers three high quality 24-minute episodes with problem-free presentation, nice menu design, and four bonus sing-alongs, all for just about $10, to boot.

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Related Reviews:
Bear in the Big Blue House: Storytelling with Bear Bear in the Big Blue House: Sense-sational!
The Muppet Movie (1979, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) The Great Muppet Caper (1981, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition)
The Muppet Show: Season One (1976-77) Muppet Treasure Island (1996, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2004)
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales JoJo's Circus: Take a Bow! TaleSpin: Volume 1
Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: A Great Day of Discovery Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: Friends Forever
Disney Learning Adventures: Mickey and the Beanstalk Little Einsteins: Our Big Huge Adventure
Adventures of The Gummi Bears: Volume 1 JoJo's Circus: Animal A Go-Go A Very Playhouse Disney Holiday

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Kermit

Reviewed June 5, 2005.