Pros: great characters, fun episodes, gets kids up and dancing
Cons: spotty character lesson in episode 2
When my first daughter was a toddler, she just adored "Bear in the Big Blue House" and could not get enough of the Jim Henson production on the Disney Channel. At that time, we were getting an east coast and a west coast feed through DirecTV so we were able to keep Bear going for a couple of hours each morning. This isn't as awful as it seems because my daughter never really "watched" television, sitting on her bum with her eyes glued to the set. Rather, we would play with toys or read books and we'd have the set on in the background. Whenever Bear and his friends sang, she'd get up and dance. I think that Noel MacNeal's voice calmed her and made her feel secure - he's the puppeteer behind (well, inside) Bear.
Now that I have kidlet number two, Bear in the Big Blue House isn't on the air for most of the day. Instead, we watch Bear on DVD. Since my second daughter actually watches television, Bear gets doled out in small segments - one episode a day.
Both girls' favorite episodes can be found on the Bear in the Big Blue House Party Time With Bear DVD. On this disc, there are three episodes, all dealing with having fun. The first two concern birthdays while the third is about dancing.
The first episode "Mouse Party" originally aired during the first season of "Bear in the Big Blue House" and it concerns Tutter the Mouse's birthday party. You see it's Tutter's birthday and his friends are going to surprise him with a birthday celebration. Each friend has a special job to prepare for the party. Ojo the Bear Cub is in charge of baking the bake, a four cheese cheesecake. Pip and Pop the Otters take care of the decorations. Treelo the Lemur wraps the present. Most of the friends in the Big Blue House learn lessons about birthdays. Tutter learns that having a birthday means that he's a year older. Treelo learns that birthdays are exciting but that he can't keep Tutter's present (whatever it is) for himself. Pip and Pop learn that it's important to be quiet and not pop balloons when you're decorating for a surprise party. I'm not sure what Ojo learned but I'm going to guess that she learned to bake a cake. I also don't think Bear learned anything but he's genuinely happy for Tutter.
My kids just love this episode because it's full of music. In addition to the constants of "Welcome to the Big Blue House" and "The Goodbye Song" with Bear and Luna the Moon, Tutter sings "When I'm Older" which is about all the things he'll be able to do, raning from tying his shoes to being an astronaut. The hands down favorite is "Happy Happy Birthday", a much catchier birthday tune than the standard "Happy Birthday To You". It was so cute when the baby just celebrated her birthday and her older sister ran over to her and sang "Happy Happy Birthday".
"Bear's Birthday Bash" is the second episode on the disc and originally aired in season 2. This time, it's Bear's birthday and all he wants to do is have a quiet day of relaxation. I can't say that I blame him because he's usually a very busy bear taking care of all of his friends! Those friends completely disregard his wishes and throw him a surprise party. Pip and Pop are in charge of the decorations again but this time Tutter bakes the cake.
While Bear enjoys his party, I think this episode teaches children that their own desires are more important than the recipient when they are giving a gift or throwing a party or what have you. Bear said he did not want a party. But his friends do, so they ignore Bear. Bear's favorite food is triple berry pie. Tutter's is four cheese cheesecake. So, what gets made for Bear's birthday party? A four cheese cheesecake. My older daughter and I have had long discussions based on this episode. I can say that it still hasn't rubbed off entirely. Dad's present for the holidays this year from his daughter is a football - something she wants. He'll like it but it's more about her than him.
The final episode, from season 1, is "Dancin' The Day Away" and it's all about dancing to have a good time. This episode gets my kids up and moving! Ojo does "The Flamingo". Treelo bops to his own beat. Tutter learns to dance from Pip and Pop. I understand that the point of this episode is that Bear learns that there are more dances out there he can have fun with than just the "Bear Cha Cha Cha" but it would have been nice to include that song too!
The only extra on this DVD that I consider an extra is the sing-a-long (for 4 songs). There are also interactive menus, subtitles and the disk is digitally mastered. Don't expect in-depth behind the scenes interviews.
Overall, I think this is the best of the various "Bear in the Big Blue House" compilation DVDs. My kids enjoy this one more than the others, simply based on the high quality of the episodes and their personal interest in the characters and the plots. Who doesn't like a party (besides Bear on his birthday)?