Sony // 1979 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // October 24th, 2008
"...it's always fun learning with The Berenstain Bears!"
Well in advance of the Christmas holidays comes The Berenstain Bears: Christmas Tree. The Berenstain Bears are a family of bears created by Stan and Jan Berenstain through a series of children's books. The books were popular enough to spawn a television series and holiday specials, featuring the Berenstain clan: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear, and Sister Bear. The stories are aimed squarely at teaching children important lessons and values, encompassing sharing, courtesy, hard work, and cooperation.
The Berenstain Bears: Christmas Tree contains 5 episodes:
"Christmas Tree": Accompanied by rhyming narration and dialogue, Papa Bear is obsessed with getting the perfect Christmas Tree for his family, almost to the point of forgetting the meaning of Christmas. Fortunately, events conspire to set him straight.
"The Ice Monster": The citizens of Bear County are preparing for the Winter Carnival. However, a giant Ice Monster descends upon the town, sending the bears into a panic. But is the furry beast really a threat?
"Learn About Strangers": Brother Bear is worried that Sister Bear is talking to too many strangers and warns her that doing so is dangerous. Papa Bear reinforces Brother's point. The result is that Sister Bear comes to suspect all strangers of malevolent intentions. Mama Bear provides a more reasonable approach.
"Forget Their Manners": A bear party goes wrong when bad manners run out of control, giving Brother and Sister the impression that being rude is better than being well mannered. Mama Bear is displeased and constructs a system requiring each Bear to complete a household chore whenever they commit an impolite act.
"Get Stage Fright": Brother and Sister get roles in a school play. Sister is worried about remembering her lines when faced with an audience. Mama reassures Sister that practice makes perfect and that she just needs to have courage. Brother is over confident and doesn't take practice seriously. The two siblings reap what they sow when the curtain goes up.
Do parents and children still watch shows like the The Berenstain Bears? The show has humor, but compared to the antics of contemporary fare like Spongebob Squarepants or The Simpsons, the show seems like a dusty relic from another age. This is not a criticism of The Berenstain Bears, but merely an observation. The episodes are straightforward and logical. A moral or value is introduced at the beginning and lessons are played out through the reminder of the episode. It's not complicated and, in fact, refreshing given today's crop of hyperactive programming. I can't imagine any parent objecting to their child watching this.
The video quality is fair. There does not appear to be any restoration attempts made. The colors are dull and faded in many cases. Grain is visible most of the time, especially during the 1979 "Christmas Tree" episode. The audio is better. The voices in all episodes and the songs in "Christmas Tree" are clear.
There are no extras.
Even though only 2 of the 5 episodes are Christmas/Winter themed, can teaching good values to children be wrong?
I don't think so.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site