Like an elephant, Judge Paul Pritchard never forgets.
Discover The Magic Of Babar.
I've always felt Christmas was missing was a strong pachyderm presence. But now, thanks to Babar and Father Christmas, I can say I've seen an elephant dressed up as Father Christmas…delivering presents no less. Bringing together three Christmas-themed episodes from the long running Babar animated series, based on the books by Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff, Babar and Father Christmas offers good clean festive fun.
The opening episode, "Babar and Father Christmas," sees Babar (King of the Elephants) sent on a quest to locate jolly old St. Nicholas, after his children write him a letter asking him to visit Celesteville (Babar's kingdom, if you weren't sure). Babar's globetrotting journey is hindered by the presence of Rataxes, the dastardly Rhinoceros who sets out to locate Santa Claus and take all the toys for himself. Like the two episodes that accompany it, "Babar and Father Christmas" is an extremely linear story even the youngest of children can easily follow. And though I wouldn't consider this Christmas-themed episode a holiday classic, it certainly manages to capture the festive magic of the season.
"A Child in the Snow," though not strictly based around the holidays, still fits in with the Christmas theme by having Babar and his family head to their cabin in the mountains. The lush snow covered vistas and the coziness of the cabin ensure that Christmas feeling is never too far away. The story itself, which concerns Babar's attempts to locate the mysterious snow mammoth, is distinctly lacking in great incident, but still proves entertaining.
The final story, "The Gift," sees Babar recall the time he attempted to get Madame the best present ever. Notable for being the only episode that follows Babar's adventures as a child, this one moves along at a brisk pace and is the most entertaining of the bunch. Babar's quest to locate the perfect present sees him tangle with music loving alligators, while Rataxes turns up to provide some light slapstick. Despite a more humorous tone, the story does deliver an important message on giving and receiving gifts, thus fitting in with the overall theme of this set.
The animation, if a little crude by today's standards, perfectly suits the tone of the stories with its simplistic character designs complementing its child-friendly tales. The voice cast impresses too, adding further warmth to these episodes.
Despite sporting a digitally restored and remastered 1.33:1 standard definition transfer, Babar and Father Christmas is a less than stellar looking DVD. Colors are lacking in vibrancy and veer towards muddy. The picture is on the soft side, generally showing its age. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack fares no better. That the audio is flat isn't surprising, but the fact that it lacks clarity and often muffled is less easily forgiven.
Finally, an 8-page "Holiday Coloring Book" is included for little ones to enjoy.
The problem I have with recommending Babar and Father Christmas rests solely on whether this set offers good value for your money. The episodes are almost certain to entertain young children, but coming in at only 70-minutes with no supplemental materials—not to mention a rather shoddy audio/visual presentation—makes it a tough sell. If you're a Babar fan, go for it. Otherwise, I'm afraid this is one to miss.
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