Judge Kent Dixon once had a pet bear named "Naked."
Dressed in his characteristic duffle coat and oversized hat, cuddly and exceedingly polite Paddington Bear has been capturing the imagination of children around the world for generations.
Making his first appearance as a character in a children's book, written by prolific British author Michael Bond, Paddington Bear has become a beloved friend of preschoolers around the world. As a child, with many relatives from "across the pond," I was introduced to Paddington books when I was very young. I still remember how excited I was when someone came back from England sporting a Paddington Bear for me, the featured rubber boots, and his signature blue coat and floppy hat. For the most part, those days of childhood memories inspired and fueled by literature are gone, replaced with Saturday morning fare that is more marketing than memories. But there it is.
Paddington Bear: The Complete Classic Series includes all 56 episodes, spread over two discs as follows:
There's a certain magic to stop-motion animation, an art that dates back to 1898 and includes such great films as the original King Kong, Ray Harryhausen's work in the Sinbad films and Clash of the Titans. The style used in Paddington Bear is particularly inventive and fun, as it mixes 2D and stop-motion animation together in the same environment. Paddington and any parts of the environment he interacts with directly are three dimensional puppets and models, while secondary characters are colored 2D cut-outs and much of the remaining environments are 2D black and white static elements. The remarkably different elements create a special world that is a delight for children and the odd 40-something adult as well (ahem). Spending time with Paddington Bear means delightful storytelling, unique images, and content that doesn't have anything to do with the latest toy on store shelves. Count me in.
One of the greatest strengths of this series is the narration by British actor Michael Hordern (Scrooge, El Cid, Watership Down). I'd warrant that rarely, if ever, do knighted actors lend their skills to a children's series like this, but Shakespearean actor Sir Michael Hordern narrates the entire series with his comfortable, classically-trained baritone. Hordern brings the animation to life, performing in different voices as various characters and lending comfortable nobility to the series.
The SD image certainly isn't without its flaws, most notable somewhat muted colors, but for a series that dates back more than 30 years now, the source material really is in remarkable shape. The audio mix is much the same, grounded by a 2.0 mix, but the sound is always strong and crystal-clear. Paddington Bear includes all three Paddington Bear specials: "Paddington Birthday Bonanza," "Paddington Goes to School" and "Paddington Goes to the Movies." Discs one and two include five bonus episodes each of a children's series called Huxley Pig, and disc three includes five episodes of another children's series called The Wombles. Additional DVD-ROM features include wallpaper and an assortment of craft projects and activity pages.
While the series may not meet the expectations of today's
instant-gratification set, for many of us born in the '60s and beyond,
Paddington Bear: The Complete Classic Series is a welcome walk down
memory lane, visiting with a friend we've not seen in a long time.
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