Though it may be hard to believe, The Berenstain Bears have been around for more than forty years and are still going strong. August 12 will mark the release of the twelfth volume of episodes from the PBS kids series based on the beloved characters created by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
Entitled The Berenstain Bears: Family and Friendship, the DVD features six Berenstain Bear stories and runs for a total of (approximately) 82 minutes. As one would expect, the Bear family learns valuable lessons in each one about things such as jealousy, accepting different people, and responsibility, among other things.
Present in the release are all the members of the Bear family — Papa, Mama, Brother, and Sister — and, except for Mama, they each take center stage in at least one tale. Mama is never thrust aside, she is always present and often the voice of wisdom, she just seems not to be one of the needy members of the family.
The stories are all lively and entertaining enough and the animation looks very traditional and makes one feel as though the goal was to focus far more on substance than style. This is not to say that the animation is a disappointment in any way, it simply isn't not the whiz-bang sort of thing one might find on Playhouse Disney.
The oddest part of the release is the inclusion of both the tale “The Green Eyed Monster” and “The Bad Dream.” In the former, Sister Bear struggles with her jealousy about Brother getting a new bike. Mama tells her about jealousy, the “Green Eyed Monster,” that appears when someone else gets something and you decide you want it. Sister then actually dreams about the monster (who looks just like her, but has green fur) and heads down the wrong path before the story eventually reaches its happy ending. In “The Bad Dream,” Sister struggles with her fear of a scary-seeming character on a TV show (she eventually learns that talking through your fears is helpful).
There is certainly nothing wrong with putting these two stories together in a single release, but it is a bit odd that the producers of the show recognize that even innocuous seeming characters can be scary to little ones and still choose to put their own monster in an episode. Certainly, at the very least, their monster should have appeared after Sister learned about talking about her fears, it should not have led the set of stories.
Strictly anecdotally, while my child was not scared of the Green Eyed Monster, she did absolutely go around for two days talking about the monster. The character clearly stuck with her, and it's not hard to imagine a world in which, for some children, the character would not only stick, but scare as well.
That odd bit aside, The Berenstain Bears: Family and Friendship represents a wonderfully fun trip down memory lane for adults of a certain age, and still manages to enthrall children (at least the child I tested it on).