When is a Christmas DVD not a Christmas DVD? When it's The Berenstain Bears: Christmas Tree DVD. Released at the end of October, The Berenstain Bears: Christmas Tree contains five Berenstain Bears episodes, only one of which actually deals directly with Christmas. This represents a moderate disappointment for any young (or not so young) person who sits down to watch the disc hoping for Christmas cheer.
The episodes including on the disc are “The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Tree,” “The Berenstain Bears and the Ice Monster,” “The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners,” “The Berenstain Bears Get Stage Fright,” and “The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers.” Outside of the “Christmas Tree,” only the “Ice Monster” episode even definitively takes place at approximately the right time of year. To be clear, all the episodes are perfectly fun, The Berenstain Bears routinely teach important lessons while still managing to be enjoyable, it's just that the DVD is promoted as a Christmas one and only half the runtime (if you include the “Ice Monster”) focuses on that time of year.
The “Christmas Tree” episode runs 25 minutes long, twice as long as any of the others, and features Papa Bear taking Brother and Sister out to find the perfect Christmas Tree. He insists on chopping one down himself rather than simply buying one. While on his quest, Papa forgets what Christmas is all about, he puts the tree before his family (and sometimes those who live in the trees he wants to chop down too). Of course, he doesn't destroy anyone's home, learns his lesson, and the entire Bear family still manages to celebrate.
The “Ice Monster” episode takes place during the Winter Carnival, which runs into some trouble when a giant Ice Monster appears and starts wreaking havoc. Only Brother and Sister are able to piece together what's going on and solve the mystery of who (or what) is the monster.
The three non-Winter specific episodes all delve into teaching young ones valuable lessons. As a typical example, in “Strangers,” Sister goes from talking to everyone she sees on the street to distrusting everyone, but in the end learns about a happy middle ground.
The episodes included on this disc are all relatively old, and consequently tend to look somewhat drab. The animation isn't particularly spectacular either. That being said, the lessons that they teach children are certainly valuable ones. I tend to believe that it's adults more than children who care about spiffy colors and computer animation, at least for the age of children these episodes are geared towards, which is definitely on the younger said (my two-and-a-half year-old was completely entranced even if she didn't fully grasp everything that was taking place).
The Berenstain Bears: Christmas Tree contains no special features, just some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Lessons are learned, morals are taught, and children find themselves amused. The only real disappointment in the disc is that it is being packaged as a Christmas-based disc when it simply isn't. There is enough entertainment here that such packaging wasn't necessary and only serves to disappointment.