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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Dutch: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Italian, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies - 13 character bios
  • Featurette - Lars from pencils to animation
  • Music video - No Angels 'there Must Be An Angel'
  • 5 Interactive game - Create a movie, create a song, jigsaw puzzle, guessing cards, catch the lemmings

The Little Polar Bear

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 74 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

This is a sweet little animated film coming straight from northern Europe, where they understand the snowy and icy landscapes used throughout the movie. The rendering of the film has been done to encapsulate the original daubings of author and illustrator of the Little Polar Bear series of children’s books, Hans de Beer, and looks beautiful. Mostly hand drawn backgrounds in gauche or colour pencils, the film is truly immersed in the illustrative style of kid’s books and fits with the theme very well.

Periodic use of digital animation has been included here (what doesn’t include it these days?) and has been accomplished mostly well, though there are the tiniest moments of clunky stuff. This is a common fault when several animation studios are utilised to complete a film, and over ten studios were employed on this particular movie. However, for the most part this is a great little kids film that they will enjoy for its simplistic telling of important issues and the use of colour, even among the arctic setting.

See, polar bears and seals have never gotten along because, well, polar bears like to eat seals. However, one day, Meeka’s mate gives birth to a little polar bear and soon the adventurous scamp is off having all sorts of adventures. Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet learned to swim, so after he falls into the freezing water, it is naturally a surprise to be rescued by a seal named Robbie. An instant friendship develops that spreads throughout the population and soon bears and seals have a deal going; if the seals provide the fish, the bears won’t eat the seals. Seemingly perfect, right?

Nothing lasts forever and there are always those who will exploit a situation. When Boris the bear and his cohorts start over indulging the seals go on strike... right about the same time Lars, our little polar bear, floats off on an ice floe while asleep and before long wakes up in the tropics. With Lars missing, the feuding community come together to search for him and soon they learn a great threat is coming and they must band together to stop it.

There are some good solid messages about racism here that kids will easily understand in this simple format. Plus, there’s the usual morals to be found in a tale of this sort; friendship, loyalty, listening to your parents and believing in yourself etc. They don’t ever seem to be beaten into the viewer either, which is a pleasant change, although they are also pretty hard to miss. At any rate, the kids will enjoy the film with the younger ones being accommodated for with the passle of extras.

  Video
Contract

Made recently, this animated gem should be artefact-free, but unfortunately there are occasional moments when they make an appearance. The animation is nice and clean though and is merged well with the digital stuff. The inspiring backgrounds all look great and when Lars enters the tropics, the colours are superbly transferred with perfect saturation and contrast.

Presented at 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement, the wide vistas of the frozen wastes look great and there is no hiding of details among the shadows, of course. There is also a very nice sequence underwater when Lars is learning to swim where digital fish and colours have been merged beautifully with some very melodic and awe-inspiring piano melodies that stands out as a highlight of the film.

  Audio
Contract

Even though it’s mostly wasted, we get Dolby Digital 5.1 surround here. It does do some work and the sound is perfect in quality, but stereo could have probably pulled it off in much the same fashion. The dialogue, which is a little cheesy and obvious at times, all sounds fine and the kids won’t have any trouble understanding the characters. Sound effects have only been used sparingly, but there are some nice wind-whipping sounds and the previously mentioned underwater sequence is marvellous. We also manage to get a couple of songs thrown in, and while they sound fine, I found them a little trite and tacked on. They’re also performed by a penguin with an irritating ‘zany’ voice and while the kids will probably like them, parents might find it harder.

The music is performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and has been sculpted by Nigel Clarke and Michael Csanyi-Wills, which suits the film admirably. The only thing wrong with the music is it’s a little lower in volume than the rest of the sound and it is one of the better parts of the film.

  Extras
Contract

There’s a bunch of extras here for the younger ones among the brood to enjoy. Firstly, Lars gives information on how to work the remote control and thereby control the features, which is helpful for the kids and clearly described. After that come 13 character biographies by Lars again. There really isn’t much in this but filler, but the kids might enjoy it.

Three subheadings control what else we see and the first of these, Fade in For Lars features a short pencils-to-finished-art sequence from the film which is quite good. It also contains the create your own movie bit with three scenes from the film for you to put into any order you like and play as a finished work. Again harmless filler material, but fun for the gang, while the last feature here is the original trailer running for 1:34 in 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement.

Our second subheader is Sing With Lars and features a live music video of a band called No Angels singing the old Eurythmics number There Must Be An Angel (the song runs over the closing credits of the film). This is a five-piece all girl group and there are very few boys in that crowd, I can tell you. Our other feature here is in the kinda cool Create your own polar bear song. This has three noises from the film you can switch on to mix with a techno backing track, making a song. I had some fun with this but for adults, the novelty soon wears off.

Our last subheading is Play With Lars and contains three very basic games obviously designed for the younger kids. The first is a jigsaw puzzle with six pieces. Our second is a guessing game where we must remember and guess where six stills from the film go on a grid. Thirdly, and the best, is the catch the lemmings game. We play Caruso the penguin who must anticipate and then catch the suicidal lemmings. While these games are pretty simple, the littlies will dig ‘em even if they don’t furnish us with a reward when we win. Oh well.

Still, an overall fun package for the gang that’s bound to keep ‘em busy for a while.

  Overall  
Contract

As far as overall DVD packages go, this one is pretty full up and will keep the kids amused. The film is an important metaphor against racism and the artwork is very impressive, although it does overshadow the animation at times. Regardless of this, the film is well worth the look and the extras package lends real value to the disc. Fun stuff.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3449
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      And I quote...
    "You gotta love any film that has suicidal lemmings, don’t you?"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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