Slowly but surely, we’re coming around to Babar. I don’t remember the series when I was a child in the 80’s, so I have no built in affinity for it, and for the first 7 years of my life as a parent I paid little attention to the royal elephant family from Celesteville. Lately though, as the DVD Classic Series has been arriving at my front door, I’ve begun to see the charm in Babar and to understand his staying power.
Babar and Father Christmas is the latest set of mid-80’s cartoons to be released on DVD. The hour long feature contains three quality stories, the 2nd of which, entitled “The Gift”, is the most pleasing (for both the Mouse and I) and powerful. In it, Babar takes his family to a far off spot where he vacationed in the winter and explored as a boy. Upon arrival, Babar quickly realizes that many years have passed and the sleepy woodland area has been built up (as sleepy woodland areas often are). Throughout the episode, Babar deals with inevitable but none-the-less frustrating change, and children who would prefer action to relaxation. And there’s a striking examination of the dichotomy between young and old; the things that will change naturally (physical limitations, aching bones) and things that needn’t (imagination, belief in the mysterious, being young at heart).
Like all Babar tales, there’s a subtle morality play here but unlike many of its American counterparts (I’m looking at you, Berenstain Bears), the messaging isn’t intrusive to the story nor does it bludgeon you to death with its righteousness.
Will modern children fall in love with the simplicity of Babar? There’s no stop-motion animation or quick cuts to dazzle the eyes (or overload the senses). And no zany sound effects or fart jokes. Families looking tap the brakes a bit on their visual entertainment and maybe get into some nostalgia transference with their little ones should take look at Babar, and specifically for the winter season, this fine Babar and Father Christmas DVD.
*OWTK received a copy of Babar and Father Christmas for review consideration. The opinions above are honest and unbiased.