Raymond Briggs's popular children's book The Bear is neither as famous nor as cherished as his popular tale The Snowman. Both wintertime stories allow a child to go on a fantasy journey, and more importantly, both videos embrace a lost art: the wordless narrative. Tilly spies a new polar bear at a London zoo. That night she dreams the bear visits her house. Besides being a good snuggler, the bear presents many problems to Tilly--from leaving droppings around the house to being a challenge to bathe. Soon Tilly and the bear ride through the crisp Christmastime night, encountering another magical bear--Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper. Briggs's elegant message of friendship is beautifully brought to life in this 25-minute production featuring music by Howard Blake.
The Animal Train
Little Ben receives a gentle lesson about conservation in this 1999 BBC-Miramax co-production based on John Burlingham's book Oi! Get Off Our Train. After staying up a bit too late watching a TV show about endangered animals with his folks, Ben dreams of a magical place where he, and his trusty stuffed dog Jim Jam, are in charge of a train that winds though the earth's habitats. Young viewers Pre-K to elementary school age are introduced to clear-cutting, poachers, and other issues that are endangering animals around the world. Burlingham's wonderful color palette makes the 29-minute short wonderful to look at, while the talking animals have enough personality to insure that kids will demand repeated viewings. --Doug Thomas