One June 2, The Hub will present the first episode of CARE BEARS: WELCOME TO CARE-A-LOT, the latest in a string of reimaginings of iconic 80s franchises to land on the Hasbro-owned cable net. With POUND PUPPIES, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, GI JOE, and TRANSFORMERS all enjoying decent success alongside the breakout cult favorite, MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC, could the CARE BEARS be the next big hit? The Rock Father and daughter were invited to take an early look at the pilot episode, so it’s time to share some thoughts.
As I’ve noted before, I grew up with Care Bears the first time around – from playing with them with my younger sister, to seeing the CARE BEARS MOVIE and it’s sequel on the big screen, the Care Bears where as much a part of my childhood as HE-MAN, STAR WARS, and GI JOE. While they’ve been reinvented before (most recently for their 25th Anniversary), I’ve missed the versions that came between the beginning and now (my pre-parenthood days), and it would appear that for the 30th Anniversary, the Care Bears mythos has been stripped back a bit to it’s core elements. What we have with WELCOME TO CARE-A-LOT is an easy-to-follow story that follows a core group of seven bears (Tenderheart, Share, Grumpy, Funshine, Wonderheart, Cheer, and the quite musical Harmony) as they spread positive messages to the children of the world, while helping each other overcome obstacles and solve problems – often by use of their “Belly Badges” – their individual special icon and power.
As it was in the beginning, CARE-A-LOT is a world in the clouds, but much more colorful and elaborate this time around. While the scenery is lush, I couldn’t help feeling that it was a bit empty from a population standpoint. You have this gigantic world with just seven bears at the forefront and no one else roaming around in the background. It’s as if you’re watching a movie where they forgot to have some “extras” or “background actors” on the set. There’s no Cloud Keeper or Cloud Cars this time, but Grumpy has a sweet ride called a “Care-a-Van” that plays a crucial role in advancing the plot for the pilot, “Compassion—-NOT!” The all-CGI animation is solid, telling the story in a smooth and colorful fashion.
For the first go-round, we have Tenderheart (the leader) inviting Penny, a human child, to Care-a-lot via a “Care-and-Share Charm,” where she quickly befriends Funshine Bear and sets off on adventure. I’m not sure if Penny will be a constant fixture in Care-a-lot or if the children will change, but Penny sure did bear some resemblance to Darby on WINNIE THE POOH AND FRIENDS. That said, Penny’s adventures with Funshine are secondary to Grumpy, who manages to get himself caught in some “Stick ’till you’re stuck sand” while attempting to snag some honey from an unattended bee hive.
Call in Beastly, a sort of “villain” of the series, to swipe the honey from Grumpy, and now there’s two guys that need to be taught a lesson. Is it just me, or does Beastly look an awful lot like the SESAME STREET character called “Blogg?”
Of course, the Bears all come together to give grumpy a much-needed hand, while a couple different lessons about helping friends and respecting others are taught.
While my opinion tends to over-analyze, the real factor of any importance has to do with how the new show plays with the kids, and with mine the verdict is very, very good. She’s not quite three yet, but my daughter was so enthralled by the show that she was able to give my wife a rundown of the key story elements after the very first viewing. Since that initial watch, she’s asked for CARE BEARS three more times. In fact, she’s been so enamored by the show that I made an attempt at showing her the original 1985 CARE BEARS MOVIE and some episodes of the original series, all of which she didn’t especially care for. My thinking is that the new show is just so much more colorful and straight-forward when held against it’s 80s counterpart.
Bottom Line: Based on the pilot alone, the DVR is set here at Rock Father HQ, and we’ll be recommending the new show to friends. If the little one loves it, then it has to be Rock Father-approved.
CARE BEARS: WELCOME TO CARE-A-LOT premieres Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 8am ET/5am PT on The Hub.
The Rock Father Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars