The Care Bears live in Care-a-Lot and look down on Earth to help those kids in need to learn to care and share and love one another while having to fight for their survival against the evil Wizard No Heart.

The Lowdown

The Care Bears were a little after my time. When the TV show started I was already a teenager and was not interested in kiddie cartoons, especially not those which involved stuffed teddy bears. Looking back on the show, I always assumed it was that generation’s Smurfs, but filled with kindness, sharing, love and all that other girlie crap. Now we have reached the twenty-fifth anniversary of the classic show as it prepares to re-launch with new characters and a revamped storyline. This is a four disc set with twenty-five of the original classic episodes.

The episodes are broken up into four discs: Festival of Fun, Adventures in Care-a-Lot, Magical Adventures and Kingdom of Caring. I am not certain of the format the original cartoon followed but the episodes are of varying lengths. Six of the episodes are around twenty minutes in length while the other nineteen are about ten to twelve minutes long. The length of the episode usually signifies what the focus of the show is about with the shorter ones more parables and the longer ones have more adventures.

The first disc in the box is Care Bears: Festival of Fun. There are seven episodes on this DVD, all of the shorter variety. This disc focuses mainly on the fun aspects of Care-a-Lot. In these episodes we follow a core group of Care Bears on small adventures. These bears are Cheer Bear, Champ Bear and Grumpy Bear as well as their cousins Brave Heart (a lion) and the baby cubs Hugs and Tugs. We also are introduced to the villain of the original television series, the Wizard No Heart. Usually, it is niece Shreeky and the wizard’s assistant Beastly who do all the dirty work for him.

The villainy in the episodes is always of a basic variety of Beastly and Shreeky trying to ruin whatever the Care Bears are trying to accomplish, while trying to capture the bears for No Heart to destroy. The first episode made me really believe I was watching an updated Smurf episode. Cheer Bear and Champ Bear are trying to build a car that will be the starring attraction in the upcoming town parade. No Heart and Beastly make it their mission to ruin the parade and eventually destroy Care-a-Lot and the entire family of Care Bears. I could not help but compare No Heart to Gargamel and Beastly as a smarter version of Azrael. After I finished these first seven episodes, the Care Bears had finally won me over.

Each of the episodes teach valuable lessons for kids and are better than a lot of the crap that passes itself off as children’s television today. Between Adult Swim and the brainless kid’s shows which appear to only lull ADD kids to sleep, I feel it is important for there to be more shows of this type. It both entertains as well as helping teach kids right from wrong, and I really believe that there were not many shows that combined those two important aspects as well.

The first disc only failed to capture my attention with the final two episodes on the disc, both sing-a-long episodes with Songfellow Strum. The fact that I am not a small child would explain that, as I can see your little children standing in front of the television and singing their favorite songs along with the episodes. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the episodes as they were much stronger than I expected and are exactly what kids’ television should be about. There are things that I found annoying, such as repetition – Champ Heart calling everyone “Sports Fan” or Grumpy Bear asking “Why do these things always happen to me?” However, these things are important for children’s television and that makes the series just about perfect. I do have to say that Beastly always makes me laugh, especially when he constantly repeats things like “I am so bad.”

The second disc in the box is Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot. Every episode on this DVD is of the longer twenty-minute variety. With the increased length, we are able to meet more members of the Care Bear family including Tender Heart and Grams, as well as more Care Bear cousins: Lots-a-Heart (an elephant), Swift Heart (a rabbit) and Playful Heart (a monkey). These stories were much deeper with meaning and plot than the shorter episodes as the Care Bears set off on exciting adventures.

There is much more diabolical actions from the evil No Heart in these episodes and they are geared toward a slightly older audience than the shorter parables. The Care Bears are forced to go into action and fight to save themselves from the evil Wizard while protecting both Care-a-Lot and the kids of Earth along the way. Despite the action-centric storylines, we still are treated to the lessons of sharing and caring and the Care Bears always triumph due to teamwork and dedication despite size, fears and always overcoming evil at every step of the way.

This is more like what I am used to watching on television cartoons. The stories are long enough to warrant half hour shows and are filled with action and adventure while never skimping on the stories’ valuable lessons.

The third disc is Care Bears: Magical Adventures. Once again, the episodes are the shorter variety and these are almost exclusively told as parables. This DVD deals with magic and fantasy realms and takes us out of the Care-a-Lot setting we have grown used to. Some of the stories are tales told by Grams to the cubs to give them life lessons and others are just magical experiences. On the disc, the Care Bears visit Baghdad for an Arabian Knights adventure and the tombs of Egypt for an archeological adventure. There are two wish fulfillment episodes, one with Lots-a-Heart being granted three wishes for saving a unicorn and another where Grumpy Bear uses wishes from a six leaf clover to help battle No Heart.

Between the fantastic adventures in other lands and magical encounters with wishes and spells, this is a very creative batch of cartoons with The Magic Lamp the most fun of the eight.

The fourth and final disc is Care Bears: Kingdom of Caring. There are six episodes on this disc, four of the shorter ones and two of the twenty minute versions. These are all pretty much action and adventure stories with the Care Bears facing a number of troubles and finding the ways to fight through them. I think one of the strongest episodes is on this disc.

In The Sleeping Giant, Hugs and Tugs find a grumpy, sleepy giant and along with Tender Heart, teach the giant the value of friendship. Once the giant makes new friends and has fun for the first time in his life, he no longer wants to sleep but after saving the cubs from a tornado, the Sleeping Giant once again falls asleep. The episode is an analogy of death and how children can accept and deal with it. The giant does not die, and that is a good thing, but he is said to sleep for hundreds of years, so the cubs will never be able to play with him again. It is a pretty strong episode that helps teach a very important lesson in what I think might be the best way possible for a child of a young age. Great stuff.

I was really surprised at the strong writing and creativity involved in this cartoon. It remains an original and groundbreaking cartoon that should still be strong with kids today. The show has been re-launched but many changes have been made including removing the human children from the Care Bears lives which I think is a huge mistake. One of the great things about the show was the Care Bears desire and jobs to make sure kids would live with caring and sharing attitudes and always learn to overcome obstacles, no matter how big or strong. Removing that aspect of the show really defeats the purpose of what the Care Bears are supposed to be about. Without the children, it is just another variation of The Smurfs. If you have kids, grab this DVD set and let them watch it. You will not be disappointed.

The Package

The DVDs are presented in their original format and look decent considering their age. They are not great looking, but it is good enough. There are a few trailers on the discs but no other special features at all. The set comes with a Care Bear doll.