Preschoolers Will Grin and 'Bear' New Henson Series

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He's 7 feet tall, orange, furry and supremely cuddly--that's Bear, the gentle host of "Bear in the Big Blue House," a friendly new series for preschoolers from Jim Henson Television that begins today on the Disney Channel.

The "big blue house" is just that--a sky-blue wooden frame house with several rooms filled with visual treats and Bear's lively Muppet pals: Tutter, a blue mouse; lemur Treelo, who trills cutely; purple otter twins Pip and Pop; Ojo, a little bear cub; and Luna, the serene moon, with whom Bear shares the happenings of the day at show's end.

In the first program, Bear introduces viewers to his house and friends with a tour from bathroom to attic. Each character has his or her own favorite part of the house--Tutter offers his view of the kitchen's "sun window" and cheese drawer; the otters extol the watery joys of bathtub and sink, and Treelo, who lives outside in the woods, loves to cuddle into Bear's comfy bed.

The little Muppets tend to be excitable, but Bear is patient and interested in what his friends feel and do, treating them with loving respect. He frequently addresses viewers directly, too, often with his big blue nose snuffling at the camera. The shows also includes some animation, shadow puppet stories and lots of music.

The whole gentle mix, anchored by Bear's soothing calm, is a welcome addition to preschooler entertainment.

* "Bear in the Big Blue House" airs weekdays at 10 a.m. and on weekends at 7 and 7:30 a.m. on cable's Disney Channel. The network has rated it TV-Y (suitable for all children).

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