Babar: King Of The Elephants

Babar: King Of The Elephants (1999)
HBO Home Video
Extras: Bonus episode, Trailer

As the number of DVD titles grows and as more Americans bring DVD players into their homes, the number of family titles has also started to increase. The way I see it, this is of vital importance to the longevity of DVD. The more well-rounded and easily accessible that DVD is to everyone, the better off we will all be. The problem here is that the market may be flooded with products that don’t meet the (typically) high standards of the DVD viewer. Which brings us to “Babar: King of the Elephants”. Not to say that “Babar” is awful, but when compared to other products on the market, it doesn’t measure up.
“Babar: King of the Elephants” is a feature-length animated story based on the popular HBO children’s series. (I’m not sure if this film was made before the series began.) The film tells the story of the origin of the popular elephant. The film opens with Babar as a child in the jungles of an unidentified country. (Could be India…could be France) We see Babar play with his mother, and with his friends Arthur and Celeste. As with Bambi, Babar’s mother is killed by a hunter. Following this event, Babar wanders the jungle, until he comes upon a city. With amazement, he explores the city, until he meets Madame (not the Madame of Waylan Flowers fame, mind you!). Madame buys Babar clothes, teaches him manners, and educates him. (He also learns to drive a car!).
One day, Arthur and Celeste come to the city looking for Babar. They urge him to return to the jungle, as there is a crisis. The elephants are at war with the rhinos. Babar (still wearing his trademark green suit), returns to the jungle to aid in the battle with the rhinos. Along the way, he falls in love with Celeste and becomes king of the elephants.
While the plot synopsis of “Babar: King of the Elephants” seems pretty straight-forward, the actual movie is at times convoluted and hard to follow. This product is aimed at children, and in my opinion, I don’t think children would enjoy it. The pacing of the film is just bizarre. There are long periods where there is no dialogue and nothing really happens. The scene where Babar rides the elevator up and down in the department store goes on forever. Also, the color palette of “Babar” is very washed out, made up of greys and tans. I have a 9-month old daughter, and while she probably doesn’t understand cartoons, she loves to watch the movement and pretty colors. She watched “Babar” for about 3 seconds. One bright point of the film are the songs. They are unusual, but catchy.
“Babar: King of the Elephants” is presented on DVD in full-frame. The picture is very clear, but that only helps to accentuate the bland colors. One positive aspect of the DVD is the audio. The Dolby 2-channel surround really brings the jungle to life, with the sound of birds and insects.
The DVD has a “bonus episode” of “Babar”, entitled “An Elephant’s Best Friend”, which is taken from the HBO series. Surprisingly, this 24-minute show is the exact opposite of the movie. There are more bright colors and there is constant action. The story involves the king of the rhinos trying to infiltrate Babar’s palace. If the film had been more like this show, than this DVD would be highly recommendable. Herein lies the problem: parents who like the show, may buy this DVD thinking that it is of the same cailber as the HBO series. The DVD also contains a trailer for an animated “Pippi Longstocking” movie.
As a parent, I applaud companies for releasing children’s programming on DVD, but I hope that we will see more high-quality products in the future. Hopefully, I can be the opposite of an elephant and forget about “Babar: King of the Elephants.”