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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

‘Bear in the Big Blue House’ and ‘PB&J Otter’: A retrospective

Since its final airing in 2011, Walt Disney Studios’ preschool channel Playhouse Disney has been all but radio silent for years. But a little thing called Disney+ came along, and the streaming service began to gain several well-known Playhouse Disney shows such as “Rolie Polie Olie” and “Out of the Box.” For years, fans of Playhouse Disney have wanted “Bear in the Big Blue House” to join Disney+. Finally, on Oct. 19, 2022, Disney+ finally put all four seasons of “Bear in the Big Blue House” as well as all three seasons of “PB&J Otter” on the platform. With these two shows appearing on Disney+, it seems reasonable to look back on both shows, see why they were so lovable back then and understand why they resurfaced now in 2022.

“Bear in the Big Blue House” aired in 1997 and starred Noel MacNeal as the titular Bear who lives in a big blue house. The show utilized problem-solving, sharing, cooperation and developing life skills. The show was a massive success for kids who were preschool age, and it was a larger success for those who were on the autism spectrum disorder. This comes from the fact that Bear has a caring attitude and was considered gentle, especially with the gag of Bear sticking his nose into the camera and “sniffing” the viewers.

In an interview with Insider, MacNeal stated that there was never a show quite like “Bear in the Big Blue House.” The show, as stated earlier, ran for only four seasons, and there was a three-year hiatus after the third season due to the fact that Lynne Thigpen, who voiced Luna the Moon, suddenly passed away in 2003. Later, Tara Mooney, who voiced Shadow, claimed the crew’s hearts weren’t in the show anymore. So, the show concluded with its fourth season in 2006. 

On the flip side, “PB&J Otter” was another very popular show that aired on Playhouse Disney. Premiering on Mar. 15, 1998, the show was about the Otter family, particularly the three children: Peanut, Baby Butter and Jelly (all named after a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). The show’s structure introduced the idea of something called the “Noodle Dance” where Peanut, Baby Butter and Jelly would have to think of something and to get the creative juices flowing. The three children would dance and would eventually find an idea that may or may not work. The show only aired for three seasons, concluding on Oct. 15, 2000. 

I remembered watching both of these shows as well as the other two shows mentioned above when I was younger. But I remembered “Bear in the Big Blue House” the most because it was one of the more relaxing shows that really stood out to me. As an autistic, I never really noticed that Bear was really gentle for those who were autistic. But now that I look back on the show, I can really see it. I totally side with MacNeal saying the show was relaxing in that Bear had that sweet and endearing attitude toward any viewer of the show. With “PB&J Otter,” I hardly remember the show, but from what I can remember, the show was quite wacky but still very cute. Since I watched the show when I was much younger, I understood it more in my five-year-old mind, but now, as a college student, I still don’t understand why the show was even that innovative. 

Overall, it is very nice to see that Disney+ is now bringing back all of the Playhouse Disney shows from the late ‘90s, and now, the younger generation can watch these shows anytime they want on Disney+.

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