We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Rating 8.5
Streamer All4
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 25 mins

Coronavirus – “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it!” Unfortunately. Luckily we’ve got this cosy children’s classic to help us along the way.

We all remember that Christmas classic, The Snowman, where Aled Jones and his ethereal tones sang us into the festive season. It really isn’t Chrimbo until you try (and fail) to hit those high notes. And the films creators at Walker Productions have got another challenge with this one – can you watch without chanting along?  

Most of us will be familiar with the poetic joy of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, the storybook favourite about a bunch of kids heading out for a march through the marsh, river and mud – they can’t go over them, they can’t go under them, they’ve got to go through them – until they reach a cave. They peek inside and spot a big ol’ bear, and run home to hide under their duvet from the advancing grizzly. We’re all relieved they’re safe, but then the kiddos peer round their door, seeing the bear looking sad, and we all feel a bit sorry for him.

With the wonderful story by Michael Rosen, and timeless illustrations from Helen Oxenbury, the book is geared up to be a wonderful adaptation. Only problem is, it’s only about five minutes long. So they had to bulk it out a bit – they gave the gang names (Rosie, Katie, Max, Stan and a dog called Rufus) and gave them parents that had to pop out. Plus, there’s an additional mini-plot where Rosie gets lost in the cave and ends up befriending our bear with the blues, who comforts her as she misses her passed Grandpa.

But despite these changes, the joy of the book is very much there. The animation is true to the original drawings, and the green pastures of the British countryside are wonderful. Every swishy swashy, splash splosh and squelch squerch is in there, making for a properly cosy childhood ramble.

The Times’ Alex O’Connell thinks “the film’s cast is top-notch,” with a “beautiful original score” from Stuart Hancock, making for a show that sits “just the right side of cloying.” Stuart Heritage in The Guardian said its time to “move over, Snowman,” and make way for this “prestigious adaptation.” However The Telegraph’s Tim Auld wasn’t such a fan, saying whilst it’s “skilfully made,” the plot of grief “cast a pall of gloom.”

First shown December 2016.

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