SEBASTIAN STAR BEAR: FIRST MISSION tells of a space bear from the constellation Ursus who comes to earth to rescue bears kidnapped by an evil showman. A Dutch-produced film with animation executed in mainland China, this entry lacks even the sophistication of current Saturday morning TV
cartoons, but does offer a pleasant group of protagonists and story elements well suited to small children.
On the bank of a river, a mother bear tells her cub, Grizelda, the legend of Ursus, the great bear who fought during the ice age to protect the species from the spears and clubs of the humans who wanted their skins. Ursus and 12 of his bear warriors then went into the sky to form a constellation
which looks out over the earth, protecting the bears from humans.
In San Francisco, Draco, an unscrupulous top-hatted showman, must find a way to pay off his debt to gangsters or lose his theater. In need of cheap talent, he decides on dancing bears, so he sets off with his dim-witted sidekick Moxie to gather bears from around the world for his show. He
captures five and brings them back to the theater, where his dance director insists on more.
Draco, Moxie, musical director Maestro, and stray dog-turned-"bearhound" Sniffy hit the road looking for talented bears they can kidnap. In the forest, they find Grizelda and her mother. They kidnap the mother, who leaves Grizelda on a tree branch out of reach of the interlopers. Sniffy, who has
proved useless as a bear-hunter, is left behind.
Grizelda's cries for help are heard by the rookie Star Bear, Sebastian, who arrives on earth in his ice ship, along with his robot computer bear, SOUCI (Speech Operated Universal Computer Intelligence). He is unfamiliar with earth geography and customs, so he enlists the aid of both Grizelda and
Sniffy to track down the bearnappers. They follow Draco and company to Boulder Plains, where they prevent Draco from stealing a dancing bear act from a traveling circus. They follow the gang to China, where Draco plans to steal a panda. With the help of a magical Mandarin, Sebastian rescues the
panda, but SOUCI is badly damaged in their fight with the hunters.
Draco returns to San Francisco, followed closely by Sebastian, Grizelda and Sniffy. The show of dancing bears begins, but Sebastian manages to unchain the bears and set them free. The bears flee and head for the outskirts of the city. In the commotion, Draco and Moxie steal the box office
proceeds but are soon caught by the gangster, McGrath, and his gorilla bodyguard Cuddles.
Sebastian takes Grizelda back to her forest and she bids him a tearful farewell. On his way back to the stars, he watches as SOUCI turns into a real bear, something the robot had always insisted she was.
The idea of a space bear coming to earth to aid endangered bears has plenty of dramatic potential, and the characters of Sebastian, SOUCI, Grizelda, and Sniffy might have truly come to life in the hands of talented filmmakers and skilled animators. Unfortunately, the makers of SEBASTIAN STAR
BEAR have undermined their material with extremely crude character design and animation. The villains are particularly unimaginative, drawing on hoary cartoon stereotypes that even the worst Saturday morning TV cartoons have avoided. Inexplicably, all the characters move and talk much more slowly
than they should, making for an excruciatingly sluggish pace. The backgrounds, however, are nicely painted.
For the most part, only small children will find this film appealing. Although the ending recalls PINOCCHIO, the main characters seem to have been inspired by the "Care Bears" TV cartoons, which resemble the highest quality Disney animation in comparison.
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: SEBASTIAN STAR BEAR: FIRST MISSION tells of a space bear from the constellation Ursus who comes to earth to rescue bears kidnapped by an evil showman. A Dutch-produced film with animation executed in mainland China, this entry lacks even the sophistication… (more)