"Babar," a new animated series that debuts on HBO Sunday at 8 a.m., captures the look and much of the charm of Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff's popular children's books.
Babar, the king of the elephants, never allows his duties to interfere with the needs of his children. Most of each program is devoted to a story about his childhood that shows his offspring how to deal with a problem.
In the second episode (airing April 9), Babar finds his son, Cornelius, trying to impress a new friend. In the ensuing account of a party he almost ruined by affecting a false charm, Babar (along with writer J.D. Smith) makes his point without becoming smarmy or pompous.
The designs for the characters and the simple animation capture the essence of Jean de Brunhoff's understated watercolor illustrations. The artists occasionally seem to loose their sense of the characters' size and weight: The young Babar jumps and climbs in ways that seem very unelephantlike (but very few elephants wear uniforms and crowns, as the adult Babar does).