L-r: Maw, Paw and Joonyer Bear.

THE THREE BEARS

Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1944
Creator: Chuck Jones
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While Disney was busy creating sweet, relatively straightforward animated versions of such familiar tales as The Grasshopper & the Ants and Three Little Pigs, other cartoon studios …

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… set about demolishing them. Demolitions of that sort at Warner Bros. include such entries as Pigs in a Polka (1943, directed by Friz Freleng) and Tortoise Beats Hare (1941, directed by Tex Avery).

Chuck Jones's 1944 Entry, Bugs Bunny & the Three Bears, was definitely of that genre. In it, the Bear family (Paw, voiced by Billy Bletcher; Maw, voiced by Bea Benaderet; and Joonyer, first voiced by Kent Rogers and later by Stan Freberg) is hungry. Paw has an idea — re-enact the "Goldilocks" story; and when Goldilocks shows up, eat her. With no porridge in the house, Maw makes carrot soup, attracting Bugs instead of Goldie, with predictable results.

The Bears' family dynamics worked perfectly. Paw was a simmery little guy with a gruff voice (Bletcher's other roles include Mickey Mouse's foe, Pegleg Pete) who openly resented the innocent and devoted (tho clumsy and stupid) Joonyer, but still loved the oaf; while Maw, devoted to both, went through life oblivious of the conflict. They worked so well together, the cartoon's sequel, What's Brewin', Bruin? (1948), was devoted just to the Bears, without a "name" co-star.

The Bears starred in three more Jones-directed cartoons, two of which came out in 1949 and one in '51, for a total of five. Also, Maw had a bit part in Jones's The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1952), which played Daffy Duck against an all-star cast. They didn't make a transition to any other media. But they did have an impact beyond those five appearances. Famous Studios directly copied the Bears' family situation in their Baby Huey series, which became a long-running comic book at Harvey Comics — although the imitation is a pale one. It's also said to have influenced producer Norman Lear when he created the live-action sitcom All in the Family.

In more recent years, the Bears, like many minor characters from the classic years of theatrical animation, have been seen occasionally on TV. For example, they guest-starred with Elmyra Duff in "Teddy Bears' Picnic", which appeared as a Tiny Toon Adventures segment in 1991. Mostly, tho, they're like Sniffles, Henery Hawk and the rest of the non-superstar Warner Bros. characters — reappearing endlessly in Looney Tunes TV reruns, but seldom seen elsewhere.

— DDM

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Text ©2000-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Warner Bros.