L-r: Shag, Floral, Maw, Paw.


Medium: Television animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1965
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In the mid-1960s, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon factory was still doing three segments in each half-hour show, and that meant producing a steady stream of no-account series to …

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… back up each new star. When The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show was launched as an hour-long package (October 2, 1965), no less than four minor sets of characters were needed for their back segments: Winsome Witch, Squiddly Diddly, Precious Pupp, and The Hillbilly Bears.

As suggested by the name, The Hillbilly Bears made use of what was rapidly becoming the only acceptable outlet for cultural bias — attacking rural residents of the American South, particularly those who live in mountainous areas. In a reprise of the previous year's Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse (one of Magilla Gorilla's back segments), this one hit all the negative "hillbilly" stereotypes, including laziness, stupidity, and a tendency to use rifle fire in settling neighborhood disputes.

The Hillbilly Bears were a family of four: Maw and Paw Rugg, their teenage daughter Floral, and their young son Shag. Surprisingly, they didn't have a chicken-stealing dog. Paw's voice was done by Henry Cordon, who later became the voice of Fred Flintstone, and continued handling that role until his death in 2005. Maw and Floral were both voiced by Jean VanderPyl, who in addition to Wilma Flintstone was also the voice of Rosie in The Jetsons, Marge in Where's Huddles? and Mrs. Finkerton in Inch High, Private Eye. Shag was Don Messick, who also played Papa Smurf, Dr. Benton Quest and Scooby Doo.

The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show ran two seasons, tho it briefly split up into two half-hours along the way. When it did, the Bears and the Pupp went with Atom Ant. A total of 26 episodes of The Hillbilly Bears were made, 20 in the first season and six in the second. They were rerun 1968-70 as part of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, along with The Arabian Knights, Micro Ventures and a couple of others.

Like most major Hanna-Barbera characters, and a lot of the minor ones such as themselves, The Hillbilly Bears had a post-series existence as bit players in the ensemble shows the studio used for keeping its trademarks current. They appeared in Yogi's Ark Lark in 1972 and Yogi's Gang the following year.

But they haven't had any regular gigs since then, and are now seen only in scarce reruns.


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Text ©2004-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.