|THE GREAT BEAR SCARE (syndication, 1983)|
|Why was it such a
Oh boy howdy....wow. Yikes. I've seen misfits, but.....man. This one will be pretty hard to top.
How do you do worse than broadcasting ON THE WRONG HOLIDAY?
Yes, it is true. "The Great Bear Scare" was a Halloween special that aired during Christmas by mistake. If that isn't a good enough indicator of the thought and care that went into it, maybe the rest of this page will convince you.
The show opens with a "special report" from ursine TV reporter Patty Bear. Apparently she's received word that Monster Mountain, the gateway to the world of monsters, is about to burst forth with the monstrosities who live inside. They're about to invade the rest of the world, and they're going to start with the nearest town, Bearbank (Bearbank, Alaska?)
Besides the biggest mistake, there's something else very wrong with this special and it rears its ugly head the moment Patty turns her body to interview a bear. Instead of moving, she dissolves from one pose to the next. Let me explain this about animation, if you didn't already know: much of it is dependent on timing and it's almost impossible to nail that timing if you draw it straightforwardly frame by frame. So cartoons are usually built pose by pose, then timed in a practice run called an animatic. Then the poses are made to move by drawing the poses between them, or "inbetweening."
In the case of "The Great Bear Scare," they were too cheap to pay for inbetweens, and figured "let's just have them dissolve from one pose to the next; kids are stupid and won't know the difference anyway." The result is not pretty, and it's a real shame, because whoever was doing the pose drawings did a decent professional job of it. Those drawings would have looked nice in full motion.
Despite Patty's on-air warnings, the Secretary General of the Bureau of Bear Affairs, or the SGBBA, isn't sure to believe there's a threat at all. No bear has ever gone past Monster Mountain, so what exactly is the source for these invasion rumors? The Bearbankianers believe every word, though, and start evacuating in droves. Faced with the imminent collapse of the town with or without a zillion monsters, the SGBBA turns to the cheapest stopgap he can think of: he orders Patty Bear's assistant, Ted E. Bear (No Relation!!) to venture out into Monster Mountain and discover if the rumors are true. The opening credits screen makes it very clear "Ted E. Bear" is a copyrighted name, and that he is voiced by Tom Smothers, but this is the only thing I've seen done with him (I wonder why, he said sarcastically).
Patty Bear announces every single development live on camera after it happens, which doesn't turn out to be a good idea. Maybe Patty doesn't know the monsters get the same TV reception the citizens of Bearbank do, or maybe she's just dumb. Either way, the apparent leaders of Monster Mountain -- Count Dracula and one witch -- know everything, and can barely hold in their laughter. They're only sending out ONE bear?? Bearbank will be theirs....for the pickeengz!
Even still, Murphy's Law, so it never hurts to be 100% sure. Dracula prepares to turn into a bat and fly around Bearbank to make sure there are no sudden surprises waiting. "Mumpkin Pumpkin! Make me a BAT!" he chants. The incantation doesn't work and he changes from a drawing of a confident cocky vampire to a drawing of an embarrassed blood-sucker flat on the floor. The witch laughs at his expense. He tries it again, and it still doesn't work. What's the point of this scene, you may ask? To lead up to this punchline: "My baaa-ting average has been so LOW lately!"
Dracula flies out of Monster Mountain and tours around Bearbank, making a few lame wisecracks on the level of the "batting average" bit you just read. Everything looks fine, so he starts heading back to finalize the invasion plans. But he accidentally turned back into human form in the process of doing this, and this time he can't get himself to become a bat again no matter how many "Mumpkin Pumpkins" he recites. Who's more incompetent, Dracula or the bears? This fight is going to be a draw.
Back at Bearbank Ted E. Bear is in his automobile, in front of City Hall, and the cowardly SGBBA is waving him goodbye. "Remember, Ted E: bears are afraid of NOTHING!" Patty is also coming, in a sense, because she's going to board a big blimp and telecast the event above Monster Mountain itself.
Driving up the road to Monster Mountain, Ted E. sees a hitchhiker by the side of the road. Hitchhikers are always safe to pick up, especially if they have pale skin and fangs. Yes, it is Dracula hitching on the road, and boy is he depressed he has to resort to it -- he whines to the bear quite loudly. Ted E. ironically takes Bearbank's greatest enemy safely back to invasion headquarters without knowing it, then gets out of the car to look for monsters.
There are certainly monsters....one whole drawing of them! This drawing chases Ted E. until he is cornered by another drawing of monsters. They were waiting for him and now, to boost morale before the invasion, Dracula will show all the monsters how utterly easy it is to scare a bear away by making an example out of Ted E. live on stage at Madison SCARE Garden! (What, you thought they were going to use guns or nuclear bombs? This is a children's cartoon special from the 80's. "Fear as a weapon" is as edgy as they can get.)
As Ted E. is about to face
his fate, the witch taunts him. "You're about to
meet the most frightening monster of them all...Count
Dracula! Are you SCAAAARED, little bear?" she
Ted is sent out and
Dracula goes "GROOOOWWWLLLL!" at him. But
instead of running away he continues his strange train of
What the bear-dung is he talking about? My best guess is that the intended message of this special is that monsters are nothing i.e. they don't exist, so kids shouldn't be afraid of them. But nowhere in the special itself are these monsters anything BUT real. No matter how many times Ted E. points at Dracula and says "You're nothing," it doesn't change the fact that Dracula is literally standing in front of him. Ted E's speech and this entire half-cartoon make no sense at all.
His soliloquy may make no sense, but it works. Ted E. emerges from Monster Mountain safe and sound, and repeats his speech for those watching in Bearbank. As the remaning Bearbankianerese watch the event on their TVs, they become inspired by Ted's statement. You'd think they were Iraqis watching George W. Bush get beaned by a shoe. They immediately take arms with honey and....more honey, then wait for the invaders. The odds of the monsters' success decrease even greater when Dracula, while marching his army down toward Bearbank, mentions this unrevealed fact: "Remember, we aaab-solutely must be back home and in bed by midnight! It's the ruuule of the monsters!"
Egad. They're trying to launch a full-scale invasion to take over the entire planet and they have to be back home by midnight? It's never explained WHY, and it looks pretty late already. How can they do this on a curfew? It's impossible even within the skewed reality this cartoon presents. They can't take Bearbank if they have to go back home in a few hours; the bears will just take it right back when they leave. That's....like....a really BIG tactical vulnerability.
They are indeed beaten with honey, but not because their weakness is bee barf. It's kind of because they can't do anything within censor limits besides try to scare the bears, and scaring them doesn't work anymore. To seal the deal, Ted E. and Patty float in on their blimp and move the hands of the clock tower so that it reads midnight.
"Ah, nooo, it iz
midnight! We are defeated!" moans Dracula. "My
perfect plan, for nothing!" Boy, who could have ever
thought it would be midnight again?
As Dracula sadly slinks back into the cave opening, he laments, "Monsters would rule the world...if not for teddy bears." Yeah, ain't that a shame? "I just wonder.....what would happen if, just once, we stayed up PAST midnight....." With that he exits. Not only does he strictly enforce the rule that caused his undoing, he doesn't even know why he's enforcing it. This guy really is nothing.
At a victory press conference for Ted E. Bear, Patty asks how he saved Bearbank. Ted repeats "Those monsters were really nothing." Patty adds that it "took BEAR COURAGE to face those monsters, and save the world from NOTHING!" Fade to black.
Why didn't it fit in?