|Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!|
The series' title card
Joe E. Ross
|Theme music composer||Hoyt Curtin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||16|
|Producer(s)||Charles A. Nichols|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 11, 1971– January 8, 1972|
Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! is an American animated television series, produced by Hanna-Barbera, which originally aired for one season on CBS from September 11, 1971, to January 8, 1972. Daws Butler, Paul Winchell and William Callaway voice the three bears that comprise the Hair Bear Bunch, while John Stephenson and Joe E. Ross voice Mr. Peevly and Botch, respectively, the two individuals who patrol the zoo in which the bears live. The series' producer was Charles A. Nichols, with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera directing, and Hoyt Curtin serving as the composer.
A 13-issue comic book series was created by Gold Key Comics and began distribution in November 1971. Many television critics compared the premise of the show to other Hanna-Barbera productions, such as Top Cat and Yogi Bear. While in syndication, the series aired on multiple television networks in the United States, including Boomerang, Cartoon Network, and the USA Network. In total, Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! contained sixteen 30 minute-long episodes. It has also been released digitally to the iTunes Store and physically on DVD as part of Warner Bros.' Archive Collection on a four-disc set.
The series follows the Hair Bear Bunch, a group of three bear cousins who live at the local Wonderland Zoo. They also serve as the "wacky heroes" of the show. The three bears would occasionally escape their luxurious cage to ride on their "invisible motorcycle[s]"; however, they would always return to the cage before Mr. Peevly or Lionel Botch were able to catch them. The bears had several motives for pranking and fooling Mr. Peevly and Mr. Botch, including trying to "improve their living conditions" and wanting to "embark on get-rich-quick schemes". The bears also wore clothes; according to author Christoper P. Lehman, Hanna-Barbera "dress[ed] the bears in counterculture apparel" in order to stay on track with the "mainstream" fashion in the United States.
The series features the following five main characters throughout its run:
- Daws Butler as Hair Bear, the afro-wearing leader of the Hair Bear Bunch. While developing a voice for Hair Bear, Butler "approximated his voice" to the titular character on CBS's The Phil Silvers Show (1955–1959).
- Bill Callaway as Square Bear, the most idiotic and "dimwitted" of the three bears. His personality has also been described as "dopey" and "laid-back".
- John Stephenson as Mr. Peevly, the zookeeper at Wonderland Zoo who the three bears constantly try to outsmart.
- Joe E. Ross as Lionel Botch, the "harebrained assistant" to Mr. Peevly. He is constantly completing work for Mr. Peevly, despite him putting Lionel "in dangerous situations for selfish reasons".
Production and promotion
Executively produced and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's Hanna-Barbera Productions, Charles A. Nichols served as the series' main producer. Additionally, Robert "Bob" Givens contributed as the layout artist for the storyboards. The show's official theme song was written by Hoyt Curtin, who also served as the series' music composer. Other than the main cast, frequent Hanna-Barbera voice actors Janet Waldo, Joan Gerber, Lennie Weinrib, Hal Smith and Vic Perrin played several minor characters for the show. A group of five writers wrote for Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, including Joel Kane, Heywood Kling, Howard Morgenstern, Joe Ruby, and Ken Spears. Despite Stephenson ultimately playing the role of Mr. Peevly, Barbera had intended for Joe Flynn to play the part since the character was based on Flynn's Captain Binghampton from McHale's Navy; however, when Flynn came into audition for the part, Barbera was unimpressed and cast Stephenson for the part instead. Barbera claimed "that Joe Flynn didn't sound enough like Joe Flynn."
Gold Key Comics adapted several Hanna-Barbera and "Saturday morning-based" productions (such as The Funky Phantom, The Harlem Globetrotters, and Lidsville) into comic books. The adaptation of Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! was titled just The Hair Bear Bunch and began distribution in 1972. 13 different issues were made for the series overall.
|Nº||Title||Original air date|
|1||"Keep Your Keeper"||September 11, 1971|
|The Hair Bear Bunch trick Mr. Peevly into thinking he has Zoolerium. When Mr. Peevly goes on vacation, a strict zoo keeper named Mr. Grunch is called in to cover for him, so the Hair Bear Bunch plan to find Mr. Peevly and persuade him to come back.|
|2||"Rare Bear Bungle"||September 18, 1971|
|The Hair Bear Bunch get a new roommate named Rare Bear, but Hair Bear suspects that he has been planted in their cave by Mr. Peevly to act as his spy.|
|3||"Raffle Ruckus"||September 25, 1971|
|Hair Bear suggests to Mr. Peevly to hold a raffle in order to obtain money for new facilities for the zoo. When Hair Bear wins, he ends up having ownership of the zoo and sees how hard it is to run the zoo and fill out the needs of the other animals. When Hair Bear learns that Mr. Peevly has been playing him, he ends up sneaking the other animals out of the zoo.|
|4||"Bridal Boo Boo"||October 2, 1971|
|In order to keep Mr. Peevly busy, Hair Bear decides to set him up with a female to be his girlfriend. Yet Mr. Peevly ends up getting a tough lady named Bertha who brings order to the Wonderland Zoo.|
|5||"No Space Like Home"||October 9, 1971|
|The Hair Bear Bunch apply for an advert for adventure and fame, which turns out to be a space expedition to Mars sponsored by Professor Nielsen Rockabuilt. Mr. Peevly and Botch end up stowing away and end up landing on an alien planet of Turulia where the Turulians elect Mr. Peevly as their new leader. While in the alien's dungeons, the Hair Bear Bunch learn that the aliens elect a new leader every day while the old one gets imprisoned in a glass cage.|
|6||"Love Bug Bungle"||October 16, 1971|
|Mr. Peevly ends up bunking a gorilla named Arnie into the Hair Bear Bunch's cave. Hair Bear discovers that Arnie is in love with Gloria the Gorilla and plans to hook both of them up, which involves making a cologne that causes him to lose control of his love advances.|
|7||"I'll Zoo You Later"||October 23, 1971|
|The Hair Bear Bunch plan to make their way to the National Forest. Once they do, the Hair Bear Bunch take refuge in a cabin which turns out to be a hideout for two bank robbers even when Mr. Peevly and Botch catch up to them.|
|8||"Ark Lark"||October 30, 1971|
|Following a drawing from the Suggestion Box, Mr. Peevly puts on a play of Noah's Ark with the zoo animals. Later that night, Hair Bear secretly places wheels on the Ark and pilots it all the way to Pleasure Island where they planned to go to a deserted island. To gain money, they disguise Zeed the Zebra as a horse and enter him in a race.|
|9||"Gobs of Gabaloons"||November 6, 1971|
|When Mr. Peevly wants the animals to build him a swimming pool, the Hair Bear Bunch finds a treasure map in one of the trees which leads to the treasure of Redbeard which had been stolen from Ptomania. They follow the map to the end point to Mr. Peevly's office and try different ways to get to the treasure below.|
|10||"Panda Pandamonium"||November 13, 1971|
|While hiding from Mr. Peevly and Botch in the woods when trying to get to the carnival, the Hair Bear Bunch find a baby panda named Percy whose cage fell off a passing train bound for the St. Louis Zoo. Mr. Peevly has the Hair Bear Bunch watch over Percy Panda until the Zoo Superintendent comes to pick Percy up and bring him to the St. Louis Zoo.|
|11||"Closed Circuit TV"||November 20, 1971|
|Mr. Peevly sets up a closed TV and cameras around the zoo to keep an eye on the zoo so that he can catch the Hair Bear Bunch in another one of their escapes. Hair Bear discovers the cameras and uses this to his advantage to make a television show.|
|12||"The Bear Who Came to Dinner"||November 27, 1971|
|Hair Bear has Square Bear fake an injury to have the Hair Bear Bunch evade being sent to the National Forest. Mr. Peevly ends up allowing Square Bear to recuperate at his house to evade getting into trouble with the Zoo Superintendent. Mr. Peevly vows to find a way to expose the fact that Square Bear is faking.|
|13||"Unbearably Peevly"||December 4, 1971|
|In order to catch the Hair Bear Bunch in one of their escape plans, Mr. Peevly and Botch disguise themselves as bears. Of course the Hair Bear Bunch play along with this upon seeing through their disguise. Things get worse for Mr. Peevly and Botch when they are mistaken for escaped circus bears.|
|14||"Goldilocks and the Three Bears"||December 11, 1971|
|The Hair Bear Bunch end up getting involved in the production of "Whatever Happened to Goldilocks and The Three Bears" where Twinkles Sunshine (the actress playing Goldilocks) rewrites the script where the Three Bears have to save Goldilocks from an evil prince.|
|15||"The Diet Caper"||December 18, 1971|
|The Hair Bear Bunch and the other animals attempt to tunnel into town to get food leads the Hair Bear Bunch into a haunted house in an amusement park. The Hair Bear Bunch then end up tricking Mr. Peevly and Botch into going down the same path.|
|16||"Kling Klong versus the Masked Marvel"||January 8, 1972|
|In order to win $500 from the Sports Arena, Hair Bear has Bananas the Gorilla go through wrestling training in order to stay in the ring with the Masked Marvel. Yet when the Masked Marvel gets the measles, Botch ends up having to cover for him in the wrestling ring.|
- Hair Bear made a non-speaking cameo in the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episodes "The Devlin Made Me Do It" and "Juror in Court".
Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! was broadcast on CBS between September 11, 1971 and January 8, 1972. The series was cancelled after the first season, consisting of sixteen episodes, was completed airing; according to Lehman, the series was unsuccessful because it did not appeal to a younger audience, citing its similarities to The Phil Silvers Show as an additional reason. It returned Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM on September 9, 1973 then was moved to Saturdays at 8 AM on February 2, 1974 after CBS revamped their Saturday line-up.
In syndication, the series was replayed on several television networks after its cancellation. USA Network ran the series beginning February 19, 1989, and until November 7, 1991. The United States' Cartoon Network began broadcasting it in 1994 and its sister channel Boomerang did so on several occasions in the early 2000s. A physical release on VHS first occurred in September 1988 and features three episodes from the series. Years later, as part of the Warner Bros. Television Distribution's Archive Collection, the complete Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch series was made available on DVD as a four-disc set. It was also released digitally to the iTunes Store library in its entirety.
Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! was compared to several other Hanna-Barbera productions. David Mansour, author of From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century, compared the show's premise to the storyline of Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat and wrote, "but instead of a gang of hip cats residing in an alley, it starred a bunch of cool bears living at the zoo." Christopher P. Lehman, who wrote American Animated Cartoons of the Vietnam Era, also compared it to a previous television series, but instead to the live-action The Phil Silver Show. Author David Perlmutter considered the show to be a reworked version of Yogi Bear, which he deemed appropriate because "the youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s" had a "'hippie' mindset." He also noted that because the series "incorporated some of the 'flip, sophisticated' style of the early animal con-artist formula, the series maintained a distinct connection with the time and place in which it was produced."
Besides Wait Till Your Father Gets Home (1972–1974) and Hong Kong Phooey (1974), Nichola Dobson wrote in The A to Z of Animation and Cartoons that Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! was one of Hanna-Barbera's more successful shows. However, in The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1001 Things You Hate to Love, three different authors labeled the series as one of Hanna-Barbera's "lesser-known efforts" but ultimately called it a "guilty pleasure" and enjoyed that it had its own score. In a retrospective view of older cartoons, the staff at MeTV included the show on their list of "15 Forgotten Cartoons from the Early 1970s You Used to Love." Deirdre Sheppard from Common Sense Media rated it three out of five stars and noted that it has "no educational content"; however, she also said that "other than the mildest of mild violence, and the characters' tendency to poke fun at each other, the series is fun and inoffensive."
- Mansour 2011, p. 210
- Perlmutter 2014, p. 157
- Tait 2011, p. 146
- Terrace 2011, p. 450
- Lehman 2006, p. 142
- Sennett & Barbera 1989, p. 178
- Sheppard, Deirdre. "Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch!". Common Sense Media. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
- Terrace 1981, p. 88
- Lenburg 2006, p. 104
- Tiegel, Eliot (July 31, 1971). "From the Music Capitals of the World: Los Angeles". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 83 (31): 24. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Lisanti 2012, p. 303
- Lentz III 2007, p. 397
- Writer: Kane, Joel; Kling, Heywood; Morgenstern, Howard; Ruby, Jon; Spears, Ken Director: Hanna, William; Barbera, Joseph (September 11, 1971). "Keep Your Keeper". Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!. Season 1. CBS.
- Evanier, Mark (April 8, 2013). "Hairy History". News from Me. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
- Sacks, Dallas & Dykema 2014, p. 87
- Overstreet 2008, p. 179
- Iverson, Paul R. (1994), The Advent of the Laugh Track (2nd ed.), Hempstead, New York: Hofstra University Archives
- "Season 1, Episode 1: Keep Your Keeper". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 2: Rare Bear Bungle". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 3: Raffle Ruckus". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Local Programs Oct. 2–8". TV Guide. 19 (39). October 2, 1971.
- "Local Programs Oct. 9–15". TV Guide. 19 (40). October 9, 1971.
- "Local Programs Oct. 16–22". TV Guide. 19 (41). October 16, 1971.
- "Local Programs Oct. 23–29". TV Guide. 19 (42). October 23, 1971.
- "Local Programs Oct. 30–Nov. 5". TV Guide. 19 (43). October 30, 1971.
- "Local Programs Nov. 6–12". TV Guide. 19 (44). November 6, 1971.
- "Local Programs Nov. 13–19". TV Guide. 19 (45). November 13, 1971.
- "Local Programs Nov. 20–26". TV Guide. 19 (46). November 20, 1971.
- "Local Programs Nov. 27–Dec. 3". TV Guide. 19 (47). November 27, 1971.
- "Season 1, Episode 13: Unbearable Peevly". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 14: Whatever Happened to Goldilocks and the Three Bears". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 15: The Diet Caper". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 16: Kling Klong versus the Masked Marvel". TV Guide. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- Erickson 2005, p. 403
- "Boomerang Schedule: Monday, August 11, 2003". Cartoon Network. August 11, 2003. Archived from the original on August 12, 2003. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Bowker 1999, p. 97
- "Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch: The Complete Series (MOD)". Warner Archive Collection. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- "Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, The Complete Series". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- Dobson 2010, p. 98
- Stall, Harry & Spalding 2004, p. 118
- MeTV staff (June 17, 2016). "15 Forgotten Cartoons from the Early 1970s You Used to Love". MeTV. Retrieved May 22, 2017.