The Berenstain Bears are a fictional family of anthropomorphic bears created by Stan and Jan Berenstain living in bear country, a village for humanoid brown bears in a series of very popular Children's literature. The popularity of the books subsequently spawned numerous child-friendly television shows and computer games.
The family consists of Papa Bear, the woodworker father; Mama Bear, his wife; and their three children: Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and Honey Bear. The series is are set in Bear Country, a society composed entirely of bears. Story lines typically follow the Bear family as they deal with topics relevant to both children and parents.
The inspiration for the characters came when the Berenstains' sons, Leo and Mike, were learning to read, and their parents decided to try their hands at creating children's books themselves. This book became The Big Honey Hunt, which was published in 1962 by Dr. Seuss's Beginner Books imprint.
- Main article: List of The Berenstain Bears characters
The bear family in The Big Honey Hunt consisted of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and son Small Bear. They began their own line of books about the bears in 1974 with The Berenstain Bears' New Baby, which introduced daughter Sister Bear to the family and changed Small Bear's name to Brother Bear. In 2000, baby sister Honey was introduced with The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five, after having dealt with Mama Bear's pregnancy in the previous book The Birds, the Bees, and the Berenstain Bears. Between the two books, there was a contest for readers to name the baby.
- Too-Tall Grizzly, the school bully. He works with Brother nicely sometimes although he thinks Halloween can be fun when he plays tricks on "Witter Jones" and other people.
- Queenie McBear, Too-Tall's on-and-off girlfriend and friend of Brother and Sister. Although originally a bully to Sister, she is now friendly to all the cubs at school. She is also the most flirtatious of all the cubs.
- Fred Bear, Brother and Sister's cousin and friend, frequently known as Cousin Freddie. His father and Papa Bear are brothers.
- Lizzy Bruin, One of Sister's best friends
- Bonnie Brown, Originally introduced in the Big Chapter Book series, she is a part-time model who attends Bear Country School and becomes friends with Brother and Sister and at times the love interest of Brother's and vice versa. A very caring and sweet cub.
- Farmer Ben, local farmer, neighbor, and family friend.
- Grizzly Gramps and Gran, Papa Bear's parents and Brother and Sister Bears paternal grandparents.
- Professor Actual Factual, The community intellectual, always pictured as slim and bespectacled. A good friend of Brother and Sister, he is also the purveyor and owner of the Bearsonian Institution, Bear Country's museum.
- Babs Bruno, the daughter of Beartown's police chief, Chief Bruno. A feminist and aspiring poet, she is good friends with Queenie and Bertha. She also occasionally hangs out with Sister and Bonnie.
- Teacher Bob, the third-grade teacher in Bear Country School. Easygoing but firm. Most of the main characters are in his class.
- Teacher Jane, the first-grade teacher in Bear Country School. Also the Bear Scouts' troop leader. Sister and Lizzy are in her class. Very gentle and soft-spoken.
- Mrs Smith a teacher who holds the Talent show in the poem book "The Berenstain bears and the talent show"
- Dr. Bearson a Dentist whom Sister thinks will yank out her tooth with Yankers because of a Sarcastic Joke by Brother. Brother also thinks that Bearson's drill is big as Papa's. Appears in "Visit the Dentist"
- Mr. Honeycomb, the principal of Bear Country School. He appears to be laid-back but in charge, since most of the discipline is set out by Mr. Grizzmeyer.
- Miss Honeybear, the kindergarten teacher at Bear Country School. Only appeared in one book.
Berenstain Bears media
- Main article: List of Berenstain Bears Books
Over 300 Berenstain Bears books have been published since the 1960s.
The Berenstain Bears have appeared in three animated series.
The following NBC Holiday specials were produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s:
- The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree (December 3, 1979) (Also known as The Berenstain Bears' Christmas)
- The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw (November 20, 1980) (Also known as The Berenstain Bears' Thanksgiving)
- The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Egg (April 14, 1981) (Also known as The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise)
- The Berenstain Bears' Valentine Special (February 13, 1982) (Also known as The Berenstain Bears' Comic Valentine A.K.A The Berenstain Bears and Cupid's Surprise)
- The Berenstain Bears' Littlest Leaguer (May 6, 1983) (Also known as The Berenstain Bears Play Ball)
- Main article: The Berenstain Bears (1985 TV series)
This series was produced by Southern Star Productions in 1985, and featured two 11-minute stories per episode. While the first story to be shown was usually an adaptation of one of the books, a new story would make up the second half of the program. Some of these new stories prominently featured a villain in the form of The Evil Arch Weasel (McGreed), who was take the crystal potato from The Evil Lord Snooty (Raffish Ralph) who was taking out "to take over Bear Country lock, stock, and honeypot." Unlike most of the characters from the books, McGreed was created entirely for the cartoon, but managed to find his way into several novel books.
- Main article: The Berenstain Bears (2003 TV series)
The latter cartoon is currently running on PBS and internationally. It has since been released on DVD. The series also aired on PBS Kids with Seven Little Monsters from 2003–2004.
They have appeared in a variety of software.
- The Berenstain Bears' Camping Adventure, (1993, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear)
- The Berenstain Bears On Their Own, and You on Your Own, (CD-i)
- The Berenstain Bears: Learning At Home, Volume One, (1993, Compton's New Media, PC)
- Extreme sports with the Berenstain Bears (2000, Sound Source Interactive, Game Boy Color)
- Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree,(2005, Namco, Game Boy Advance)
USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter report that Shawn Levy, director of both Night at the Museum movies, will direct the feature film adaptation of The Berenstain Bears as a hybrid of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and live action that will place the Berenstain family in the modern world. Release is planned for 2011.
Three Berenstain Bears books (The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, and The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble at School.) have also been adapted in a single theatrical production called The Berenstain Bears in Family Matters, the Musical.
Over the years, the Berenstain Bears books have been the subject of much favorable comment from education professionals and the reading public.
"The Berenstains have the extraordinary ability to communicate universal experiences and uplifting messages," -Laurie Norton Moffat, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.; NY Times, November 30, 2005
"They were able to take the real issues of children's lives and make them entertaining and not preachy," -Ilene Abramson, director of children's services at the Los Angeles Public Library; LA Times, November 30, 2005
"Among the generation of children growing up in the '70s and early '80s, The Berenstain Bears books are spoken of like zen koans, or like biblical allegories."-Aemillia Scott, Flak Magazine Online, November 30, 2005
The Berenstain Bears books have drawn criticisms of Papa Bear portraying a bumbling, inept father figure. As summarized in Stan Berenstain's November 30, 2005, obituary in the New York Times:
"...In what might be seen as a tribute to the Berenstain Bears' ubiquity, critics for years have commented on the ursine clan's adherence to gender stereotypes, including Mama Bear's ever-so-brief fling at working outside the home, only to retreat to the cubs. Papa Bear's bumbling incompetence, compared with Mama Bear's warm, wise effectiveness, has spawned particular ire."
The authors have in the past stated that the parent bears merely reflected their own personalities. "Papa and Mama are roughly modeled after us," Stan Berenstain said in a 1991 Philadelphia Inquirer article. "I'm not quite as dumb as he seems to be sometimes, and Jan is not quite as wise and patient as Mama, but she is Mama."
In 2000 Extreme sports with the Berenstain Bears was released for the Game Boy Color. The game was rated "One of the worst games in the history of electronic games" by popular video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly.
Notes and references
- ↑ The Berenstain Bears
- ↑ Mobygames.com
- ↑ USAtoday.com
- ↑ http://www.berenstainbearslive.com/
- ↑ "He is often wrong but never in doubt." Berenstain Bears website.
- ↑ Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post 1989, referred to "the post-feminist Papa Bear" as "the Alan Alda of Grizzlies, a wimp so passive and fumbling he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman."
- ↑ Mary Jo Kochakian, The Hartford Courant, 1989 asked "You have to wonder, doesn't Stan Berenstain have any self-respect?"
- ↑ Stan Berenstain obituary, November 30, 2005, New York Times.