- Humphrey the Bear
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Humphrey the Bear is a cartoon character created by the Walt Disney company in 1950. He first appeared was in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose, in which Goofy tried to take his picture. After that, he appeared in four classic Donald Duck cartoons: Grin and Bear It, Bearly Asleep, Rugged Bear, and Beezy Bear. Disney gave him his own series in 1955, but only two films resulted (Hooked Bear and In the Bag) before Disney discontinued making theatrical short subjects. When the shorts division closed, Humphrey was the last of only seven Disney characters who had been given a series of their own, starring in cartoons who opened with their own logo (the six other were Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip ‘n Dale [counting as one], and Figaro).
The Humphrey cartoons have been aptly described by Leonard Maltin as “belly-laugh” shorts, and they feature a broader, wilder style of comedy than the usually cute or coy gags typically associated with the Disney company.
Humphrey is a big, foolish, opportunistic brown bear who lives in Brownstone National Park. He is constantly trying different ways to cadge food and/or shelter from unsuspecting visitors. Unlike other Disney characters, Humphrey does not speak, but makes inarticulate noises expressing satisfaction, resignation, and anxiety. Those grunts were supplied by Disney staffer Jimmy MacDonald. When stricken by worry or panic, Humphrey runs desperately in place, with his feet seemingly headed in all directions. Humphrey’s foil is usually Donald Duck; otherwise it is the officious park ranger, voiced by Bill Thompson. The ranger was never identified in the theatrical shorts, but when the films were re-edited into an hour-long Disney TV episode, the ranger now had a name: J. Audubon Woodlore.
Humphrey began his career in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose. In this cartoon, Goofy decides to take the task of a photographer. He goes to a park to photograph a bear that refuses to be in the camera. The rest of the cartoon centers around Goofy and the bear at wits. In the end, Humphrey prevails. Humphrey would return to the screen in Donald Duck’s Rugged Bear. This cartoon is the first to feature Humphrey’s name and dominate personality. In the short, it’s hunting season in Brownstone Park, and Humphrey is the only bear unable to make it to the safety of the bear cave. In fear, Humphrey rushes in the nearest house, which happens to belong to a hunter, Donald Duck. Humphrey attempts to leave but hunters outside are viciously shooting, making it impossible. Desperately, Humphrey poses as Donald’s bear rug. Throughout the rest of the short, Humphrey is constantly tortured as Donald believes the bear to be nothing but dead skin, and uses it to aid him in things such as cracking his walnuts and picking the cap of his soda pop. After a long hunting season, Donald departs his season house and heads back to his real home. Humphrey is now free to go, but it turns out, the bear rug he replaced, was actually another bear that was hiding from hunters just like Humphrey, much to the latter’s surprise.
After a few more shorts with Donald, Humphrey gained two of his own shorts entitled Hooked Bear and In the Bag. The films were popular in theaters, and the character was familiar enough to be included in the Mickey Mouse Club credits (Humphrey’s holding the trampoline that bounces Mickey Mouse in the air).
Humphrey was once popular enough to have his own series of cartoons. He lived in Brownstone National Park and was always trying to steal food from tourists. Sound familiar? That’s because Hanna-Barbera’s Yogi was based on Humphrey. Though Humphrey was a pretty short-lived character, Disney artists seem to have a soft spot for him and often sneak him into other projects such as Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He’s even a mascot for the Wilderness Lodge Resort at Walt Disney World.
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