3.28.2008

Adventures Of The Gummi Bears (1985)

Disney’s second venture into television animation ended up doing much better than their previous offering that only lasted one season. Although by premise the show sounded as weird as The Wuzzles was – a bunch of brightly colored anthropomorphic bears living beneath a pond, guarding a secret recipe for a juice that makes them jump higher. Adding to that, it also took place in medieval times.

Luckily for them, Disney’s Adventures Of The Gummi Bears was just what the newly founded television animation department needed – a hit show. It premiered alongside The Wuzzles on September 14, 1985 on NBC. The idea for the show again came from Michael Eisner, and was based on a popular European candy called, of course, gummi bears. Oddly enough he sourced the idea after his son asked him one day for some gummi bear candies, which I guess was enough to convince him he could make an animated program loosely based on them. With better stories, better characters, and better animation, the show lasted five years and 65 half hour episodes – 30 of which were made up of two smaller cartoons, therefore totaling 95 individual episodes. Why the format was changed I have no idea; it’s an odd trait as most cartoons usually stay with one type of episode format for their entire run. The show was also produced by seasons and not in syndication (meaning all the episodes were made first and then all aired), and ran on NBC from 1985-1989, and for what ever reason moved to ABC in 1990 where it aired its final episode on December 8, 1990. I wasn’t aware of this until researching the show for this post, but the series actually had a proper series finale – the last two episodes marking the only time a single storyline followed throughout. For an animated cartoon, it’s a rare thing to have an ending episode, even today. The fact an 80’s cartoon like this ended properly is an extreme rareness, as a lot of cartoons back then were mass produced for a line of toys, and writers could care less about making an “ending” episode to make viewers happy. While the show was popular it didn’t spawn an overly large amount of merchandise; a few comics and books, buttons, and some figurines were about it.

Adventures Of The Gummi Bears exceeded many animated television shows at the time, and with the passage of time is now looked back upon as a show that jump started the massive boom of television animation in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s. Disney would not only find the same type of success in their next series, but it would grow to overcome Adventures Of The Gummi Bears to become their biggest series ever. The longevity of the show could be attributed to the extremely rich universe it portrays – one which is clearly anchored in a Medieval Europe similar to Earth history, but whose pre-history is underlined not by men, but by the Ancient Gummis. The series also became the forerunner for Disney’s popular Disney Afternoon block when it premiered in 1990. It holds the record for the most seasons of any Walt Disney Television Animation production at six – seasons did not overlap into the following year, but rather each year had its own season. This can be disputed though with Disney’s release of the first three seasons on DVD and the amount of episodes included – I’ll leave you readers to work out the details.

The last time these bouncing bears were seen in Canada was on Family Channel around 1999/2000 – that’s a guess mind you, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen any of the episodes. I remember finding out the show was back airing, but only on weekends at like 6:30 in the morning. I wasn’t quite old enough to care to program the VCR and I remember getting up early just to watch this show. Of course that was a long time ago, I wonder if I really sat down and watched the series now – would I still like it, or would I have grown out of it? If only I had the time to prove that theory – one Youtube user has taken the time to upload the entire series (among other great Disney titles) for viewing online. Of course the opening theme song (and the ending theme) for this show was nothing short of awesome and is irresistible to sing along with (I couldn’t find a good quality video of just the opening so I linked a random episode). They sure don’t make them like his anymore. The only thing about this opening theme and the other Disney themes to follow is that the singer is unknown – at least to me. Anyone got any leads?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh WoW! I LOVED the Gummi Bears. Even at 38 years old I can sing the theme song! Thanks for this trip down memory lane!!!