The Three Bears (Looney Tunes)

The Three Bears
Looney Tunes character
First appearance Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears
Created by Chuck Jones
Voiced by Papa Bear: Mel Blanc (1944), Billy Bletcher (1948–1951), Frank Welker (1990), Will Ryan (2003), Maurice LaMarche (2013)
Mama Bear: Bea Benaderet (1944–1951), Mel Blanc (1948), Tress MacNeille (1990), Joe Alaskey (2003), Grey DeLisle (2013)
Baby Bear: Kent Rogers (1944), Stan Freberg (1948–2003), John DiMaggio (2013)
Species Brown bears

The Three Bears are animated cartoon characters in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. The family consists of Papa Bear (sometimes called Henry), Mama Bear, and Junior Bear (sometimes spelled Junyer or Joonyer).

First appearance

Animator Chuck Jones introduced the trio in the 1944 cartoon Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears, in which Bugs Bunny invades the home of the three bears, and Mama Bear takes a fancy to him.[1] In the short, Papa Bear tries to feed his starving family by having them act out their roles in the traditional fairy tale from which they derive their name. Unfortunately for them, when they were out of porridge, Mama substitutes carrot soup for it, and the "Goldilocks" they lure turns out to be none other than Bugs. Purcell and Liepien, in Parallel Curriculum Units for Social Studies, Grades 6-12 , recommended this film as part of the study of the sociological implications of humor;[2] Steven Case, in Toons That Teach, also mines this work for pedogogic value.[3]

In this initial entry in the series, Mel Blanc played Papa Bear, Kent Rogers played Junior, and Bea Benaderet played Mama. However, for the bulk of the remainder of the series, Billy Bletcher, played Papa, and Stan Freberg took over as Junior after Kent Rogers' death in a World War II training accident (Benaderet continued as Mama Bear). After the classic theatrically-released shorts, Will Ryan and Joe Alaskey played Papa and Mama.

Jones' bears as introduced in the short are perhaps the first film satire of the American nuclear family and how its traditional roles were coming under increasing scrutiny in the 1940s. Papa is a loud-mouthed, short tempered know-it-all shrimp, while Junior is an oversized, bumbling buffoon. The two are constantly at each other, leaving Mama Bear as the innocent (and deadpan) middle-bear, although she often resorts to thwacking one of them with a rolled-up newspaper to keep the peace. As Jones himself was never shy to point out, this cartoon and others in the series anticipate the failings and foibles that would later make the sitcom All in the Family such a success.

Further theatrical appearances

Jones brought back the Bears for his 1948 cartoon What's Brewin', Bruin?, this time without Bugs.

Here, Papa Bear decides that it's time for the Bears to hibernate. However, various disturbances interfere.[4] Junior's voice is here supplied by Stan Freberg,[5] who would retain the role for all future Three Bears cartoons.

Other Three Bears cartoons included Bear Feat, released in 1948[6] and Bee-Deviled Bruin, released in 1949.[7] (Both Bee-Deviled Bruin and Bear Feat were later released on the laserdisc Looney Tunes Assorted Nuts.)

Mama Bear made a cameo appearance in the 1950 Daffy Duck short The Scarlet Pumpernickel.

1951's A Bear for Punishment, the last film in the series, is often considered the funniest, and it is perhaps the most satirical. This time, it's Father's Day, and Mama and Junior's well-intended gifts do nothing but dishonor the perturbed Papa. Jones later stated that many of the scenarios in the short were derived from his own experiences.

Jones retired the Three Bears in 1951. The influence of the series would linger, however, as other studios copied or altered the idea. Aside from Norman Lear's aforementioned All in the Family, Famous Studios repeated Jones family scenario in their Baby Huey series of cartoons. The Bears' cartoons most significant impact was perhaps on Jones himself, as these films (along with the Hubie and Bertie and Charlie Dog shorts) represent some of Jones's earliest work.

Later appearances

Mama Bear of the Three Bears can be briefly spotted in a brief headshot during the final scene of the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In the early 1990s, the Three Bears were brought back and featured several times in the TV series Tiny Toon Adventures with Papa Bear voiced by Frank Welker, Mama Bear voiced by Tress MacNeille, and Junior Bear voiced by Stan Freberg. Most prominently, they appeared in an updated version of the classic Three Bears fairy tale (with Elmyra playing the part of Goldilocks), which parodied suburbia and the mass commercialism prevalent in American society.

In the Animaniacs episode "Garage Sale of the Century.", the design for Papa Bear was used for Vern Bear (voiced by Edward Asner).

The Three Bears make a cameo appearance in Space Jam, watching a basketball game.

The Three Bears appear in Looney Tunes: Back In Action with Papa Bear voiced by Will Ryan, Mama Bear voiced by Joe Alaskey, and Junior Bear voiced by Stan Freberg. They are seen as tourists in Paris and run into DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser), whose trousers have rocketed off into the air leaving him in his underwear. DJ steals Papa Bear's trousers so he can save Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) from a villain.

The Three Bears appear in The Looney Tunes Show episode "Ridiculous Journey" with Papa Bear voiced by Maurice LaMarche, Mama Bear voiced by Grey DeLisle, and Junior Bear voiced by John DiMaggio. While fleeing from Blacque Jacque Shellacque, Sylvester, Tweety and Taz are found by Junior Bear during his family's road trip and he claims them as his souvenirs. When Blacque Jacque Shellacque pursues the car over the Golden Gate Bridge, Junior Bear knocks Shellacque's car off the bridge. During their drive in the desert, Papa Bear notices Sylvester, Tweety, and Taz as Mama Bear reminded Papa Bear that he did say that their son can have any souvenirs. Sylvester, Tweety, and Taz then cause a pit stop by pouring milk down Junior's diaper causing him to think that he wet himself.


  1. Liebman, Roy (2010). Vitaphone Films: A Catalogue of the Features and Shorts. McFarland. p. 280. ISBN 978-0786446971. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  2. Purcell, Jeanne H.; Leppien, Jann H. (2009). Parallel Curriculum Units for Social Studies, Grades 6-12. Corwin. p. 122. ISBN 978-1412965408. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  3. Toons That Teach: 75 Cartoon Moments to Get Teenagers Talking. Videos That Teach. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2005. p. 24. ISBN 9780310259923. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  4. Liebman, 2010. p292
  5. Pat Saperstein (April 7, 2015). "Comedian and Voice Actor Stan Freberg Dies at 88". Variety. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  6. Liebman, 2010. p298
  7. The Bee-Deviled Bruin at the Internet Movie Database
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