The Three Bears are a family that consists of Henry Bear (Papa Bear), Mama Bear and Junyer Bear. The Bears' cartoons most significant impact was perhaps on Chuck Jones himself, as these films (along with the Hubie and Bertie and Charlie Dog shorts) represent some of Jones's earliest work which were strictly intended to be funny. In the golden age, they were voiced by Billy Bletcher, Bea Benaderet, and Stan Freberg respectively.
Papa Bear (also known as Henry, or as Vern in Animaniacs) is the father of Junyer Bear and the husband of Mama Bear. The voice actors Billy Bletcher, played Papa. Papa is a loud-mouthed, short-tempered, and nervous little dwarf bear. He would usually punch or kick Junyer if he does something wrong or says something stupid. He's never abusive with Mama Bear (except for near the end of "What's Brewin', Bruin?") but would sometimes act rude to her such as telling her to shut up.
Mama Bear is the mother of Junyer Bear and the wife of Papa Bear. 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. She would usually try to tell Henry something important but Henry just tells her to shut up and don't listen. While she doesn't seem to have much affection for her husband because, she took a romantic interest when Bugs Bunny flirted with her just to distract her and gave her a kiss on the lips. She took it a bit too seriously and becomes instantly smitten. After she stood up and sent her husband and son away, Mama Bear attempted to seduce Bugs for more compliments. He attempts to reject her advances, but is inevitably caught by her in the end. She then forces herself and kisses him repeatedly, leaving red lipstick kiss marks on his face.
The only member to use shoes, she wears a pink hat, a blue dress, and red slippers.
Junyer Bear (sometimes spelled Junior or Joonyer) is the child of Henry Bear and Mama Bear. He is seven-years old, yet he is twice as tall as his parents, and has a heavy voice. He is very dim-witted and childish, but has a good heart. He appears to be an adult because of his size, but still is a child. Junyer still wears diapers even though he is seven years old.
The Animator Chuck Jones introduced the trio in the 1944 cartoon "Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears". 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 Bunny.
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. As Jones himself was never shy to point out, this cartoon and others in the series anticipated the failings and foibles that would later make the sitcom All in the Family such a success. According to the documentary Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, Simpsons creator Matt Groening even acknowledged The Three Bears cartoons as the first animated depiction of the American dysfunctional family.
Jones brought back the Bears for his 1948 cartoon "What's Brewin', Bruin?", without Bugs. Here, alpha-male Papa Bear decides that it's time for the Bears to hibernate. Like any good family should, Mama Bear and Junyer Bear obey, but Mama's snoring and Junyer's creaky cradle keep Papa from getting the sleep he himself advocated. Henry's voice is here supplied by Billy Bletcher, Mama Bear's voice is supplied by Mel Blanc and Junyer's voice is here supplied by Stan Freberg , who would retain the role for all future Three Bears cartoons, including "The Bee-Deviled Bruin" and "Bear Feat", both in 1949.
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 Junyer'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, along with Hubie and Bertie and Charlie Dog, to focus on characters such as Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, Porky Pig, Pepé Le Pew, and many others.
In the early 1990s, the Three Bears were brought back and featured several times in the TV series Tiny Toon Adventures. Most famously, they appeared in an updated "90's version" of the classic Three Bears fairy tale (with Elmyra Duff playing the part of Goldilocks), which parodied suburbia and the mass commercialism prevalent in American society. Papa Bear also appeared as the vendor in the Animaniacs episode "Garage Sale of the Century".
The Three Bears make a cameo appearance in Space Jam, with Mama bear in the audience during the emergency meeting in the beginning laughing at the Nerdluck's threat and later all three are watching a basketball game.
In Looney Tunes Back in Action, the Bears are tourists in Paris. They run into D.J. Drake, whose trousers have rocketed off into the air leaving him in his underwear. DJ steals Papa Bear's trousers so he can save Jenna Elfman from a villain.
The Three Bears appear in the direct-to-video film Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas as one of the Lucky Duck employees.
The Three Bears made a guest appearance in The Looney Tunes Show episode "Ridiculous Journey", with Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Junyer Bear voiced by Maurice LaMarche, Grey DeLisle and John DiMaggio respectively.
The classic shorts:
- "The Bear's Tale"
- "Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears"
- "What's Brewin', Bruin?"
- "The Bee-Deviled Bruin"
- "Bear Feat"
- "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (Mama Bear only, cameo)
- "A Bear for Punishment"
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
- Space Jam (cameo)
- Looney Tunes Back in Action (minor appearance)
- Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (minor appearance)
Tiny Toon Adventures episodes:
The television special:
The Looney Tunes Show episode:
For the bulk of the series, the voice actors Billy Bletcher, Bea Benaderet, and Stan Freberg played Papa, Mama and Junyer, respectively. However, in the initial entry Mel Blanc played Papa and Kent Rogers played Junyer (Freberg assumed the role after Rogers's death in World War II). After the classic shorts, Will Ryan, Frank Welker and Jeff Bergman played Henry, Joe Alaskey, Tress MacNeille and June Foray played Mama. After the death of Stan Freberg in 2015, John DiMaggio played Junyer (DiMaggio first voiced Junyer in The Looney Tunes Show season 2 episode "Ridiculous Journey" while Freberg was still alive).