DVD Review: Help!…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! (The Complete Series)

The memory remains of glimpsing Help!…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch as a young child. My instant reaction was thinking Yogi Bear had tried too hard to look hip. He was now sporting a giant afro, an orange vest, a low slung belt and a green neck scarf. What bear dresses like that? Was this really an updating of outlaw from Jellystone Park to make him cool for 1971? Turns out that Hair Bear wasn’t really Yogi Bear because he was called Hair Bear. Although both Yogi Bear and Hair Bear were voiced by the legendary Daws Butler. But they’re not the same. Yogi merely had a single cohort in Boo Boo. Hair Bear pals around with Bubi Bear (Paul Winchell), and Square Bear (William Callaway). Hair Bear lived in a zoo while Yogi was stuck on a federal park. Hair Bear and his bunch have a sweet life at the zoo since their cave can secretly convert to a swinging pad with the touch of a few buttons. Yogi’s cave just had a bed that he shared with Boo Boo. Instead of Ranger Smith, Hair Bear had to deal with zookeeper Mr. Eustace P. Peevly (John Stephenson) and his goon Lionel J. Botch (Car 54‘s Joe E. Ross). Yogi merely escaped to get more food. Hair Bear sneaks out of the Wonderland Zoo for get rich schemes. This is where the show really differs from Yogi Bear and becomes an ursine update of Tennessee Tuxedo except without educational lessons from Mr. Whoopee and the 3-D Blackboard. Help!…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch: The Complete Series contains all 16 swinging episodes.

“Keep Your Keeper” has the classic zoo prank of faking the zoo keeper into thinking they’re sick with a rare disease so go on a recovery vacation. Naturally the replacement turns out to be meaner to the animals. “Rare Bear Bungle” puts a new bear in the Hair Bear bunch’s cave. They sense that the new guy is Peevly’s snitch. “Raffle Ruckus” lets Hair Bear win the zoo via a drawing. He quickly learns it’s a harder thing to run. “Bridal Boo Boo” makes the bears hook up Peevly with a dating service. Turns out his perfect match woman is evil. “No Space Like Home” launches Hair Bear and Peevly into outer space. Guess which one is a hit with an alien culture? “Ark Lark” is a Noah inspired scheme. “Gobs of Gabaloons” breaks all labor laws when Peevly forces the animals to make a pool. How is that going to pass city inspector. “Closed Circuit TV” lets Hair Bear use the new security cameras to launch his showbiz career. Is the birth of the Kardashians?

“The Bear Who Came to Dinner” threatens to send the bears to a National Forest. This would lead to them really becoming an updated version of Yogi Bear. “Unbearably Peevly” disguises him and Botch as bears to get the skinny on their inmates. The plan backfires when the duo are mistaken for another pair of bears. Will they get to spend their lives behind bars? “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” makes the trio movie stars when they work with an actress bent on changing the fairytale. The bears object to their new feeding schedule on “The Diet Caper.” They dig out of the zoo except the other end of the tunnel enters a haunted house. “King Kong versus the Masked Marvel” is the classic tale of a gorilla training to fight a wrestler for a major prize.

For the longest time, I thought that Joe Flynn did the voice of Mr. Peevly instead of Stephenson. They sounded the same. It made sense to have the stars of McHale’s Navy and Car 54, Where Are You? on the same cartoon. Although unlike Hanna-Barbera’s constant use of characters that sound like Phil Silvers, they had brought Flynn into the studio. But somehow the former Captain Binghamton wasn’t the tone they wanted for the character. Thus Stephenson was brought into the sound booth to do a more appropriate version of Flynn.

Help!,…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! is a classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon that does its best to look cool for the times without doing too much heavy lifting in characters and scripts. It really does play like an updated Yogi Bear with a hot haircut along with an informal touch of Tennessee Tuxedo. Compared to so many of the Saturday morning shows created by Hanna-Barbera, Hair Bear Bunch is second tier although far from the bottom of their creative barrel. A lot of the fun comes in how it reworks their older material. It’s hilarious to see this as a middle aged Yogi Bear getting a Mr. Brady dad perm afro to look hip for the kids. You might need two bowls of cereal to truly enjoy their zoo based adventures.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are relatively clear. While the set is part of Warner Archive’s manufacture on demand program, the review copy was on DVDs and not DVD-Rs. They might still offer them that way. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can clearly hear Joe E. Ross’s patter.

No bonus features.

Help!,…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! is all about a bear doing his best to look groovy in 1971. He’s trying to look as cool as the kids on Scooby Doo. The show redoes a lot of previous scripts from the Hanna-Barbera library. It’s fun to have Joe E. Ross doing his “Ooo Ooo” routine before taking that schtick to Hong Kong Phooey.

Warner Archive presents Help!,…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! Starring: Daws Butler, Joe E. Ross, Paul Winchell and John Stephenson. Boxset Contents: 16 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: March 12, 2013.

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