A fond look at the vinyl version of a ’70s holiday TV staple–though sadly little seen today—with characters revived in the ’80s with a second special and a line of merchandise.
THE BEAR WHO SLEPT THROUGH CHRISTMAS
In Story and Song
Starland Records S-1034 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP)
Released in 1983. A DimenMark Music Production. Executive Producer: Thomas A. Mayfield, Producer, Arranger, Orchestrator, Conductor: Larry Mayfield. Writers: Larry & Diane Mayfield, John Barrett. Drama Director: John Barrett. Engineers: John Bolt, Bob Clark, Ed Yelin. Remix: Toby Foster. Mastering: Steve Hall. Running Time: 25 minutes.
DePatie-Freleng produced quite a handful of primetime specials–getting the most acclaim for the Dr. Seuss ones–but there was one special that enjoyed a good run on broadcast, cable and early video releases. 1973’s The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas, originally sponsored by FTD Florists on NBC, was a perfect fit for the charming, unpretentious DFE style.
Voices: Tommy Smothers (Ted E. Bear); June Foray (Patti Bear); Louie Nye (Professor Werner Von Bear); Sue Raney (Narrator).
Songs: “Where Can I Find Christmas?” “Merry Christmas” by Doug Goodwin; “Ted E. Bear,” “The Happiest Time of the Year,” “Santa Song,” “My Christmas Tree,” “I’ll Take Christmas With Me” by Larry Mayfield.
A decade later, Ted E. Bear and the characters from the special reappeared in a new line of merchandise including books, plush and recordings, along with a new special called “The Great Bear Scare”, produced by Rick Reinert Productions—which also had a hand in the merchandise art (Reinert’s company also supplied animation for Disney, including “Winnie the Pooh and A Day for Eeyore”).
Writer John Barrett, who is credited on the special (with as well as DePatie-Freleng’s Return to the Planet of the Apes series), was clearly the connection between the characters’ 1973 genesis and their return ten years later.
The appealing concept of Bearbank, a whimsical city populated by potential plush, as a potential franchise made sense. (Facts about what became of the whole enterprise would be most welcome.)
To animation recording fans, the best result of Ted’s rebirth was this 1983 album. Though not a soundtrack, it is a fully-orchestrated collection of pleasant songs with short story continuity between them.
The lush, string-laden sound of the album was a delightful surprise in an era in which synth music was the dominant sound for animation and kids’ records—and even on this album, there is an electronic drum kit making that “Piow! Piow!” sound some may remember from the early days of Entertainment Tonight.
In addition to original songs by Larry Mayfield, the album includes the two songs from the DePatie-Freleng film: “Merry Christmas” (heard as Ted explored the city during the holiday season) and the ballad, “Where Can I Find Christmas?”, which was the overall theme. This song was also recorded by Johnny Mathis. All the other songs are original compositions by the album producer/arranger, Larry Mayfield.
In his new (and very much welcome) book, Think Pink: The Story of DePatie-Freleng, Goodwin told author Mark Arnold, “I wrote ‘Where Can I Find Christmas?’ for a special that was called The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas. It was pretty much up to David or Friz to choose the songs or composer. I was fortunate to find out that they liked what I wrote and it was going along well so they chose me for the majority of them.”
The The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas TV special is available through amazon, iTunes and other streaming services, but has never had a proper DVD release, nor has this album ever seen reissue. It’s too bad, because Ted E. Bear and his fellow residents of Bearbank are very appealing and still could be a viable franchise.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Where Can I Find Christmas?”
This Doug Goodwin song demonstrates the formatting of the record album. It is not a story, but a set of songs with occasional narration and dialogue bridging the music.
Ted E. Bear and Friends in
THE SUMMER IT SNOWED IN BEARBANK
Starland Records S-2000 (7” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Book / 6 Minutes)
THE FIRST BEAR IN SPACE
Starland Records S-2001 (7” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Book/ 6 Minutes)
Released in 1983. A DimenMark Music Production. Producer/Director: John Barrett. Editing, Mixing, Engineering: Ed Yelin. “Ted E. Bear” Song by Larry Mayfield.
Voices: Tommy Smothers (Ted E. Bear); June Foray (Patti Bear); Louie Nye (Professor Werner Von Bear, Store Bear, Bum Bear); Sue Raney (Narrator).
These read along sets were adapted from stories also sold as part of the Ted E. Bear book series, all with Reinert art. For the above album and these two records, renowned jazz singer Sue Raney narrated and Tommy Smothers returned to the role of Ted. June Foray portrayed Patti Bear, who in the’80s incarnation was a blend of two characters from the film—Ted’s girlfriend and a Bearwitness News reporter. Comedy legend Louie Nye (The Steve Allen Show) played Professor Von Bear and other roles. (In the original special, Patty was played by Barbara Feldon, Von Bear was Arte Johnson and Casey Kasem narrated.)