THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
April 9, 2015 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“Smokey and His Friends”

Here’s a curio I found while looking through animated films at the National Archives: Smokey and his Friends. This strange largely live action short features a fully animated Smokey giving us a little check up on various Forest animals, with stock musical score semi-awkwardly cut together. The point of this particular short isn’t clear beyond a short plug to prevent forest fires. The archive lists this short as being from 1969. Here it is, from a DVD shot off a flatbed there:

It turns out the National Archives has posted some of the PSAs and shorts themselves as well. Here’s a little short called Smokey the Bear and the Little Boy, animated by Era Productions in 1960:

Here’s one from around the time of Smokey and the Little Boy above. Of course, many of you will recognize the voiceover narrator immediately – the little boy sounds like young Billy Mumy:

There’s a much earlier spot that the National Archives has put up. My guess is late 50s:

I really like the cute design of Smokey is this spot, from Canada-possibly early to mid-50s:

Here are some later Smoky-related PSAs, posted by the National Archives. There’s a little animation in these, though not much. The one with the mask is especially creepy, and the one with the singing is just plain strange.

Of course, you can’t talk about the animated Smoky Bear without the mention of his TV show, from Toei Animation:

This one isn’t animated, but has the unmistakable voice of Paul Winchell with his puppet Knucklehead:

And finally, a PSA from 1993 that outright steals without shame the famous Preston Blair skip cycle at the beginning:

It seemed like PSAs were on all the time between cartoons on the mostly UHF stations I watched as a kid. The little PSA shorts above reminded me of ‘Snipits’, little short educational shorts that appeared on TV in the early 70s through the 80s. Some of these would have the kids yell “SNIPITS!” followed by Hot Butter’s electronic classic ‘Popcorn’ music.

Here’s one I especially remember, a little clay animated monster eating badly, followed by a Woodsy Owl “Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute” psa. Both of these appear to be interrupting a pre-48 Warner Package.

Have a great week all!

29 Comments

  • Wow. That ’93 animation sure is punchy; hitting virtually every dialogue accent with gestures. Gee, slow down.

    I’d accept that the squirrel’s skip is an homage. It seems to be originally from Screwball Squirrel (see 00:35) :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXQn4Qoont8

    • The Screwball Squirrel skip is also prominently featured in Preston Blair’s how to animate books, which were around decades before this commercial.

  • Smokey also shows up as a running gag throughout the 1957 Walter Lantz short “Red Riding Hoodwinked“, (which has a strong story by Milt Schaffer and Dick Kinney that loses some of its effect — including the Smokey gags — thanks to Paul J. Smith’s direction).

    • There’s also the Disney short “In The Bag” where he comes to stop Humphrey from burning a pile of trash (rather a cheap insertion the way they ‘animate’ his walk past the camera).

  • The Smokey The Bear ( aka Smokey Bear) cartoon from the 1970’s was produced by Rankin Bass and animated by Toei Studios of Japan who also did King Kong and Kid Power (based on the comic strip Wee Pals) for Rankin Bass.

  • And lest we forget that unforgettable cameo in the (Disney) film “In the Bag!”

    • I was thinking about it last week, and how they went about depicting him as if they didn’t want to divert too far from the publicity materials the way he walks off camera as just a cut-out!

  • I like Smokey Bear a whole lot- thanks for posting!

  • I had an actual Smokey Bear Junior Forest Ranger badge like the one he gives the kid. If you sent a request to the Department of Agriculture you got a kit including the badge, a membership card, an “autographed” postcard of the real Smokey at the National Zoo, and a few other goodies.

    I remember one other animated spot that opened and closed with Smokey; the middle was clips from the forest fire in “Bambi” with familiar stock music.

  • The point of this particular short isn’t clear beyond a short plug to prevent forest fires.

    The fact that it’s kinda short, it could pass off as some extended PSA on TV, but really not much else besides Smokey having to remind us of what he had lost personanlly as a cub.

    It turns out the National Archives has posted some of the PSAs and shorts themselves as well. Here’s a little short called Smokey the Bear and the Little Boy, animated by Era Productions in 1960:

    I recall another copy on YouTube not from the National Archives, but from a group called “A/V Geeks” that otherwise comes from a typical library print complete with several spliced repairs and pinkish color quality, that’s the print I saw first.
    http://www.avgeeks.com/wp2/smokey-and-the-little-boy/

    For more esoterical fun, clips from this showed up over 30 years ago as an intermission bumper used by MTV to fill in ad time during it’s early years (though choosing to drop Smokey and combined clips of “The Little Boy” with stock shots of a guy slicing meat through a grinder and space exploration).
    http://www.retrojunk.com/commercial/show/25589/mtv-intermission

    Here are some later Smoky-related PSAs, posted by the National Archives. There’s a little animation in these, though not much. The one with the mask is especially creepy, and the one with the singing is just plain strange.

    I remember the one with the mask popping up on a Rhino VHS tape of commercials put out back in the 80’s, certainly stuck out like a sore thumb alongside the “VD is for Everybody” song.

    It seemed like PSAs were on all the time between cartoons on the mostly UHF stations I watched as a kid. The little PSA shorts above reminded me of ‘Snipits’, little short educational shorts that appeared on TV in the early 70s through the 80s. Some of these would have the kids yell “SNIPITS!” followed by Hot Butter’s electronic classic ‘Popcorn’ music.

    Never saw these, but apparently they were a mainstay on Kaiser/Fields stations like WKBD (Detroit) and WFLD (Chicago) before the mid 80’s. Doesn’t surprise me if other stations picked up on these along the way like WCIX in Miami.

  • It sounds like Smokey is voiced by Jim Cummings in the ’93 PSA.

  • We would be remiss if we failed to mention the infamous Dudley Do-Right episode, “Stokey the Bear”, that so enraged the U.S. Forest Service that the offending cartoon was removed from future airings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn2KDisoo5w

  • Smokey the Bear and the Little Boy (1960)

    Was this ever released theatrically? I’m only wondering since the quality in this film seems to to be superior compared to the rest.

    • I would assume that film was played in school classrooms personally. That seemed like an adequate place for such a film. The same perhaps for “Smokey and his Friends” though that one doesn’t have much meat to it, that one could have been played on theater screens (the placement of the AD Council logo looks about right with a matted widescreen presentation.

  • Yeah, I remember “SNIPETS”.
    KBHK-TV (now KBCW) was a Kaiser/Field station.
    I was born 7/25/1968.

  • “Help Woodsy spread the word
    Never be a dirty bird
    In the city or in the woods
    Please keep America looking good
    Hoot! Hoot!”

    (That’s from memory.)

  • Of course I’m suddenly reminded of Gene Autry’s 1952 “Smokey The Bear” recording. The U.S. Forest Service prefers referring to their mascot as “Smokey Bear” (with no “the”).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpWS2bmX7xY

    • I had a Little Golden recording (yellow vinyl) of the Smokey theme: “prowlin’ and a-growlin’ and a-sniffin’ the air… he can find a fire before it starts to flame…”
      I recall it was Jackson Weaver, a DC-area radio personality, who was Smokey’s original voice. (Or there may have been someone who did it before him.)

  • So, who was that very Raquel Welch-like beauty in the “mask” spot, anyway?
    I have a mid-70’s record of Smokey radio spots that includes one using a re-creation of David Seville’s “Chipmunk Song.” As far as I know, they never animated it for TV. After some byplay with an unknown announcer playing “Dave,” the “munks” sing:
    Thank you from the singing birds,
    Glad you heard our many words.
    Joining in with Smokey Bear,
    We’re so happy that you care.
    Thank you from the forest deer,
    (Alvin:) DIDN’T THINK YOU’D EVER HEAR!!
    Thank you from the birds and bees,
    Be careful next year, please!

  • Wow Steve, these are great! Is that Diane Keaton who removes her mask to reveal the creepy Smoky underneath?

  • For the record: Billy Mumy has confirmed on his Facebook page that the commercial above WAS his first voice over job in 1960!

  • @Jeff Missinne & Ken Priebe, that’s Joanna Cassidy (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit”).

  • So the question remains:Is Smokey’s middle name “The”?

  • On the Flinstones episode Hawaiian Escapades Fred ( who yet discovered another Brontosaurus steak incinerated on the grill) said “Wilma better have a talk with Smokey the Bear!”

  • That 1993 animated PSA is a good self parody of The Smokey the Bear ethos.

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