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Barney Bear is a series of cartoons produced for MGM between 1939-1954. The title character is an anthropomorphic cartoon character, a sluggish, sleepy bear who often is in pursuit of nothing, except for peace and quiet.
The character was created for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by director Rudolf Ising, who based the bear's grumpy yet pleasant disposition on his own and derived many of his mannerisms from the screen actor Wallace Beery. Barney Bear made his first appearance in The Bear That Couldn't Sleep in 1939, and by 1941 was the star of his own series, getting an Oscar nomination for the 1941 short The Rookie Bear. Ising left the studio in 1943.
Ising's original Barney design contained a plethora of detail: shaggy fur, wrinkled clothing, and six eyebrows; as the series progressed, the design was gradually simplified and streamlined, reaching its peak in three late 1940s shorts, the only output of the short-lived directorial team of Preston Blair and Michael Lah. These cartoons tended to have a hint of Tex Avery's influence and more stylilized, rubbery movements—which wasn't surprising, as both worked as animators (and Lah ultimately as co-director) on several of Avery's pictures. Avery himself never directed a Barney short. The last original Barney Bear cartoons were released between 1952 and 1954, and Dick Lundy was responsible for those. In the films from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Barney's design was streamlined and simplified, much the same as those of Tom and Jerry were.
In the 1941 cartoon The Prospecting Bear, Barney is paired with a donkey named Benny Burro. Though Benny would only make two further cartoon appearances, he would later feature as Barney's partner in numerous comic book stories.
The 1952 cartoon Rock-a-Bye Bear by Tex Avery features his irritable, obnoxious, noise-sensitive twin brother, Joe Bear (voiced by Daws Butler). Also, in the 1944 Tex Avery cartoon Screwball Squirrel, Barney Bear is mentioned by Sammy Squirrel as he talks to Screwy Squirrel at the beginning.
The 1953 cartoon Barney's Hungry Cousin is the first known mentioning of Jellystone Park, the later home of Hanna-Barbera's Yogi Bear. Like Yogi, the titular cousin eats (often by theft) copious amounts of other people's food (including Barney).
The character was retired in 1954 due to the directors who directed his cartoons leaving the MGM Cartoon studio.
Barney Bear would not appear in new material again until Filmation's The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show in 1980. More recently, Barney Bear appeared in the direct-to-video films Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse in 2012 and in Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure in 2013. Giant Adventure once again paired Barney with Benny Burro.
Home Video ReleasesEdit
The only official material featuring several Barney Bear cartoons is the MGM Happy Harmonies LaserDisc. Only one side of the LaserDisc contains them, which means the full series has not been officially released with restored negatives by Warner Bros. As of October 2017, there are no plans to restore and release the series by Warner Home Video.