The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia:
Cartune Profiles: The Beary Family


History:

The original Beary Family
The original Beary Family. Click to enlarge.

Charlie Beary and his family were the stars of their own long-running series of Walter Lantz cartoons. The characters were introduced in 1962's Fowled-Up Birthday (directed by Jack Hannah) and the series lasted until the Lantz studio closed its doors. They were one of the only three cartoon series that Lantz made from 1966 to 1972 (the other two series were those of Woody and Chilly). In all, the Beary Family appeared in nearly thirty theatrical cartoons. That was more cartoons than Andy Panda appeared in during his entire career. How the Bearys managed to last so long will remain one of the biggest mysteries in the history of Walter Lantz Productions.

A Tale of Two Bessies
Bessie Beary: Before & After.

The cartoon series was loosely based on typical television sitcoms of the day. The early Beary shorts even began with an announcer saying "It's the Bearys!" The head of the Beary household was the bumbling and stubborn father, Charlie Beary, whose attempts to fix or build something to save a few dollars would always end in disaster. Charlie's wife, Bessie, was originally an attractive sitcom mother-type character. She was later redesigned into a stereotypical nagging housewife. Charlie and Bessie had two children: a dimwitted teenage son named Junior and a young daughter named Suzy. The family pet was a bow-tie wearing goose named Goose. The plots of some of the funniest Beary shorts focused on the rivalry between Charlie and Goose.

As the series went on, in addition to Bessie getting redesigned, Suzy and Goose disappeared from the films (there's another mystery of Walter Lantz Productions). The plots now revolved around only Charlie, Junior, and Bessie. The cartoons also got very repetitive. It's a good bet that a Paul J. Smith-directed Beary short of this later era would contain some sort of variation of the following dialogue:

A Beary Family puzzle
A Beary Family puzzle. Click to enlarge.

Charlie: "Okay, Bessie, we'll get a _________, but I won't pay the $10.00 to install it. I'll do it!"

Bessie (slaps her forehead and looks at the camera): "Here we go again!"

Of course, Charlie never could seem to do anything right. He would end up destroying the house and causing loads of damage in his attempt to install an air condition or an automatic garage door opener or wash his own windows. Charlie couldn't even manage to get a fish tank home from the pet store in one piece. Despite his good intentions, Charlie rarely ever got a happy ending. About 99% of Beary cartoons end with a poor, frustrated Charlie looking into the camera crying or with Bessie socking him in the stomach a few times.

Paul Frees provided the voice of Charlie Beary. Grace Stafford provided the voices of Bessie and Junior.

The Beary cartoons were syndicated to television along with the other Lantz cartoons throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. From 1987-1997, the Program Exchange had the exclusive United States television syndication rights to the Lantz shorts. They packaged a majority of the shorts as their own version of The Woody Woodpecker Show. The Beary Family cartoons were packaged in a separate series called The Beary Family Show (made up of 13 half-hour shows). However, not many stations picked up the show and it was not as widely seen as the Program Exchange's Woody show.

J.H.C.


Filmography:

1962: Fowled-Up Birthday, Mother's Little Helper

1963: Charlie's Mother-in-Law, Goose in the Rough, The Goose is Wild

1964: Rah Rah Ruckus, Rooftop Razzle Dazzle

1965: Guest Who?, Davy Cricket

1966: Foot Brawl

1967: Window Pains, Mouse in the House

1968: Jerky Turkey, Paste Makes Waste, Bugged in a Rug

1969: Gopher Broke, Charlie's Camp Out, Cool It Charlie

1970: Charlie in Hot Water, Charlie's Golf Classic, The Unhandy Man

1971: Charlie the Rainmaker, The Bungling Builder, Moochin Pooch

1972: Let Charlie Do It, A Fish Story, Rain Rain Go Away, Unlucky Potluck

In Loving Memory of Goose Beary (1962-1963)

Special Bonus for anyone who actually read an entire article devoted to the Beary Family: Yes, it's The Beary Family Song from the 1963 Woody Woodpecker Golden Record album! Everybody sing along!

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