The Berenstain Bears is a long-running children's book series created by Stan and Jan Berenstain in 1962. It centers on a family of bears composed of Mama and Papa Bear, and their children, Brother (formerly Small), Sister, and Honey Bear. Yes, those are their real names. It started out as series of simple picture books in the line of Dr. Seuss, but soon evolved into a series of story picture books for children. Starting in 1993, the Berenstains (that's the authors) began writing Big Chapter Books, which put the characters into more serious situations in much longer (but still kid-oriented) books. The picture books have also taken several formats as well, ranging from small hardcovers written in rhyme, to square picture books. Almost all of the books take the title "The Berenstain Bears and __________"Note the spelling of the name, by the way. It's a common error.There were also several animated adaptations over time: Christmas Tree, Meet Bigpaw, Easter Surprise, Valentine Special and Little Leaguer, all of which aired on NBC. A TV series aired on CBS between 1985 and 1986, and a second began in 2003 on PBS Kids. The PBS series was produced by Nelvana.
Adaptation Expansion: The cartoon adaptations of the storybooks would often add in scenes that weren't in the original stories. For example, the cartoon version of The Truth has Brother and Sister play a bit of soccer outside before they eventually go back inside and break Mama's lamp.
While the book version of Get the Gimmies simply dealt with the cubs' greed and tantrums, the cartoon inserted a "let's think of others in need" variation that changed the whole moral.
The cartoon version of The Sitter actually shows Mama & Papa Bear at the community meeting - apparently, their whole reason for going in the first place was because Papa was frustrated with the fact that the gas stations no longer served free coffee & donuts.
The cartoon version of "The Trouble with Grown Ups" gives an explanation as to Mama & Papa's bad tempers - Papa's jigsaw breaks down, so he needs to use the "for sale" section of the paper (which is why he gets mad at Brother for taking it without asking), and Mama has been expecting an important call, which is why she gets mad at Sister for hogging the phone. Also, Mama and Papa apologize for being hard on the cubs, and point out that while they agree that it isn't always easy being a cub, being a parent isn't easy either, leading to the role reversal when Brother and Sister disagree.
Adults Are Useless: Unless they're your parents or grandparents. Especially don't contact the school authorities about bullies...wait...
Aesop Amnesia: Papa Bear manages to forget one aesop in the very same book about it. He calmly tells Mama to not throw a fit because the cubs accidentally broke a vase...but when they break a window, Berserk Button.
Always Chaotic Evil: The weasels in the Bear Scouts books and the cartoon are absolutely always evil, with no exceptions.
An Aesop: Most every book tries to teach a lessonnote Moreover, each book begins with a simple four-line rhyme explaining it. Some of the Big Chapter ones are particularly hamfisted in doing so (such as No Guns Allowed, where Too-Tall gets busted for using a squirt gun).
The Boxing Episode: A portion of The Berenstain Bears and the Bully is Brother Bear teaching Sister Bear to box so that she can defend herself from a bully at school. Sister is a natural at it, from what the pictures let us see.
Deadpan Snarker: Mama, in Too Much Television. When Papa complains that he won't be able to check the weather if he can't catch the TV weather report, Mama fires back with "Try this. It's called sticking your hand out the window to see if it's raining."
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Many people think that the junk food in ...and Too Much Junk Food looks so colorful and delicious, despite the Aesop of junk food being bad for you.
Quote from one Real Life child looking at the inside cover:
"Mamma bear sad. Mamma Bear needs to eat some candy."
Early-Installment Weirdness: Aside from Brother Bear being called Small Bear, anything that was written before The Berenstain Bears New Baby (the first "First Time Book"). Later entries in those previous lines (e.g., Beginner Books) were written to reflect the First Time Books.note Which are generally considered to be the "main continuity" of the series. Moreover, the Bears themsevles had similar, but nonetheless different designs from the First Time Books.
Everyone Calls Him Brother: Everyone refers to members of the Bear family by their role in the family. Keep in mind that everyone outside the Bear family has a proper name.
Of note is the fact that, before Sister Bear was born (and as previously mentioned), Brother Bear was originally called Small Bear.
In the German translation (at least of the TV series), Brother and Sister are renamed Bastel and Suse.
Hypocritical Humor: Papa Bear, repeatedly. When Brother and Sister whine about not being allowed to watch TV for a week in Too Much Television, Papa lectures them about being good sports - and then finishes with "Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a sports show I want to watch."
Loophole Abuse: In one of the novels, a new principal establishes a school dress code, and the students hate both the new principal and the dress code. So they study the rules and on the very first day, decide to piss off the principal by doing just this, and intentionally declaring that they are not breaking any rules. "The rules say there are no blue jeans allowed...Mine are green", and "It says no Superman capes...this is a batman cape." This prompts the principal to blow his top and put in an Obvious Rule Patch mid-day.
Magic Feather: In The Bad Dream, Sister Bear goes to the local movie house to see the romantic comedy The Magic Toeshoes, which is premised entirely on this trope. (Brother opts instead to catch the infinitely cooler Space Grizzlies!)
The Moving Experience: The book Moving Day flashbacks to before Sister Bear was born and the Bear family lived in a cave, before deciding to move to their split-level tree house in Bear Country. When the book was adapted into a TV episode (in the PBS/Nelvana series), the story was appropriately told in flashback and bookended with Brother and Sister being distraught that two of their friends from school will be moving away.
Parental Hypocrisy: A mild version involving a school dress code. The kids adopt obnoxious new fashions, and due to an escalating power struggle between the acting principal who keeps making new rules and the kids using Loophole Abuse, it looks like the school will be going to uniforms... until Grandma Bear defuses the situation by hauling out photos of Papa and Mama Bear in their ludicrous Seventies attire.
Recursive Adaptation: Some episodes of the TV series were eventually turned into books themselves - twice. Some were rewritten as Berenstain Bear Scouts chapter books, which of course led to some Adaptation Expansion.
And The Sinister Smoke Ring, which featured anti-smoking protesters, Brother briefly joining Too-Tall's gang and a moose mascot that might as well just be called "Joe Camel."
Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: look at Brother in The New Baby. Kayaking, snorkeling, and all sorts of activities. The New School Year is post-Honey's birth (to the point where she's walking). Brother is in 3rd grade and Sister is in 1st. No way is Brother 2 in the first book, and no way is Sister 4 in the Bear Scout books.
Species Surname. The Bear family of course, but also Dr and Too-Tall Grizzly, the Ursus family, Queeny Mc Bear, Lizzy Bruin, and practically every other character has a surname that is some variation of the word Bear.
Steam Never Dies: Sister and Brother Berenstain may eat too much modern junk food, watch too much TV and do their homework on a computer, but when the time comes to take the train to visit Aunt Tilly, suddenly it's 1899 all over again. The Grizzly Express comes complete with steam engine, caboose, coal car, coal tender, dining car, and engineers wearing blue coveralls and funny hats.
Stock Sound Effects: In the audiobook production of The Berenstain Bears and the Baby Chipmunk, the sound effect for the squealing of the chipmunk should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever owned a guinea pig.
What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the dog? An early book depicts them getting a pet dog who is never shown again. (If not extremely rarely) Granted, she appears in the 2003 Cartoon a few times.
Women Are Wiser: Except for that incident in Messy Room where she lost her temper and started throwing out all the cubs' toys out and Papa got to be the voice of reason, Mama is always right and Papa is always wrong. (In some of the rhyming advice books, he's not just wrong, but almost lethally stupid.)
Thankfully, there was another moment where, after the Slumber Party goes a little too out of hand, Papa mentions that maybe it was their fault too, since they didn't ask if Lizzie's parents would be home.