Literature / The Berenstain Bears
Do we have to call them the "modern Wood Age family"?

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 that the name is spelled Berenstain. Spelling it Berenstein is a very 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.

Tropes present:

  • Absentee Actor: In the 2003 series, Mama was missing from "On the Job", "Big Road Race" and "White Water Adventure", Papa was missing from "The Giddy Grandma", "On the Job", "Big Road Race" and "White Water Adventure", Brother was missing from "The Giddy Grandma", and Sister was missing from "On the Job".
  • Abusive Parents: Tuffy's reason why she became a bully in The Bully.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Once they get over the initial shock, this is Mama and Papa's reaction to the "Trouble with Grownups" play in the PBS version; in the picture book Mama Bear laughs with tears in her eyes in the audience while Papa stares in bewilderment. With the idea that turnabout is fair play when Mama and Papa dress up as the cubs.
    • Also, this is how the entire family reacts in the picture book of "Too Much Vacation" when they review their vacation photos, with appropriate captions.
    • Sister, after Brother Bear scares her with a mystery he reads aloud, is able to tease him about it after Papa Bear installs a nightlight in their bedroom. Meanwhile, ironically enough, Brother Bear is creeped out by the Nightmare Face she makes.
  • 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 (probably because the original storyline would have been narmy and unfitting with the slow-paced tone of the show).
    • 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 Grownups" 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. Just like in the book, Brother and Sister promise to take newspapers from the recycling box when they need one and to try to stop using the phone so much respectively, but Mama and Papa also promise to try and be more patient with their children whenever things get stressful.
    • The cartoon version of "Too Much Junk Food" gives Papa and the cubs a reason to quit junk food - an annual race is coming up in Bear Country and the three find themselves wearing out after running a few miles. A visit to Dr. Grizzly has them realize they have to start eating healthy in order become fit for the race. One notable difference is that in the book Mama puts the junk food in the freezer so that the family would forget about them, whereas in the cartoon the cubs themselves put the snacks in the freezer after their visit to Dr. Grizzly. Also, in original book, Mama and Dr. Grizzly manage to take the family clean off junk food, whereas the cartoon is more moderate with Dr. Grizzly stating that it's okay to eat such things from time to time.
    • "Forget Their Manners", in the original book, was a glaringly obvious case of Compressed Vice; Brother, Sister, and Papa clean out of nowhere just suddenly forget everything about being polite for absolutely no reason. The cartoon version addresses this by having Brother and Sister attend a party that Too-Tall happens to be at, and his rude manners manage to rub off onto them.
    • "Get in a Fight" is also a good example of addressing Compressed Vice. In the original book, Brother and Sister getting into a fight with each other is mostly just shrugged off, and they just wake up one day angry at each other. In the cartoon version, there's buildup about "waking up on the wrong side of bed", and what happens when two people wake up in such a way.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Mr. Smock and Bertha Broom have been re-named Mr. Drewberry and Betsy respectively in the 2003 TV series.
  • 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.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: In the PBS version of "New Neighbors," one of the reasons is that the mother of the house of the new neighbors rides a motorcycle, and Papa Bear apparently has this stereotype. Things finally come out alright in the end when Mama Bear ends up finding the motorcycle rather helpful for things like errands, and Papa resolves his feelings about the father of the house, whose lawn-mower machine he didn't trust at first.
  • 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 . 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).
    • Reality Is Unrealistic: Under super-strict zero-tolerance (read zero-thinking) rules, kids can and have been suspended or even expelled simply for bringing squirt guns to schools, even if it was only by mistake. In certain cases, kids have even faced prosecution for this.
  • Animated Adaptation: See above.
  • Animated Musical: The original specials have a music number roughly every five minutes or so.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Too-Tall originally comes up with the nickname "Wheels" for the wheelchair-bound Harry McGill to mock him, but Harry adopts the nickname and asks everyone to call him that.
  • Artistic License Animal Care: In "Trouble with Pets", the family covers every puppy care ground, stressing the importance of responsibility — until Lady chews up the living room. Then, Papa builds her a house and a fenced in area out in the yard, with the assumption that she'll be living out there from now on. This really isn't the best place to keep a dog, especially if you're doing it to avoid dealing with a behavioral issue.
  • Artistic License Law: In the chapter book The G-Rex Bones, the Bear Detectives expose a plot by Raffish Ralph and Dr. Zoltan Bearish to sell a fake set of dinosaur bones to the local museum. Professor Actual Factual intervenes when the police move to arrest the swindlers, pointing out that there's no law against attempting to perform a swindle. Actually, there is; in many jurisdictions, a mere attempt to commit a crime is illegal. (Then again, maybe Bear Country has different laws?)
  • Aside Glance: At the end of the PBS animated version of "Double Dare", when Mama Bear asks Brother Bear if getting Sister Bear's jump rope back from Too-Tall and his gang was really as easy as simply asking him for it, he admits "Well, it wasn't really that easy," then tosses a wink at the audience regarding the hijinks he went through in the story.
  • A Weighty Aesop: Too Much Junk Food is Exactly What It Says on the Tin - all the Bears save Mama end up eating too much junk food, and it takes a visit to the doctor to Scare 'em Straight. Ironically, some people have noted that said junk food is highly colorful and delectable.
  • Bad Dreams: This is the topic of "The Bad Dream" — in both Brother and Sister's nightmares, the Space Grizzlies appear and come after them.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Most of the characters in Bear Country. Professor Actual Factual wears spats over his feet while Bigpaw goes au naturale.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Done in the book "The Berenstain Bears and the Ghost of the Forest" (which was also done as an episode of the 80s TV series, "Bust a Ghost"). Papa Bear decides to scare the Cub Scouts on an overnight forest camping trip by disguising as the "Ghost of the Forest" by wearing an old white sheet with two eyeholes cut in it. Scout Leader Jane overhears Papa's plan and decides to get back by crafting her own stick-and-leaves ghost face rigged with a flashlight, effectively scaring Papa and foiling his plan.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Brother has this for Sister Bear, so that he's prepared to beat up Tuffy up until realizing that she's a girl. He then goes to Plan B, teaching Sister how to defend herself.
  • Big Guy: Too-Tall.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    • Papa Bear screams "QUIEEEEEEETTTTTTTT!!!!" in Messy Room after running in to see what the commotion is when Mama begins throwing out Brother and Sister's belongings.
    • Also happens in the TV version of "The Slumber Party", done by Lizzie's babysitter (once again with a loud "QUIEEEET!").
  • Bittersweet Ending: A rare one in "The Bully"; Sister punches out Tuffy, the cub who had earlier beat her senseless, but comes to understand Tuffy's bad behavior when she makes a tearful confession of how her parents tend to treat her. Sister is visibly saddened by Tuffy's story, and while Sister is not punished for acting out of self-defense, Tuffy is assigned to see the school counselor about her behavior.
  • Bland-Name Product: Brother has a handheld console called a Game Bear.
  • 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.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: With the addition of Honey Bear.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The ending line of the Animated Adaptation's theme:
    "You may think that this starts our show / Well, it does!"
    • To the tune of John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," by the way.
  • Broken Aesop: The Berenstain Bears' New Neighbours has an anti-racist aesopnote  - which really falls apart when you take into account weasels are consistently protrayed as bad guys. Racism is only bad when you do it towards pandas...?
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Too Tall has moments of this, such as fawning over a kitten.
  • Bumbling Dad: Papa Bear, though he is the voice of reason in Messy Room. The 2003 series somewhat tones this down and makes him wiser and more helpful, while still acting goofy once in a while.
  • The Bully:
    • Too-Tall Grizzly is the thuggish leader of a gang of bullies - aptly called the Too-Tall Gang - who harass Brother and Sister Bear from time to time.
    • Tuffy from "The Bully", although she ceases her behavior by the end of the episode.
  • Canon Immigrant: Raffish Ralph (later renamed Ralph Ripoff) and Weasel McGreed from the 1980s cartoon.
  • Catch-Phrase: "I don't know if I can stand the excitement." The 1980s cartoon version of Brother often said this in Sarcasm Mode.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase
  • Christmas Episode: The NBC special The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree
  • Clueless Aesop: See here for the 8 most awkward titles.
    • If your immediate reaction to #1's cover is "Fantastic Racism!", TV Tropes Ruined Your Life. ( Or you've already been to the trope page and seen it as the page image.)
    • One of the books had an anti-TV Aesop. It was adapted into an episode of the 2003 TV series. Three guesses as to why that's hard to take seriously.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The TV version of "Too Much TV" has this little tidbit.
    Mama: (attempting to get the cubs to go out and play instead of watch TV) It's a beautiful day outside. Look at all that sunshine!
    Brother: I know. The glare is wrecking the picture. (closes the drapes)
  • Compliment Backfire: Happens in TV adaptation of The Truth:
    Brother: Come on Sister, you like soccer and you're pretty good for a girl.
    Sister: Pretty good for a girl!? What's that supposed to mean?
  • Compressed Vice: The plot point of several books, among them: eating too much junk food, watching too much television, throwing tantrums, and forgetting their manners. It gets lampshaded in the Christmas book, where Sister feels guilty recalling some of these adventures while wondering if Santa Bear will label her as naughty.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • During Papa's holiday monologue in The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw, the melody from the closing number of The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree plays when Papa touches on Christmas.
    • Speaking of Christmas, during The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear, Sister has flashbacks to The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight, The Berenstain Bears and The Truth, and The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room when she's recalling times she hasn't been good.
    • The Big Chapter Books are chock-full of these. Events that took place in previous books get referred to in later books.
  • Cool Old Guy/Cool Old Lady:
    • The Week at Grandma's has Brother and Sister find this out about their grandparents.
    • And The Sitter reveals that Ms. Grizzle is more fun than Brother and Sister's first encounters with her would suggest.
  • Darker and Edgier: Many of the Big Chapter Books, which deal with subjects such as theft and even drug dealing.
  • 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."
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Too-Tall becomes friends with Harry McGill, a Handicapped Badass he was taunting, after the latter beat him in wheelchair basketball. Harry also thanks him for giving him a cool nickname, "Wheels."
  • The Dentist Episode: In Visit the Dentist, Sister has a loose tooth, and Brother has a dentist appointment at Dr. Bearson's around the same time. Brother tells Sister that if she doesn't get her loose tooth out by the time they go to the dentist, Dr. Bearson will yank it out, frightening her. Karma catches up with Brother when it is revealed that he has a small cavity, and has to have Dr. Bearson fill it for him. Afterwards, Dr. Bearson gently helps Sister pull out her loose tooth so she can put it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy. This book was also adapted into an episode of the 2003 Animated Adaptation.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Brother Bear after reading a scary mystery to Sister notices that she's having trouble falling asleep at night. He then makes a scary noise, which causes her to have a Freak Out! and call for Mama and Papa. Afterward, she refuses to sleep with the lights off, which keeps him awake because he can't sleep after she turns on the lights. The end result is that everyone is exhausted in the morning, and
    • Miss Glitch sending Queenie home for wearing a miniskirt. Principal Honeycomb gets a phone call from Queenie's mother, who tells him off because Miss Glitch isn't Queenie's teacher. In addition, the miniskirt was an outfit that Queenie's mother wore as a cub, and thus should be school appropriate. This ends up instigating a fashion war between the cub students and a good portion of the teachers when Mr. Honeycomb has to leave on a business trip.
  • The Ditherer: In the PBS animated series, when issues are brought before the town council, the response from the person leading the meeting is always as follows: "X is of great concern to our town council and I can assure you we will reach a decision on the matter at the appropriate time..."
  • 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  Moreover, the Bears themselves had similar, but nonetheless different designs from the First Time Books.
  • Easter Special: The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise.
  • Empathic Environment: In Get in a Fight, Brother and Sister suddenly have a feud midway through the book and the moment they draw a line between each other while sitting on their tree house, rain suddenly pours. It gets even worse when they end up arguing with each other and a thunderstorm suddenly precipitates, and right after Mama solves the problem and the cubs apologize to each other, the storm fades away.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": 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.
    • The pattern stopped in 2000 with the introduction of Honey Bear.
    • Brother and Sister's cousin Fred is called "Cousin Fred" by everyone, even teachers.
    • Lampshaded with Papa's full name: Papa Q. Bear.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs frequently pop up throughout the franchise, mainly because Brother is a dinosaur-lover. One book was even titled "Brother Bear Loves Dinosaurs."
  • Exact Words: In the 2003 animated series story "The Female Fullback," Betsy never told Brother, Freddy and Too Tall's football team that she would play in their big game, only that she would help them. And though they didn't realize it at the time, she did, by putting them variously through regimens of basketball, track and ballet, which provided them with needed skills for their football game.
  • Exploding Closet: Inevitable in Messy Room, where Mama gets buried underneath Brother and Sister's toys.
  • Facepalm: This is Mama Bear's reaction in "The Green-Eyed Monster" from the PBS series when she explains the green-eyed monster to Sister Bear after she wants to ride Brother's bike and she just whines "But Mama, it's such a beautiful bike."
  • Feud Episode: Get In A Fight deals with Brother and Sister getting into a bitter argument with each other.
  • Fictional Counterpart:
  • First Pet Story: The Trouble With Pets.
  • F--: Downplayed, and also Played for Drama in The Trouble at School. Because Brother has put off studying all his work during sick days, he is completely unprepared for a quiz (a test in the TV version) that happens to be on the same day he returns. In both versions, he performs exceptionally poorly; the book version doesn't explicitly stated any grade he makes, but the teacher writes "Very poor! Must be signed by a parent!" on it. In the TV version, his demands that Brother get it signed are only spoken out, and his grade on the test is a zero.
  • Freudian Excuse: The whole reason Tuffy was a bully in The Bully was because she got badly abused by her parents at home.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: In "Big Bear, Small Bear" on the PBS version, when Sister Bear tells Papa that he's not that old, that there are some dinosaurs older than him, he subjects her to the "tickle-o-saurus."
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Berenstain Bears and the Dress Code has two: B.O.R.E.note  and F.R.E.E.S.note 
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: For the longest time, The Bear family consisted of Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear. This balance was undone with the introduction of Honey Bear in 2000.
  • Genre Blindness: In-universe example. In the TV version of "Too Much TV", a crime drama show that Brother and Sister are watching has them irritated at the characters missing incredibly obvious clues.
    Brother: I knew that guy was the crook a half hour ago!
    Sister: Me too.
    Detective in show: Do you recognize this bear? (holds up an image of a person who obviously runs a hot dog stand, and was already seen in the background just a second ago)
    Brother: It's the hot dog bear!
    Woman in show: Why, is that the hot dog bear?
    Brother: Ugh! (He grabs his pillow in irritation and does a Face Palm with it)
  • Given Name Reveal: Towards the end of The Berenstain Bear Scouts Save That Backscratcher, Gramps's real name is revealed to be Ernest when Mayor Honeypot recognizes him as an old friend of his.
  • Grandfather Clause: Decades into the franchise, the Bear family's regular attire has not changed, with some of it being obsolete — notably Mama Bear's polka dot house dress and matching nightcap.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In The Green-Eyed Monster, Sister is overcome with this when she sees Brother's brand-new bicycle. That night, she has a dream where she meets up with said monster, and when she gets on the bike, it grows in size until it crashes. Toward the end, it starts to get to Papa when he notices Mr. Bruin's new car, but is quickly subdued when Sister warns him.
  • Handicapped Badass: Harry McGill, a wheelchair-bound computer genius, skilled chess player, and former wheelchair basketball player introduced in The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The 1985 animated adaptation of "Too Much Birthday" has everyone sing to the tune of "London Bridge,"
    ''"Happy birthday, Sister Bear,
    Sister Bear, Sister Bear,
    Happy birthday Sister Bear,
    We all love you!"''
  • Heaven Above: When Goldie the fish dies, Papa Bear says that she went to the a big castle in the sky, a metaphor for the afterlife.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Papa Bear, repeatedly. When Brother and Sister complain about not being allowed to watch TV for a week in Too Much Television (not as a punishment, but just because Mama felt the family needed a break from it), 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." He's shocked when he learns that the week-long TV ban also applies to him.
  • Hypocrite: In the chapter book about the dress code, one of the teachers turns up at the Bear family's house to drum up support for a scheduled meeting for a debate about the dress code. Brother happens to be present and asks about the band concert that was previously scheduled at that time. When the teacher brushes off his concerns by claiming the debate is more important and the concert will be rescheduled, Brother storms up to his room in a fit of temper. The narration tells us Brother and the rest of the band want the concert (a school-sponsored event) to be over soon so they can move on; the hypocrisy of the teachers disrupting school events for their own desires (which they had claimed the cubs' fashion choices had been doing) so angers Brother that he goes from being a mildly annoyed but overall neutral party to a ringleader of the kids' side of the debate who is ultimately indirectly responsible for their win.
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: In Get the Gimmies, Papa Bear despairs over the increasingly bratty behavior of Brother and Sister, who keep wanting all manner of toys and trinkets. Later, his own parents gently remind him that he acted much the same way when he was a cub. Nonetheless, they understand his fear of his children becoming Spoiled Brats and help him curb their behavior.
  • I Can't Hear You: This is used in "The Slumber Party" in the PBS series when Too Tall plays a loud boombox at Lizzie's slumber party. The babysitter tells him to turn it down, but he tells her that he can't hear her because the music's too loud.
  • In Medias Res: The fourth book, Moving Day, explained how the family moved into their tree house. The PBS animated series adapted this one as well.
  • Innocent Swearing: Happens to Sister Bear and her friend Lizzie in the 2003 episode "The Big Blooper" with the word "furball" after they watch a video owned by Lizzie's brother — ''Trouble At Big Bear High.''
  • Insufferable Genius: Ferdie Factual, in his debut episode, at first.
  • It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: At the beginning of "Too Much Vacation" on the PBS Kids version, the Bear family declares that their vacation will be "the best vacation ever." Throughout the episode, as things go wrong, Papa Bear's refrain becomes "We won't let (x) spoil our best vacation ever." He finally gets fed up, though, after a flood hits the cabin that they're staying in and he gets washed away into a stream, a quite rude awakening. He grumbles that they were supposed to be having fun, but it turns out that Sister and Brother were having fun and thought that he was too, showing him the pictures of his antics during the vacation. They put a smile on his face and he decides that he was looking at things all wrong, deciding that it was, indeed, the best vacation ever.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: How the kids thwart the school's new dress code; display a slide show of the adults wearing absurd '60s and '70s clothing.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "Forget Their Manners", Papa (who has suffered most from Mama's "Politeness Plan") rightly brings up that you need to have common sense along with good manners ("If you let everybody cut in front of you at the checkout, you'll be in line forever."), and that sometimes you have to interrupt somebody. He perfectly demonstrates the latter by politely interrupting a customer at the supermarket to inform her that she has a leaking bottle in her shopping kart.
  • Kid Detective: Brother, Sister, Cousin Fred and later Lizzie Bruin form the Bear Detectives, solving mysteries from a missing pumpkin to empty jars of honey.
    • Deconstructed at the end of The Drug Free Zone. The Bear Detectives expose drug dealing in Bear Country; while the police thank them for their help, they also berate the cubs for getting involved. The cubs get warned that messing with drug dealers can be dangerous and is not like finding a missing pumpkin.
  • Laborious Laziness: Both "By the Sea" and "Up and Down" on the PBS version exemplify this, with Brother/Sister and Papa respectively trying to avoid work but ending up doing about twice as much in the process until they learn their lesson.
  • Lame Comeback: Lizzie's big putdown in Trouble with Friends: "Sister's mad and I'm glad!"
  • Lampshade Hanging: In the Too Much TV episode of the PBS series, Brother Bear comments that he could learn just as much from a nature show on PBS than from a book.
  • Licensed Game: One for the Sega Genesis, one for the Sega Pico, and one for the Game Boy Color. And a few for the PC/Mac, including a couple animated storybooks.
  • Lighter and Softer: The 2003 series. The adaption of "Get the Gimmies," along with the moral expansion, takes out the tantrum scene, for one example. In fact, as a whole the series seemed to tone down a lot of the quarreling and screaming that was commonplace in the 1985 series; this is easiest to notice with Mama, who would scream at the cubs for doing something as small as not cleaning their room, yet in the 2003 series her tone is only mildly stern following Sister and all the other girls trashing Lizzie's house in "The Slumber Party".
  • Limited Animation: All three animated incarnations, though the specials and Nelvana series hide it a little better than the '80s series.
    • Specifically, in "The Messy Room" episode, in a scene where Mama looks across her cubs messy room. Said scene is replayed, with Brother and Sister saying "Hi, Mama!", with the very same music cue.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded when Freddie and Lizzy are borrowing Sister and Brother's clothes. The artwork shows their closets have twenty of the exact same outfit.
    • Similarly, "The Trouble with Grownups" plays with this— since everyone on the show usually only wears one thing, when Brother and Sister portray Papa and Mama, they dress up in their standard outfits, which makes it instantly recognizable who it is that they're portraying. The reverse becomes true later when Mama and Papa dress up as Sister and Brother.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Very many secondary characters.
  • Long Runner: The series has been around since The '60s.
  • Loophole Abuse: In one of the novels, the former vice principal becomes acting principal and 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 acting principal by doing just this, and intentionally declaring that they are not breaking any rules. "The rules say there are no blue jeans with holes allowed...Mine are green", "I didn't cut these shorts, I ripped them" and "It's not a Batbear Cape, it's a Superbear Cape." This prompts the acting principal to blow his top and put in an Obvious Rule Patch mid-day after this happens sevearl times.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Queenie, who isn't that malicious; her bad traits are that in her first appearance she excludes Sister due to being Innocently Insensitive, and she occasionally goes out with Too-Tall.
  • 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!)
  • Mama Bear:
    • Well, that's her name, anyway....
    • Queenie's mother is upset when her daughter is sent home from school for wearing a miniskirt, since Queenie was inspired by the outfits her mother wore as a cub. She calls the principal and asks why Miss Glitch, who isn't even Queenie's teacher, was allowed to do such a thing.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens in the animated version of The Messy Room. Much of the episode has Mama screaming at the cubs and the cubs screaming at each other. After a long drawn out panic attack of Mama threatening to throw away all the cubs' toys, Papa Bear walks in on the situation and fusses at the cubs as Mama had been doing earlier...and then very abruptly switches to a rather calm "Now let's sit down and talk about this."
  • The Moral Substitute: There are Christian Berenstain Bear books. This is not a joke. Most notably,The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question, in which they are heavily suggested to be Quaker. There is even a Berenstain Bears children's Bible. (Yep, that's not a joke, either.)
  • 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 book-ended with Brother and Sister being distraught that two of their friends from school will be moving away.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Two in-universe examples for Brother and Sister in "The Bad Dream." The Space Grizzlies toys and movies each appear in their dreams, along with Sister's ballet recital in hers and her paper dolls in Brother's.
  • Not Now, Dear: In Too Much Pressure, Papa tries to warn Mama that the spark plugs of the car need cleaning, but Mama, who's already been running herself ragged trying to keep up with the cubs' busy schedules, cuts Papa off and drives away. This later leads to the car breaking down on their busiest day yet.
  • Ocular Gushers: In "Get the Gimmies" on the PBS series, young Papa Bear cried these to get his parents to get him a toy truck he wanted, though he ended up donating it to a boy in a needy family.
  • Only Sane Man: This trope gets passed around a lot but frequent holders are Brother, Mama and Sister; Lizzie has also gotten it when the conflict is between Brother and Sister.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Mama is normally the level-headed one in the family, which becomes shocking in Too Much Pressure when she breaks down in tears due to being overwhelmed with taking Brother and Sister to their activities and the car breaking down.
  • Opening Narration: The 2003 series has a character reciting the opening rhyme (in voiceover) from the book the episode is based on.
  • Overly Polite Pals: Brother and Sister become this in an effort to both keep out of trouble and annoy Mama Bear into cancelling the Politeness Plan in Forget Their Manners. It backfires because not only does Mama not get annoyed, but they wind up getting into the good manners habit and start being polite without thinking about it.
  • 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 the cubs find a way to win by revealing some old sixties and seventies fashions worn by the adults leading the charge for the dress code.
  • Parents as People: Papa and Mama Bear are not without their flaws. Papa can be oafish and Mama can be somewhat righteous. And both of them have been shown to lose their temper at times (e.g. Papa in Trouble with Money or Mama in The Messy Room). Also, The Trouble with Grownups is a virtual lampshading of part of this trope, although it examines the parent-child relationship from both sides of the fence.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: In one of the PBS Kids TV stories, Sister Bear adopts a baby chipmunk.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: In The Berenstain Bears Gotta Dance!, Brother ends up taking ballet. He uses what he learned from it to his advantage to dump Too-Tall Grizzly into a dumpster.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. Honeycomb, the principal of the school Brother and Sister attend, is much more reasonable than his vice principal, "Bullhorn" Grizzmeyer.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: A scene from Learn About Strangers used an instrumental version of "Down with Mush" from The Berenstain Bears' Valentine Special.
  • Relative Error: The chapter book The Berenstain Bears and the School Scandal Sheet has classmate Queenie McBear put an unapproved article in a secondary (and unauthorized) school newspaper about Teacher Bob being seen having dinner with a pretty teenager, causing a fuss and an inquiry for unprofessional behavior. Queenie's editor-in-chief Brother Bear angrily informs her that had she not gone over his head (which ultimately led to them being exposed as the writers of the secondary newspaper), he would have killed the story on the spot - he knew full well that the girl in Queenie's photo was Bob's teenage niece, who was in town to visit him.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: All of the early books under The Bears label, as well as all five of the animated specials.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: No Guns Allowed, in response to Columbine and other school shootings.
    • 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."
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax:
    • In The Ghost from the Forest, Papa Bear, Scout Leader Jane, and Mama Bear set these up. Subverted in that none of them had malicious intent; it was just a prank by Papa Bear to scare the cubs during a camping trip, and by Scout Leader Jane and Mama Bear to get back at Papa Bear.
    • In The Galloping Ghost, the Bogg Brothers, a family of criminal brothers, pull one of these at Ms. Mamie's Horseriding Academy by sabotaging the place in a bid to get it shut down so Ms. Mamie can't make her mortgage payment. When Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and their friends form a group to raise money for Ms. Mamie, one of the Bogg Brothers dresses up as the ghost of Billy Beechtree in a last ditch effort to scare them away, but he and his brothers get caught. The ending reveals that they were hired by a real estate development company so they could take over the academy, tear it down, and build a shopping mall.
  • Serial Escalation: "The Slumber Party" starts off with the eponymous sleepover only involving Sister, Lizzie, Anna, and Millie. However, the start inviting other friends to the party initially using the excuse "What's one more?" every time. It pretty quickly escalates to the likes of "What's a hundred more?" due to how many others get invited, which leads to the party getting overcrowded and out of hand.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the "Too Much TV" episode of the 2003 series, Sister points out that the TV is playing the movie "Honey, I Shrunk The Cubs."
    • In that same episode, Brother Bear mentions something about watching nature shows on PBS, which was the channel the show aired on back then.
    • The Beary Bubbies in the book "Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze" are an obvious reference to Beanie Babies.
    • The in-universe franchise Space Grizzlies. Star Wars, much?
  • Show Stopper: In "The Talent Show" on the PBS version, Brother Bear is assigned as the talent scout for the school talent show. He finds a number of good acts, but is desperate to find his "showstopper," the big act that will bring down the house. His showstopper turns out to be Too Tall, who has a surprisingly tender and compelling singing voice.
  • Shrug Take: In the 1985 animated adaptation of "Too Much Birthday," the rest of the cubs react this way when Sister starts crying.
  • Sick Episode
    • In "Sick Days", Sister Bear gets an ambiguous disease that makes her sluggish and hoarse. Later, Mama catches it.
    • In "Go to the Doctor", Papa Bear sneezes, but denies he ever gets sick. It turns out, he has a cold. By then, he's also developed a fever and a red throat.
    • In "The Trouble at School", Brother Bear gets a cold and misses a few days of school. Even though he was able to do his homework, he didn't, so he flunked his test when he got better. Sister Bear then catches it off him.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Harry McGill. Surprisingly, also Too-Tall Grizzly, despite his poor grades and his reputation as a bully.
  • 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.
  • Soup Is Medicine: In the cartoon episode "Trouble at School", when Sister catches Brother's cold, Mama Bear heats up chicken soup.
  • Species Surname: The Bear family of course, but also Dr. and Too-Tall Grizzly, the Ursus family, Queeny McBear, Lizzy Bruin, and practically every other character has a surname that is some variation of the word Bear, or a particular species thereof.
    • If not bear, "Honey" seems to be quite common.
  • Spoiler Title: The Nelvana animated series has "Papa's Pizza" in which Brother and Sister are throwing a party, but can't figure out what to serve for food because all of their friends have different likes and dislikes. Three guesses how the problem is solved, and the first two don't count.
  • Spoonerism: Mayor Horace J. Honeypot is prone to these, including once starting a speech with "Sellow fitizens!"
  • 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 Animal Name: In The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend, the pet goldfish of Sister's that dies is, unsurprisingly, named Goldie. The goldfish that her parents replace it with to try to spare her feelings is named Goldie Two once Sister realizes the switcheroo.
  • Stock Beehive: Averted. Honeybees are consistently portrayed as nesting inside hollow tree trunks, just like in real life.
  • Stock Sound Effects: In the audio-book 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.
  • Supreme Chef: Mama Bear is one.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Sister towards Tuffy in "The Bully"; after having punched her in the nose in self-defense, Sister finds herself feeling sorry for Tuffy when she learns the real reason why Tuffy treated others so badly, driven to tears by fear of what her parents will do to her.
  • Take That!: The "Mad Mad Mad Toy Craze" is one big Author Tract against Beanie Babies.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Sister's bow. Indeed, without their identifying articles of clothing, male and female bears are virtually identical.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: Both TV adaptations do this. Though the '80s series includes a few of the supporting cast members as well.
  • This Is My Side: Done with Brother and Sister's tree house in ...Get in a Fight.
  • Title Confusion: In spite of the series title, the protagonists are not named "Berenstain." The authors are.
  • Title Theme Tune: Many of the shows started with one.
  • Too Smart for Strangers: A comparatively realistic and intelligent handling of the subject.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Raffish Ralph (also known as Ralph Ripoff in the Bear Scouts books), the Con Artist can be seen as this, much to the chagrin of the cubs.
  • Voice of the Resistance: In And the School Scandal Sheet, the school's journalism club creates an underground newspaper in protest of Miss Glitch's iron-handed control over what is printed in the normal school newspaper. Things quickly go too far, however, when Queenie prints a libelous story about a certain teacher's "indiscretion," when he was actually out to dinner with his niece.
  • Walk Into Camera Obstruction:
    • In the theme song in 1985, where a bear in purple overalls walks into the screen.
    • And the theme song in 2003, where Papa Bear is riding a unicycle, but runs into the screen.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "Brother" and "Sister"; lampshaded by Queenie in her introduction where she is baffled at Sister's name.
    • Hilary snidely asks Sister the same question in the PBS Kids version of "The In-Crowd". Sister has no response except an angry huff and an indignant pout.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the dog? An early book depicts them getting a pet dog who is never shown again. Granted, she appears in the 2003 cartoon a few times.
  • Wicked Weasel: In the Bear Scouts series, an underground society of Always Chaotic Evil weasels led by Weasel McGreed serve as recurring villains.
    • Averted in one book, where a weasel (a non-anthropomorphic one) is treated as part of Bear Country's local wildlife.
  • 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.
    • In the PBS series, he's often not nearly as bad. (See You Are Grounded for just one example.)
  • Would Hurt a Child: Tuffy's parents apparently physically harm their daughter on a frequent basis.
    Tuffy: If the principal tells my mom and dad about this, I won't be able to sit down for a- well, a long time.
  • You Are Grounded:
    • Sister is grounded in "The Slumber Party" by Mama Bear after things go south at Lizzie's slumber party. It's actually Papa Bear who is the voice of reason and admits that they as parents were partially to blame for not knowing just how wacky things had ended up with the slumber party (which had basically become a little bear cub girl equivalent of a bad college frat party.)
    • Brother Bear is also severely grounded by Papa in Report Card Trouble for a terrible report card, being stripped of basically everything except studying until his grades improve. Mama at first approves of this completely, only putting her foot down when the grounding threatens to get out of hand, but eventually realizes that they should have been checking his work as parents too.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: The PBS Kids version has an unusually positive example in "The Big Race." Kenny, a cub who's even younger than Sister Bear, wants to help Brother Bear, Freddy and Too Tall in making a racecar for the big race. They, however, already have things pretty much covered, but agree to let him help out, doing things that are pretty much "you get me coffee" type-of tasks. However, at no time are they ever mean to him and, in fact, treat him as a valuable member of the group. In the end, he is able to help them out when they realize that they're lacking a wheel by providing one from his prized wagon. They decide to let him be the one to drive the racecar at the race, though they pretend to draw straws for it, secretly snapping their own straws behind their backs so that Kenny was guaranteed the longest straw.

Alternative Title(s): Berenstain Bears