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Literature / Little Bear

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From left to right, top row: Emily, Little Bear. Bottom row: Duck, Owl, Cat, Hen.

Little Bear, a series of books written by Elsie Minarik and illustrated by Where the Wild Things Are creator Maurice Sendak. It had a 65-Episode Cartoon adaptation by Nelvana. It follows the stories of a...well, little bear, his friends Hen, Owl, Cat, Duck, and Emily, who's a human. Later, they are joined by Mitzi, a monkey. The series was created by Else Minarik and the books were illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The show used to air on Nick Jr., but can now be seen on the Noggin app.

In Christmas of 2000, a film based on the animated series was released in theaters, and later to video in 2001. It revolves around Little Bear meeting a mysterious bear around his age named Cub, and trying to reunite him with his parents upon learning that they had been separated.

A character sheet is in the works. At this time, most of the details are listed, but more work is needed particularly on the adult characters of the franchise. Please add character-specific tropes to the character sheet when possible.


These works provide examples of:

  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The US and Canada have different instrumental theme tunes, and also have slightly different voice clips in the intro. the Canadian version uses Allegro Vivace in D-Minor by Franz Schubert, while the US version uses a seemingly original composition.
  • Apple for Teacher: In one episode, Little Bear and Emily set up a school for the animals. Early on, the trope is lampshaded, with Emily finding an apple and noting that the teacher usually just sets it on their desk, and is never actually seen eating it.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Mostly averted in "Caterpillars," where the titular bugs are implied to be Imported Cabbage Worms (Pieris Rapae), which can be a serious pest to gardeners, just as they are in the episode, feasting on Mother Bear's cabbage. Then they metamorphose into Cabbage White butterflies, although here they still have cartoon mouths as adult butterflies compared to the curled proboscis the real-life Cabbage butterflies have. Additionally, they managed to go through their metamorphosis overnight in this episode, compared to in real life where it usually takes up to two weeks for the caterpillar to change into a butterfly, unless if it's close to wintertime, which they then hibernate in the chrysalis stage and hatch out in the spring.
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  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: "Bigger Little Bear" has Little Bear imagining what life would be like if he was a giant. As he learns/figures out it's not very fun.
  • Baths Are Fun: "Family Bath Time," in which Little Bear and his parents all enjoy a warm bubble bath together in a metal washtub in the living room. It was originally just Father Bear's bath, but then Little Bear jumped in. Later, they both pulled in Mama Bear, still in her clothes.
  • Beary Friendly: Little Bear and his family are all very nice bears.
  • Berserk Button: Cub from The Movie didn't appreciate being called a "wild bear". When Little Bear asked him if he was one, Cub tackled him to the ground and demanded that he take it back.
  • Birthday Episode:
    • "Birthday Soup" for the title character
    • "A Present for Mother Bear" for Mother Bear
    • "Emily's Balloon" for Hen
    • "Emily's Birthday" for Emily
    • "Little Bear and the Ice Boat" for Grandfather Bear
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 1's "Your Friend, Little Bear" ends with Emily leaving, but Little Bear writing to her.
  • Carnivore Confusion:
    • Little Bear is a bear, but is friends with a cat, a hen and a duck, all of which can be prey animals to a bear. The only meat he is seen eating is fish, and this is mostly because No Cartoon Fish is in appliance.
    • There are also Cat and Owl. They are said to hunt at night and when Little Bear meets a mouse, he knows that he has to hide it from them.
    • The movie introduces a cougar named Trouble, who is utterly bent on getting a taste of Little Bear's meat as well as his friends'. Not helped by the fact he is portrayed as being more animalistic and feral than any other animals seen previously.
  • Cats Are Mean: Trouble, the cougar who is the main antagonist of the movie.
  • Cats Are Snarkers
  • Circus Episode:
    • "Grandfather's Attic" in Season 1
    • "Circus for Tutu" in Season 3
  • Classical Music: The music cues of the show are very classical-sounding.
  • Cool Old Lady: Little Bear and Emily's grandmas.
  • Crossdressing Voices: Little Bear was voiced by Kristin Fairle, who later went on to voice Bridgette in Total Drama.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: The chicks nesting outside Owl's window in "Owl's Dilemma".
  • The Ditz: Duck. Also counts as a Genius Ditz
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Almost all of the characters are named after what they are, except Tutu the Dog, Mitzi the Monkey, and Nofeet the Snake.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Nofeet the snake (No feet).
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Food Porn:
    • One of the things that the characters most often do for pleasure is eating. With titles like "Father's Flying Flapjacks", "Applesauce", and "Little Bear's Sweet Tooth", you can tell it's pretty much a trademark of the show.
    • Initially averted in "Little Bear and the Cupcakes" – see Lethal Chef – though played straight when Mother Bear helps Little Bear and Emily make a good batch in the end.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: Occurs with startling frequency, with the Little Bear almost always involved as either the tickler or ticklee. All the characters shown in the opening end up getting tickled at least once.
  • Funny Animal: Little Bear and his family.
  • Furry Confusion:
    • Tutu the dog speaks French. The other animals speak Animal Talk, yet Little Bear is a Funny Animal.
    • The Movie is even more confusing - by design. For one Little Bear is shown drinking from a river like a regular bear, right after putting a carton down. A mountain lion named Trouble appears, and he is shown in a manner that emphasizes the fact he's a predator. Also, Little Bear meets Cub, who has been living wild, though don't call him that. He's astounded that Little Bear eats cooked food and lives in a house, also he feels that Little Bear has a lot to learn about stuff like cougars.
  • Good Parents: Little Bear's parents definitely apply.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: An episode in the first season sees Little Bear get the hiccups.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The TV show was initially advertised as "Maurice Sendak's Little Bear." However, this is peculiar, as Maurice Sendak only illustrated the Little Bear books—Else Minarik was the author. In fact, this is so prevalent that even certain Little Bear books written by Minarik but illustrated by somebody other than Sendak still carry the "Maurice Sendak's Little Bear" logo.
  • Informed Species: Mitzi lacks a tail, making her resemble a gibbon more than a monkey.
  • Injured Limb Episode: A variation when Lucy the doll's arm falls off and Little Bear tapes it up.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: A very gentle theme tune, fitting nicely with the nature of the series. It did include sound effects of the characters, usually, though in at least a couple installments, these were absent. There were two versions (in the U.S. and Canada/International) that both qualify as the description above; the first is actually Franz Shubert's "Allegro Vivace" is used in Canada (and basically everywhere outside U.S. and its territories), whereas the U.S. got an original piece of music.
  • Leitmotif: Emily has her own soft piano theme, and even her doll Lucy gets its' own clarinet solo theme.
  • Lethal Chef: In the episode where Little Bear and Emily make cupcakes, they go so far as to put a fish in the batter. And that's the least of those cupcakes' problems...
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: The anthropomorphic bears and other talking animals walk around with humans.
  • Ludicrous Gift Request: In the book story "Little Bear's Wish", Little Bear wishes for a cloud to ride on, a Viking boat, and a tunnel to China. Mother Bear tells him he can't have them, so he wishes for a story instead. In the cartoon episode based on said book story, he also wishes for a cloud to ride on and a Viking boat, but instead of wishing for a tunnel to China, he wishes to meet a princess who he imagines as ambiguously Chinese. Also, instead of telling him the wishes are impossible, they humour him but shoehorn bedtime-related things onto the wishes (like saying he could sleep on the cloud).
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Very much so with many of Little Bear's magical adventures, such as when he pretends to crawl under his covers to visit a Chinese princess, who gives him chopsticks to take to Mother Bear. It seems like his other games to get out of bedtime are just that, but the last shot shows there really are chopsticks on the bed (though it's never brought up again).
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Mitzi the monkey. There are no wild monkeys living in North America, north of Mexico, in real life.
  • No Cartoon Fish: Fish are essentially the only animals that don't talk, or at least show some level of sapience. One episode even had a talking moth. Probably a good thing, as two of the primary cast are animals well-known for eating fish... There's even a scene where we see Owl grab a fish, which was clearly alive and jumping, in his beak and subsequently eating it.
  • Not So Above It All: In one episode, Frog was caught up in a wild race between Little Bear and his friends and tries to teach them that winning isn't everything. Eventually, everyone ended up hitching a ride on Moose to the front of Little Bear's house, upon which Little Bear decides that everyone wins. However, Frog takes advantage of the fact that they aren't technically at the house yet and hops onto the front doorstep, proudly declaring his victory. When questioned, he confirms that while winning isn't everything, it does feel good.
  • Old-Timey Bathing Suit: Surprisingly averted. In one episode where Emily was shown in a bathing suit during a swimming scene, she wore a swimsuit that wouldn't look out of place in the time the series was made (the 1990s) but definitely would during the time the series is set (1910s or 1920s).
  • One-Book Author: The role of Grandfather Bear was Sean McCann's only credit as a voice actor.
  • One Mario Limit: Averted. Despite the great popularity of this series, a number of other authors have released picture books featuring a main character named simply "Little Bear."
  • Only Child Syndrome: Little Bear and Emily.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: One character Little Bear befriends is a teal-haired mermaid. This being a children's show, she is modestly dressed (wearing a loose tank top instead of a Seashell Bra or Godiva Hair), and she is consistently a sweet, kind Proper Lady, as opposed to the more typical Tsundere and Yandere mermaids.
  • Partially Civilized Animal: Unlike Little Bear, many of his animal friends have dwellings and mannerisms one would expect from their species.
  • Predators Are Mean: Trouble the cougar.
  • Shout-Out: One episode had Little Bear wearing a troll mask that looked an awful lot like a Where the Wild Things Are monster, alluding to Maurice Sendak.
  • Sick Episode:
    • Little Bear had the flu in "A Flu".
    • Mother Bear had a cold in "Doctor Little Bear".
    • Little Bear and Emily both got the mumps in "Between Friends".
    • At the end of "Little Bear's Sweet Tooth", Little Bear got a stomach ache from eating too much sugar.
    • Little Bear had a cold in "Pillow Hill".
  • Sixth Ranger: While Little Bear met Emily during the series, she was introduced in the first season, so it's debatable whether or not she counts. However, Nofeet the snake and Mitzi the monkey definitely do.
  • Smelly Skunk: Mr. and Mrs. Skunk. Little Bear ends up sprayed by then-Miss Skunk before she is married.
  • Story Arc:
    • Sort of. In the first season, it's known that Emily will be leaving in the fall to go to school, and it occurs in the season finale. Later in the second season, she returns permanently.
    • The episode "The Painting/The Kiss/The Wedding" forms a story arc. It's actually based on the book "A Kiss For Little Bear".
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Trouble, from the movie, will stop at nothing to eat Little Bear and his friends.
  • Sweet Tooth: The basis of an episode in the third season.
  • Talking Animal: Every character except for Emily, Granny and Tutu.
  • That Poor Cat: Cat had this in early episodes.
  • Token Human: Emily
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Mitzi and Emily. To a lesser degree, clumsy, loud Duck and Proper Lady Hen.
  • Walk Into Camera Obstruction: Near the beginning of the intro with Owl, where he flies into the screen.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Clever Cricket never appears after his one appearance.
  • When Trees Attack: The Laughing Tree
  • Younger Than She Looks: Emily. She looks about 10 or 11, but doesn't even turn 7 until halfway through the series. Somewhat justified, seeing as she looks much younger in the book illustrations.
  • Your Size May Vary: "Bigger Little Bear" has Little Bear become bigger and bigger throughout the short but seeing how it's all in Little Bear's imagination there's an excuse.


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