Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Little Bear

Go To
From left to right, front row: Cat, Little Bear, Hen. Back row: Duck, Owl, Emily (and her doll Lucy).

Little Bear is a series of books written by Elsie Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, the famed author of Where the Wild Things Are. There were originally 5 books written between 1957 and 1968, with a sixth one coming out in 2010 (albeit illustrated by Dorothy Doubleday).

In 1995, Little Bear received a 65-Episode Cartoon Animated Adaptation created by the world-famous Canadian animation studio Nelvana. The show, much like the books, follows the stories of a... well, little bear, his parents, and his friends Hen, Owl, Cat, Duck, and a young girl named Emily (with a monkey named Mitzi joining them in later seasons). As expected from a cartoon aimed at preschoolers, the show follows the simple everyday adventures Little Bear has with his friends and family both at home and in the woods surrounding them, learning lessons and exploring the world. Elsie Minarik and Maurice Sendak were both involved in the show's production process.

The show aired on CBC (and later Treehouse TV) in its home country, but is also remembered for airing on Nick Jr. in the United States (with the show now being available on the Noggin app). You can also catch every episode on Youtube through the show's official channel and Treehouse Direct. The series is also available through Paramount+.

In Christmas of 2000, a film based on the animated series was released in theaters, and later to video in 2001. Simple titled The Little Bear Movie, it too was created by Nelvana. The plot 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/discussed, 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.
    • In "The Wedding," Owl reacts with disgust like everyone else to Little Bear's smell after Miss Skunk accidentally sprays him. Owls actually have a weak sense of smell, which makes them especially dangerous predators to skunks. For that matter, Little Bear's problem is solved when he puts on a garland of flowers and their scent covers up the skunk odor – good luck finding flowers with perfume that strong!
  • 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.
  • Baffled by Own Biology: In "Winter Moon", Duck wakes up from an Irritation Nightmare about other, annoying ducks. She doesn't seem to realise that dreams aren't real and asks, "Are they gone?".
  • 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 Mother Bear, still in her clothes.
  • Beary Friendly: Little Bear and his family are all very nice bears.
  • 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.
  • Bubblegum Popping: "Balloon Heads" has Little Bear blowing bubble gum and giving gum to Owl and all four Otters. Owl accidentally blows up a giant bubble towards the end, misunderstanding Little Bear's instructions, and it pops all over him, leaving a big mess. The Otters say they can do better and all four blow giant sized bubbles which burst in another mess at the end of the cartoon.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality:
    • In "Lucy's Okay," when Emily, Little Bear and friends are all pretending that Lucy is dead, Duck spends the episode genuinely in tears, then starts bawling hysterically at Lucy's play-funeral. Afterwards, the others admit that they almost forgot they were pretending and felt sad too.
    • In "The Blueberry Picnic," the characters perform a play similar to The Three Billy Goats Gruff, where Hen, Duck, Cat and Emily are each threatened by a troll (played by Little Bear) when they cross his bridge. In the audience, No-Feet worries each time one of his friends steps onto the bridge, but Owl reassures him that it's only a play... only to panic himself when Emily's turn comes.
  • 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: Cat is the Deadpan Snarker of the main cast.
  • 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.
  • DIY Dentistry: In one episode, Little Bear has a loose tooth and Owl makes a complicated gizmo that is designed to pull Little Bear's tooth, which is attached to a rope, out. However, Little Bear ends up being pulled upwards with the rope.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Funny Photo Phrase: In one episode, Little Bear tries to take a photo of Duck, Owl, and Hen. He asks them to say, "Cheese", but Duck asks what sort of cheese. Cat says, "Just say anything," so the photo ends up with Hen yelling, "Cheese!", Owl yelling, "Mozzarella!", and Duck yelling, "Anything!".
  • Furry Confusion:
    • Most of the animals and humans speak the same language, but Tutu the dog only barks like a real dog. The explanation given is that she only speaks French. Also, the non-bear animals are all just Talking Animals, but Little Bear and his family are Funny Animals who live like humans.
    • 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.
  • Furry Reminder: Little Bear and his family mostly act like humans, but every now and then they show bear-like mannerisms. For example, in "Hiccups," Father Bear growls in annoyance when Little Bear's friends disturb his paper-reading with their arguing (which startles Little Bear so much that his hiccups go away), and in "The Wedding," when Little Bear gets sprayed by Miss Skunk, he rolls around on the grass to try to get rid of the stink, as an animal would typically do.
  • The Gay '90s: Set at the end of the 19th century.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Once Emily joins the cast, Little Bear and his core group of friends consist of three males (Little Bear, Owl and Cat) and three females (Emily, Duck and Hen). The later addition of Mitzi (female) tips the balance, though recurring minor friend characters like No-Feet or Frog tend to be male, which evens it out again.
  • Good Parents: Little Bear's parents definitely apply.
  • Gossip Evolution: In the episode "Maracas," Mother Bear lets Little Bear play with a set of maracas that Father Bear brought back to her from a long-ago voyage abroad. She tells him that they're sentimental, which means they're a "treasure." Little Bear repeats this to Duck, and as the story spreads from Duck, to Hen, to Owl, to Cat, it grows and distorts until they all believe that Father Bear fought off a hundred Moroccan pirates to bring their stolen treasure home.
  • Hibernation/Migration Situation: In an episode, Duck tries to migrate due to having an uncontrollable urge to "go somewhere warm" at the beginning of winter, which causes a bit of sadness in the other characters, although downplayed because it's only the B-plot and she doesn't go through with it.
  • Hiccup Hijinks:
    • An episode in the first season, appropriately titled "Hiccups," sees Little Bear get the hiccups and his friends try to cure him.
    • Little Bear briefly gets the hiccups while hiding in "Hide and Seek," which almost causes Duck to find him, but then Cat and Hen distract her before she can.
  • Hunger Causes Lethargy: Discussed in "Mitzi's Little Monster", where Little Bear knocks over his teddy bear Fisherman Bear during a pretend tea party. Emily asks him why, and Little Bear responds, "He's weak because he didn't have any cake".
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze:
    • In "Family Portrait," Little Bear is dressed in a suit for the family photo, but as he's taking pictures of his friends, Duck wants to try the camera too, and sits on Little Bear's head to reach it; her feathers tickle his nose and make him sneeze, which propels him backward into a puddle, ruining his suit.
    • In "Little Bear's Bad Day," Little Bear helps Duck and Hen build a castle of sticks, but then the flower Hen gives him as a reward makes him sneeze, causing him to knock the castle over.
    • In "Lucy Needs a Friend," Cat sneezes while gathering milkweed fluff to stuff the plush doll Little Bear is making, blowing the fluff all over and ending up with a "beard" of it on his face.
    • In "The Dandelion Wish," Little Bear and Duck are about to make a wish on a dandelion puff balanced on Duck's beak, when Duck sneezes, blowing the puff away and forcing them to chase it.
  • 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 Schubert'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.
  • Jump Rope Blunders: In "Mitzi Arrives", Little Bear, Mitzi, Duck, and Emily skip rope together. However, Mitzi sings the "I See London" rhyme, which causes Emily to get distracted and step on the line. Then, Mitzi sings a rhyme that insults Duck's face, which causes her to jump in surprise and trip over the rope, falling over backwards. Finally, Emily sings a rhyme that calls Mitzi rude for her previous rhymes, causing her to stop jumping and the rope to hit her in the face.
  • 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.
  • Loose Tooth Episode: In the episode "Little Bear's Tooth", Little Bear's first tooth comes loose. His friends come up with insane methods to extract the tooth.
  • Ludicrous Gift Request: In the book story "Little Bear's Wish", Little Bear wishes for a cloud to ride on, a Viking boat, a tunnel to China, and a big red car. 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).
    • Often when the goblins show up, there's a sense of ambiguity as to whether they really exist or what happened was just a coincidence or part of an imagined story, often ending with a glimpse of one in the background of the closing shot.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Mitzi the monkey. There are no wild monkeys living in North America in real life.
  • Never Had Toys: In one episode, No-Feet the snake mentions that he's never even heard of toys and wishes he had them. This is because he is a snake, and snakes don't play with toys.
  • New Year Has Come: "Dance Steps" has Little Bear and all his friends and family gather together for a New Year's Eve party. They all resolve to stay up till midnight and do dances to pass the time.
  • 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.
  • Not-So-Forgotten Birthday: Little Bear thinks Mother Bear has forgotten his birthday when he can't find her anywhere around the house. Turns out in the end that she was busy working on his birthday cake, which took longer than she expected.
  • Not Where They Thought: In "Little Bear Goes to the Moon", Little Bear jumps from a tree in an attempt to get to the moon, and believes he's landed on the moon. When he sees Mother Bear, she humours him, but by then he's realised his mistake and tells her to "stop fooling".
  • Old-Timey Bathing Suit: Surprisingly averted, considering the series is assumed to take place in the early twentieth century. 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 (mid- to late-1990s) but definitely would during the time the series is actually implied to be set (1910s or 1920s).
  • Our Goblins Are Different: In the lore of the forest where Little Bear and friends live, goblins are little humanoid men with long white beards who wear tall pointy hats, and are mischievous, but not scary. Essentially they're gnomes in all but name. They're said to cause particular mischief on the holiday "Goblin Night," the forest's equivalent of Halloween.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: One character Little Bear befriends, (at least in his imagination), 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.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: In "Play Ball", Little Bear is grumpy with Emily after she took his favourite ball without asking him if it was okay. The two go on to spend a good chunk of the episode taking shots at each other until Emily compliments Little Bear for catching the ball.
  • Powder Gag: In one episode, Father Bear sniffs a flower and gets pollen all over his face.
  • Predators Are Mean: Trouble the cougar.
  • Real After All: In "Where Lucy Went", Little Bear and friends spend the entire episode looking for Lucy, and playfully speculating that goblins took her and made her their queen, before finding her in the hole the audience saw her fall into at the beginning. After everyone leaves, goblins climb out of the hole holding a doll-sized crown.
    • Most episodes featuring goblins end with them somehow appearing in the closing shot to show that they were around and responsible for whatever occurred.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In "Out of Honey", Mitzi peeks into a beehive to get a good look at the bees only for Little Bear to pull her back, causing her to break down a little piece of the hive. As the duo run away, all the bees come out and chase them, stinging them until they jump into a lake.
  • Seeking the Intangible: In one episode, the eponymous bear cub hears a poem about Jack Frost and goes to search for him, believing him to be a real person.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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".
    • Little Bear gets a sore throat in "Frog In My Throat," as do Owl, Duck and Hen in the end.
  • 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.
  • Stock Animal Diet: While Little Bear and his family eat anything humans eat, they do particularly like fish, honey and berries.
  • 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 for the third season episode "Little Bear's Sweet Tooth". Little Bear resolves to taste every single dessert at the Harvest Day party rather than pick just one or two, which causes him to get a stomach ache by the end.
  • Talking Animal: Every character except for Emily, Granny and Tutu. The former two are humans, while Tutu is a dog who only barks – allegedly she can talk, but only speaks French.
  • That Poor Cat: Cat had this in early episodes.
  • Three Shorts: The Animated Adaptation followed this format during its run.
  • Token Human: Emily and her grandmother are the only regular humans in a cast of animal characters.
  • 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
  • Worm in an Apple: In the episode "Applesauce", Little Bear and Emily are picking apples so they can make applesauce. One of the apples they pick has a worm inside it.
  • You Mean X Mas: Instead of Halloween, Little Bear and friends celebrate "Goblin Night," where they dress up in costumes, have a nighttime picnic around a bonfire, and watch out for goblins' mischief. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate the Winter Solstice, which features a big dinner, singing, and decorating a live tree outside with lanterns and food for the "snow angels."
  • Younger than She Looks: Emily. She could pass for 9 or 10, 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.


A Flu

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SickEpisode

Media sources: