When it comes to public service, two animals have gone far beyond the call of duty. They're known throughout the world as the symbols of safety; therefore, the natural thing to do is to have them fight to the death.
Season four's eleventh matchup offers more jovial fare compared to the norm, pitting two beloved icons of safety and security in a bloody deathmatch. The hosts will pit mighty bear strength against canine speed and cunning, the variety and versatility to prevent fires against that meant to fight crime, for Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog are well and truly famous for the spread of information and protection, but now they must acquire a new kind of experience, the knowledge of killing, best gained through a death battle.
Starting the episode off is a rundown of Smokey Bear, first conceived in the heat of World War II to face the increasing outbreak of forest fires within the United States, and tens of millions of acres would be burnt on a yearly basis. While he was was immediately created to great success, starring in public service announcements for decades to come, Smokey would still be a symbol, a fictional character; that is, until a raging forest fire in the Cabaton Mountains of New Mexico saw a lone black bear cub surviving the destruction. His wounds would be tended and he would be christened as the real life Smokey at the Washington Zoo. For over seventy years since, Smokey has been present to teach the dangers of forest fires.
More reasons than one have proven Smokey has succeeded in his mission to teach fire safety. Crossovers with several cultural icons and an 80-percent drop in fire damage alike ensued in the wake of Smokey's introduction to the public. While his experience in the ways of fisticuffs is virtually nonexistent compared to his safety record, it remains a fair assumption that Smokey is a capable fighter should the need arise; being a bear, Smokey has a thick, durable skeleton, enough strength to move trees and boulders 350 pounds in weight, and can run at speeds up to 30 mph. In addition to his natural claws, teeth, and pure bear strength, all accompanied by his sole weapon of a shovel he uses to put out fires, Smokey has shown a collection of other, more esoteric, abilities, chief amongst them being the capability to stop time, don incredibly convincing disguises, and even shift his size to dwarf whole mountain ranges.
For being a nonviolent character with an educational purpose, Smokey has proven himself capable of performing numerous fantastic feats with seemingly no effort or discomfort on his behalf. However, Smokey was never intended for action and has his shortcomings that simply cannot be ignored. As with real bears, several deterrents exist to keep bears like Smokey at bay, such as bear traps and bear mace, specifically designed to ward them off. Also, a common misconception is that fending off a bear attack can be done by punching the offending ursid in the throat, when the most likely and only way to prevent such an incident is to appear more intimidating to the bear to scare it off. Luckily, Smokey is a gentle character with no predisposition to mauling; whether he can bring himself to action if the situation calls for it, however, is a question soon to be answered.
From Smokey the hosts move on, and their new focus would be one McGruff the Crime Dog, a product of the 1970's, better known as a decade of individualism and freedom. However, beneath the surface lied an unprecedented rate of domestic crime, which was met by national societies collaborating together to construct a canine mascot to inform the public of how to best combat it. After eight months of polling the people, the mascot was given the moniker of McGruff.
Many means were available for McGruff to use at his disposal in order to teach children to prevent and avoid criminal activity in the following decades, and his efforts would be well-rewarded; those same decades since his conception saw an extreme drop in crime rates, thanks in part to McGruff's biology. As a 6-foot-tall bloodhound, McGruff can, scaling his increased size to a normal specimen of the breed, run up to 45 mph, leap 10 feet high, and break bones with his bites; his time spent around proper law enforcement means a fair assumption can be made that McGruff has some basic combat training. In addition, the crime dog possesses a great many tools that uses in his never-ending battle against crime, including the Circle of Respect, a bully-resistant force field, as well as a monster truck and the capacity to stop time and investigate a potential crime.
Since he was made decades ago, McGruff is a landmark character in the world of public service advertisements. But once again, even though his line of work may seem to merit itself to action, McGruff has seen little of it; he barely does any actual crime preventing compared to how often he serves as an advisor, and unlike Smokey, McGruff can only observe his surroundings while stopping time, lacking the potential to interact with the immobile world around him. However, he seems to know what he's doing if he has lasted in a line of work this long and not be hindered by such setbacks.
- McGruff the Crime Dog: (flips the reality switch in his office, changing the scene from hand-drawn animation to live-action) I'm McGruff the Crime Dog, and I'm here to take a bite outta crime, ruff!
Both unlikely fighters have been studied many times over. One advertisement for the Blue Apron cooking service later, and now, it's time for a death battle!
A lush, scenic forest is where McGruff the Crime Dog, the trenchcoat-clad bloodhound, investigates a billowing plume of smoke. Reminding the audience at home of the importance of preventing forest fires takes his priority over actually stopping the blaze from spreading, bushes and trees soon catching aflame. Caught in an awkward position, McGruff chooses to hightail it out of the forest, before the crime dog bumps into a massive mountain of fur, none other than the fire-fighting ursid Smokey Bear. Smokey Bear scolds the dog for his uncaring stance, but when McGruff adopts one of the fighting variety, Smokey hunkers down and readies his claws in response.
While a high kick from McGruff is easily blocked by the brown bear's massive forearm, he flips back and soon recovers well enough to throw a series of punches to Smokey's exposed chin. He rebounds from a wide slap and vaults around Smokey. Once McGruff grabs onto the bear, however, the ursine once again smacks him into a tree, before the bloodhound leaps down and the pair engage in a grappling match. With McGruff pinned down, he uses the opportunity to force Smokey away with the Circle of Respect protecting him. Smokey gets back up and charges at McGruff, smashing the Circle with his shovel.
As the fight starts shifting in Smokey's favor, McGruff realizes the dicey situation and attempts to flee from the burning greenery; Smokey's felling of a tree courtesy of javelin throwing his shovel puts a stop to McGruff's attempted escape. A ferocious roar escapes the mouth of Smokey as he charges towards the canine. McGruff briefly stops time in a failed attempt to offer advice before being swatted away into a lake.
Just as Smokey dons his trademark campaign hat after dismissing McGruff, the bloodhound charges back into the fray, safe behind the steering wheel of his trademark monster truck. The crime dog turns on the nitro and plows into Smokey, letting out a victory howl. The merriment is short lived, however, given the presence of Smokey clawing onto the grill of the truck; even as McGruff rams into what few trees have yet to be set aflame, Smokey's grip stays strong.
Pushing against the monster truck, Smokey touches solid ground and growls; slowly he begins to grow in size. In a matter of seconds, the rate of growth hits and exponential increase, soon towering over the burning woods. Bellowing towards McGruff, the black bear raises a paw. Once McGruff pauses time to ask the audience to remember his memory, Smokey brings the limb down, crushing McGruff within the monster truck. Smokey then discards the crumpled chassis, and gets to work, scooping up lake water with his enormous shovel and dousing the flames.
McGruff's obliterated remains and the destroyed monster truck are nowhere to be found as the massive Smokey diligently puts out the forest fire. The hosts admit that McGruff's greater speed and smaller frame would make hitting him a challenge for Smokey to face, but otherwise held little chance in a fight against the bear. More to the point, however, were the abilities and equipment both had to offer. Smokey's ability to stop time still permitted him to interact with his surroundings, while McGruff could only advise and comment on the unfolding situations, and there was no real counter McGruff had to Smokey's size-changing powers. Neither anthropomorphic mammal has been known for his prowess in battle, but Smokey had natural advantages that would ultimately help him in such a fight, just as it did here.
- Boomstick: Smokey was just more than McGruff could bear. (the bear pun counter pops up, putting Boomstick's score at 7 compared to Wiz's 6) Ha ha, one last bear pun! Suck it, Wiz!
Wiz: Ugh. The winner is Smokey Bear!
Smokey Bear vs. McGruff the Crime Dog contains examples of:
- Adaptational Badass: As shown by the rundowns, both characters kick much more ass than they ever did in their respective PSA series.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Smokey has the ability to grow so huge that he can dwarf a mountain, which he shows off in the actual fight itself.
- Beehive Barrier: In the fight animation, McGruff's Circle of Respect takes this appearance. Somewhat odd, as the Circle's appearance is much plainer in the source material.
- Breather Episode: In between the villainous Japanese warriors and mythological heavy-hitting superheroes are two cartoon animals who spend their time preventing problems instead of fighting.
- Brick Joke: The bear pun counter is introduced during Smokey's segment, dropped during McGruff's and the fight, then pops right back in at the last minute.
- Face Death with Dignity / This Is Gonna Suck: McGruff doesn't even try to get out the monster truck before Smokey smashes it, only asking the viewer to remember him.
- Hurricane of Puns: Courtesy of Boomstick, who goads Wiz into outdoing him. He happily accepts the challenge.
- Reality Ensues: Even without counting abilities in, at the end of the day Smokey is still a goddamn bear with all the power and toughness that comes with it. As such, the faster but weaker and less durable McGruff could only be a nuisance to Smokey, who could easily use his strength to turn the fight in the bear's favour.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The fight starts because McGruff tries not to get caught in the middle of the wildfire. Once that fails, he attempts to haul ass later in the fight.
- Shout-Out: Many, many references, name-dropped and shown in footage, are made here, including We Bare Bears, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Anchorman, Bambi, The Addams Family, The Revenant, and League of Legends.
- Something Completely Different: The episode marks not only the first time public service characters appear in the series, but also the first fight done in traditional hand-drawn animation instead of sprites or 3D models.
- We All Live in America: Wiz says Smokey and McGruff are "known throughout the world", despite being public figures exclusive to the USA. Most comments made by people from outside the USA on YouTube (including the preview videos) fall along the lines of "who?"