Barney Bear is a series of MGM cartoons that ran through 1939 to 1954, initially created and directed by Rudy Ising of the Harman and Ising duo, but direction duties were later given to animators George Gordon, Michael Lah and Preston Blair, and finally Dick Lundy.
The cartoons are centered around the eponymous bear, a grumpy, lazy being who is usually just trying to do his own thing, like going fishing or taking a nap, only to have the world get the better of him and cause him trouble, even if he did nothing to bring such a fate on himself. Essentially, he was MGM's answer to Donald Duck.
While the earliest cartoons were fairly sluggish in pacing and focused more on lush production values than any genuine comedy, things picked up after Rudy Ising stopped directing and let others take over, streamlining the designs and pushing the series to become more influenced by Tex Avery's fast paced style of comedy.
While the cartoons were fairly good on their own terms, they were generally overlooked in favor of the studio's Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons, which is probably why the series didn't have much output, only lasting 26 cartoons over a 14 year period.
On a side note, he received many comic books over the years, some of which were even made by comic legend Carl Barks. In 2011, Craig Yoe Books released a compilation of all of Barks' Barney Bear stories.
Barney would also make a comeback via appearances in Filmation's The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show in 1980. His most recent appearance was a "blink and you'll miss it" moment as one of Moriarity's mooks in "Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes".
- Rudolph Ising shorts:
- The Bear That Couldn't Sleep (1939)
- The Fishing Bear (1940)
- The Prospecting Bear (1941)
- The Rookie Bear (1941)
- The Flying Bear (1941)
- The Bear and the Beavers (1942)
- Wild Honey (1942)
- Barney Bear's Victory Garden (1942)
- Bah Wilderness (1943)
- The Uninvited Pest (1943)
- George Gordon shorts:
- Bear Raid Warden (1944)
- Barney Bear's Polar Pest (1944)
- The Unwelcome Guest (1945)
- Preston Blair/Micheal Lah shorts:
- The Bear and the Bean (1948)
- The Bear and the Hare (1948)
- Goggle Fishing Bear (1949)
- Dick Lundy shorts:
- The Little Wise Quacker (1952)
- Busybody Bear (1952)
- Barney's Hungry Cousin (1953)
- Cobs and Robbers (1953)
- Heir Bear (1953)
- Wee-Willie Wildcat (1953)
- Half-Pint Palomino (1953)
- The Impossible Possum (1954)
- Sleepy-Time Squirrel (1954)
- Bird-Brain Bird Dog (1954)
Barney Bear cartoons with their own pages:
Tropes found in other Barney Bear shorts:
- Animation Bump: The earliest cartoons had some of the most lavish non-Disney animation available at the time.
- Art Evolution: Barney went through a big redesign after the first several cartoons. His first design◊ was very over-zealously drawn, with more bear-like anatomy and wrinkles displayed on him. Come the later shorts, and Barney received a much more expressive (and easier to animate) redesign.◊
- Ascended Extra: Barney's donkey from "The Prospecting Bear" (an Ising-era cartoon) later returned in "Half-Pint Palomino" (a Lundy-era cartoon) and became a recurring character in the comics, where he was given the name of Benny Burro.
- Beary Friendly: He's a very nice bear.
- Beary Funny
- Big Eater: Barney's cousin from "Barney's Hungry Cousin".
- Bittersweet Ending: The cartoon "The Impossible Possum" ends with Barney accidentally destroying his cabin, but at least he had the said possum over for dinner.
- Bratty Half-Pint: In "Wee-Willie Wildcat".
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: Exaggerated in "Bear Raid Warden", where an owl's eyes are so bright they light up the outdoors; Barney has to put shades on the owl to make it dark again.
- Canon Immigrant: Benny Burro is generally considered to be the same donkey seen in the MGM Oneshot Cartoon "Little Gravel Voice", since they both share identical designs.
- The Cat Came Back: Barney's cousin does this in "Barney's Hungry Cousin".
- The Chew Toy: Barney himself, practically reaching Cosmic Plaything territory. The outcomes of his shorts almost never ends positively for him, especially in shorts like "Barney's Hungry Cousin".
- Cut a Slice, Take the Rest/Taxman Takes the Winnings: At the end of "Heir Bear", the taxman comes to take "Uncle Sam's share" from the treasure Barney had just uncovered. He takes a coin... for Barney to keep while he collects the rest.
- Denser and Wackier: The series became this over time, due to incorporating obvious Tex Avery influence.
- Downer Ending: Almost every short in the series ends badly for Barney, but especially "Barney's Hungry Cousin".
- Dragged into Drag: While there's no actual clothing involved, "Half-Pint Palomino" has Barney make his donkey over into a female horse to the latter's great chagrin.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Jellystone Park appears for the first time in "Barney's Hungry Cousin". Coincidentally, one of the staff on Barney Bear, Micheal Lah, would go on to work on that show.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The earlier shorts, besides Barney's drastically different design, are more juvenile and sentimental in tone, and with tamer gags and much slower pacing, having far more in common with Disney shorts.
- Foot Bath Treatment: In "Polar Pest," the title character is hibernating for the winter when his nephew, a polar bear, shows up. Obviously accustomed to the Arctic, the nephew declares that the house is too hot and starts opening all the windows. Barney frantically attempts to keep the windows closed, but eventually loses the battle. In the next scene, a shivering Barney is giving himself a foot bath while his oblivious nephew begs to be taken ice fishing.
- Funny X-Ray: In "Wee-Willie Wildcat", after Barney tries to kick a football with a rock inside it, a cross-section of his body shows his entire skeleton shattering to pieces.
- Furry Confusion: "Barney's Hungry Cousin" has Barney (a bear who lives in a house and wears clothes) and his cousin (a bear who lives in the forest and is naked).
- Horrible Camping Trip: In "Bah Wilderness".
- Huge Rider, Tiny Mount: Barney's poor tiny donkey in "The Prospecting Bear", that despite being the size of a small dog has to support the weight of Barney and all his mining gear.
- Iron Butt-Monkey: Barney, natch.
- Jerkass: Barney's cousin.
- Karma Houdini: Barney's hungry cousin, from the cartoon of the same name, who for no given reason, gets Barney jailed in the end, via by putting the signs saying not to feed the bears he took down back up, summoning the police, and telling them that Barney tried to feed him, even though the guy spent the whole short stealing Barney's food, and Barney offered him his last sandwich in defeat. He doesn't even give Barney the pleasure of having his stashed lollipop as he's dragged off!
- Kids Are Cruel/Cats Are Mean: In "Wee-Willie Wildcat".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In "Busybody Bear", Barney unwittingly builds an oversized log dam in his valley to help out the local beaver (much to his chagrin) which subsequently causes the entire area to be flooded.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Rudy Ising based Barney's grumpy yet pleasant disposition on himself, and derived many of his mannerisms from screen actor Wallace Beery.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: In "Barney's Hungry Cousin", his cousin steps out of a falling phone booth just as it smashes into the ground, and is not hurt at all—completely defying all laws of inertia in the process.
- Popcorn on the Cob: "Cobs and Robbers" ends with two pesky crows turning Barney's corn field into a mountain of popcorn.
- Reaching Between the Lines: In "Barney's Hungry Cousin", Barney tries to hide from his cousin inside a phone booth. As he is about to take a bite of a sandwich he has, the phone in the booth rings and he answers it. Barney's cousin pops his head out through the mouthpiece of the phone and eats the sandwich, while the rest of his body is standing in a phone booth next door with nothing between the two booths!
- Shout-Out: "The Unwelcome Guest" features a nod to "Red Hot Riding Hood", via a book Barney is reading.
- In "Wee Willie Wildcat", there is a nod to "Señor Droopy", in which a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey is ruined by a real donkey that kicks a blindfolded Barney into a billboard for a ballet. The result is a gag that similarly occurs to the bull at one point in "Senor Droopy": a dazed Barney slides off the billboard, taking the image of the ballerina off with him and stumbling around to ballet music playing in the background before finally falling over.
- Simpleton Voice: Barney's hungry cousin.
- Smelly Skunk: The skunk that pesters Barney throughout "The Unwelcome Guest".
- Stock Scream: When Willie Wildcat is being spanked, his cries of pain are the same ones as Tom.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: The endings of both "Bah Wilderness" and "Busybody Bear", where the whole forest and valley are flooded, with a disgruntled Barney laying underwater.
- Taxman Takes the Winnings: At the end of the cartoon "Heir Bear", the taxman comes to take "Uncle Sam's share" from the treasure Barney had just uncovered. He takes a coin... for Barney to keep while he collects the rest.
- Twist Ending: "Half-Pint Palomino" ends with Barney capturing the tiny horse and turning him in for the money reward—only for the horse to summon his son, a horse even tinier than he is, so he can collect the reward instead of Barney.
- Vandalism Backfire: In "Bear Raid Warden", Barney is an air raid warden, tasked with making sure people's lights are out in case of an air raid. In the end, he sees a house with all its lights on and goes inside and tears everything apart putting out the lights. It's only at the end when he realizes the house he just ransacked was his.
- Wartime Cartoon: "Bear Raid Warden", "The Flying Bear", and "Barney Bear's Victory Garden".