The Bear That Wasn't is a 1967 MGM cartoon produced by Chuck Jones, based on the 1947 book of the same name by Frank Tashlin. Tashlin was also credited as a producer but was not involved in the actual production process.
One day, a bear decides to hibernate for the winter. During his hibernation, his forest and even cave get razed so that a big factory can be built. The factory is built and the bear is shocked when he walks right into the middle of the factory. A foreman spots the bear and orders him back to work, but the bear insists that he does not work here and is just a bear. The foreman shouts at him that he is a "a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat." The foreman takes him to see the general manager as well as the third, second and first vice presidents of the factory. They all repeat to the bear that he is not a bear, but a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat. The five men then escort the bear to the office of the president. Not only does the president repeat that the bear is a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat, but he proves it by taking the bear and the other managers to the zoo.
The president explains that bears belong in the zoo or the circus; since the bear was not at the zoo or circus, he can not be a bear. The zoo bears actually agree with the president's words, arguing that if the bear was really one of them, he would be in the zoo cage with them.
The bear finally accepts what the factory management has kept telling him. He goes to work in the factory. When fall comes and turns into winter, the bear's instincts take hold. He goes into a cave and hibernates for the winter. In spite of everything all the bosses and the zoo bears said, the bear "was not a silly man...and he was not a silly bear, either".
The cartoon is available for viewing on YouTube. It's also available on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and on the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1 Blu-Ray set.
Last animated short film ever made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
This cartoon provides examples of:
- An Aesop: Two, actually. Don't let what other people think of you be the only thing that defines you. Also, don't believe everything you hear, because it may not always be true.
- Argumentum Ad Nauseam: Throughout the cartoon, the bear is told over and over that he is not a bear but a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.
- Artistic License Animal Care: There are an awful lot of bears living in that one cage in the zoo.
- Artistic License Biology: Like with many cartoons, this short repeats the belief that bears hibernate in winter. In reality, bears do NOT truly hibernate, but will sleep for long periods of time. They do wake up during winter to go out looking for food.
- Beary Funny: Ya think? The poor bear spends the whole story being mistaken for a worker and eventually does have to work.
- Conspicuous Consumption: The offices of the vice presidents get progressively bigger with more secretaries, but the president's office really takes the cake. It is gigantic, and includes a big fancy chandelier, a giant desk with an equally giant chair and five secretaries!
- Escalating Punchline: The amount of secretaries increase with the rank that each supervisor has, and all they say is "come in!"... which finally culminates in the president's five secretaries who all sing a very elaborate, operatic song consisting of just saying "come in!".
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The foreman, general manager, all three vice presidents and president are never given any names but are referred to by their titles.
- Expressive Accessory: The foreman wears a button that mimics his facial expressions.
- The Faceless: We never see the factory president's face.
- False Dichotomy: The president argues that bears are not found in factories but in zoos and circuses. He dictates that since the bear is not in a zoo or a circus, he can't be a bear. The zoo bears even repeat and agree with this, arguing that the protagonist can't be a bear since he was not in the cage with the other bearsnote .
- Hard Truth Aesop: Frank Tashlin stated the original book was supposed to be about how people will believe what they want to believe, even when hard evidence stating otherwise is right in front of their face.
- Humans Are Morons: What else can be said about all the humans who stubbornly insist that the bear in front of them is human, when they can see otherwise.
- Insane Troll Logic: How dense can the factory management be to believe that this bear is actually a man in a fur coat, needing a shave? See also False Dichotomy above.
- Mister Big: The factory president is notably shorter than his subordinates.
- No Name Given: The ursine protagonist is never given an actual name. None of the other characters receives a name either.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: It is implied that one reason everyone thought the bear was a silly man, who needs a shave and wears a fur coat, was because he was holding a coffee mug and had a cigarette in his mouth. Near the end of the cartoon, he notices that he still has them. He drops them in the snow before returning to his cave.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Everyone insists to the bear that he is not a bear, but a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat. Even the bears at the zoo think the same thing!