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Formally called Help! It's The Hair Bear Bunch!, this Hanna-Barbera cartoon was essentially an ursine Hogan's Heroes in that it featured three screwball bears who live at Wonderland Zoo where they bargain for better living conditions and constantly sneak out for a night on the town. The zoo is run by Eustace P. Peevly and his dimbulb assistant Lionel J. Botch. The bears get assistance from their zoo inmates who include Bananas the Gorilla, Fumbo the Elephant, Pipsqueak the Mouse, Stretch the Giraffe, Fur-face the Lion and others. The bears' antics get Peevly in hot water with the zoo superintendent, but Hair's fast talking usually bails him out.
The bears were Hair Bear, so called because of his big orange afro; Bubi Bear, who speaks in gibberish quite often, and Square Bear, a clumsy lumberer with a big appetite, and the strange ability to ride a non-existant motorcycle.
The show was chided as being rather moronic, and even Joseph Barbera commented that he wasn't even aware his studio made it. It was developed as "The Yo-Yo Bears" and was renamed some two months before it hit the air on CBS September 11, 1971. It ran one year, was shelved, then returned in replays in September 1973. It ran Sunday mornings then was moved to Saturdays in February 1974 after CBS revamped its Saturday line-up. It was canceled that fall and remained dormant until 1984 when USA Network ran it on its Cartoon Express block. Cartoon Network and its sister channel, Boomerang, have also run the series.
- Art Shift: In preliminary models, Hair Bear was given a jutting chin, similar to Scooby Doo. It was later refined, but this preliminary version was briefly seen in the debut episode "Keep Your Keeper" as well as throughout its comic book adaptation "Zoo's Who" (Gold Key #1, February 1972).
- Balloon Belly: Square Bear in "The Diet Caper".
- Beary Funny
- Big Eater: Square Bear
- Butt Monkey: Mr. Peevly.
- Catch Phrase: Mr. Peevly's "I'll get you for this, Hair!" Also, Botch's "There goes my promotion" whenever he goofs on something.
- Cold Opening: On the CBS run, only the debut episode had a cold open--the 15 other episodes had the regular theme song opening and the pre-episode title teaser. Upon returning in 1984 to USA (and later CN and Boomerang), all the 15 other episodes were reformatted with cold opens.
- Comic Book Adaptation: Nine issues from Gold Key Comics (February 1972–February 1974) and an appearance in issue #13 of Hanna-Barbera Fun-In (August 1974). All stories were drawn by H-B layout artist Jack Manning. Issues #1 through 4 and the first story of issue #5 were either truncated or very loose adaptations of TV episodes.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: In "Closed Circuit TV", the bears, putting on a show as Three Bear Night, get Mr. Peevly to do impressions and goad him into impersonating the zoo superintendent. He does so, unaware that the superintendent is watching in the office on Peevly's closed circuit monitor.
- Edited For TV: Scenes that were animated but not used on the first CBS run were used in the second run. Among the scenes were the bears getting busted for playing "Slap Jack" with Bananas (Closed Circuit TV), Peevly accosting a wild forest bear, mistaking it for the Bunch (I'll Zoo You Later), and Peevly verbally accepting Hair's proposal to stage a re-enactment of the story of Noah and the Ark (Ark Lark). These scenes have been noticeably absent from the show's play on USA, Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
- More recently, footage from "Keep Your Keeper" is missing. It's footage of the bears running into their cave plus the following dialogue after Hair's alibi that the party hat on his head is in celebration of Peevly's birthday:
Peevly: My birthday isn't for six months!!
Hair: Nothing like getting a head start, sir.
- Everything's Worse with Bears: Just ask Mr. Peevly.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Expy: A loose expy of Hogan's Heroes, except with a zoo instead of a German P.O.W. camp. Peevly is the show's Col. Klink and Botch its Sgt. Schultz.
- Following this line of thought, Hair would be the show's Hogan, Bubi its Carter, and Square its LeBeau (in his cooking prowess). Other animals such as Slicks the fox and Stretch the Giraffe could be fill-ins for Newkirk and Kinchloe.
- Forgotten Birthday: Zig-zagged at the end of "The Diet Caper." Hair's alibi for raiding Peevly's refrigerator is that the animals were celebrating Botch's birthday, which Peevly grudgingly buys. While left to clean up, Hair confesses he made up the alibi and that Botch couldn't blow the whistle because Botch himself doesn't remember when his birthday is, either.
- Hammerspace: The bears' cave. When the keepers aren't around, the bears' cave transforms into a luxury den with a fully stocked kitchen. Another part of the cave conceals Bubi's laboratory, which he employs to create a perfume for Arnie the lovesick gorilla in "Love Bug Bungle".
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Comedian Joe E. Ross was Botch. Daws Butler was Hair Bear and Paul Winchell was Bubi.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Done in "Love Bug Bungle." The bears are out of control on an air-filled inflatable toy horse (using jet-propulsion to go). Whe Square asks how to control it, Hair says, "I'm a bear, not a cowboy!" Then in "I'll Zoo You Later," the bears make a getaway on a helium tank using the same jet-propulsion principle.
Square: Hey, Hair...can't you steer this thing?
Hair: Look, I'm a bear, not an astronaut!
- Man, I Feel Like a Woman: At the beginning of "I'll Zoo You Later", the bears try to sneak back into the zoo with Hair dressed as a mother (Bubi and Square are in a baby carriage hidden under a blanket).
- Later in the series, Hair Bear is dressed up as Mama Bear when the bears try out for a revisionist movie of the Goldilocks story. Botch dresses up as Goldilocks at the conclusion.
- Mythology Gag: In "The Diet Caper", the bears find themselves in what appears to be a haunted house (actually the haunted house of an amusement park). Background music from Scooby Doo is used.
- The aforementioned tweaked version of the "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" story. The actress playing Goldilocks, Twinkles Sunshine, is built up as a lovable sweetheart, but she turns out to be an Alpha Bitch.
- Omniglot: Bubi. He's able to communicate to inhabitants of another planet ("No Space Like Home").
- Pandaing to the Audience: Percy the baby panda in "Panda Pandemonium."
- Pro Wrestling Episode: "King Klong vs. the Masked Marvel". Bananas the Gorilla was King Klong and Botch was the Masked Marvel, but neither was aware of them being opponents.
- Scooby Snacks: Botch's promotion. Averted in that he never achieved it.
- Zig-zagged in the missing scenes from "I'll Zoo You Later": When Peevly accosts a wild bear and sees it's not the Bunch, he panicly runs for it and gets his belt loop caught in a tree branch.
Botch: If I help, do I get my promotion?
Peevly: (hysterically) Yes! Yes!!
(Botch tweaks the branch and Peevly flies out, landing on the ground)
Peevly: (slow-burning) I promote you from a third-class dolt to a first-class nincompoop!!
Botch: (actually pleased) Gee, thanks!
- Standardized Leader: Hair Bear.
- Super Multi-Purpose Room: The bears' cave is this.
- Syndication Title: Some reference material claims that the show went into syndication under the name "The Yo-Yo Bears" (its working title) after its CBS run. It actually remained dormant until USA Network acquired it for their "Cartoon Express" show in 1984.
- Talking Animal: The bears. As well as all the other inhabitants of the zoo.
- Talking to Himself: John Stephenson is both Peevly and the superintendent. Daws Butler does voices for Hair Bear, Bananas and Fumbo.
- Verbal Tic: Botch's "Ooh! Ooh!," which was Joe E. Ross' verbal tic.
- What Could Have Been: Hanna-Barbera planned to revive and update the Hair Bear Bunch and The Cattanooga Cats as revolving middle features of Two Stupid Dogs in its second season, but the plans were scrapped.
- Who Is Driving?: Square Bear is able to conjure up an invisible motorcycle when the situation calls for it. Hair Bear has commented on Square Bear's unusual ability, but generally accepts it as convenient.