Barney Bear is a anthropomorphic bear character that started in an American series of animated cartoon short subjects produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio. He's a sleepy, sluggish brown bear who often is in pursuit of nothing but peace and quiet. 26 Barney Bear cartoons were produced between 1939 and 1954.
The character was created for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by director Rudolf Ising, who based the bear's grumpy yet pleasant disposition on his own and derived many of his mannerisms from the screen actor Wallace Beery. The character was voiced by Rudolf Ising from 1939 to 1941, Pinto Colvig in 1941, Billy Bletcher from 1944 to 1949, Paul Frees from 1952 until 1954, Frank Welker in 1980, Lou Scheimer in 1980, Jeff Bergman in 2004, and Richard McGonagle from 2012 to 2013. Barney Bear made his first appearance in The Bear That Couldn't Sleep in 1939, and by 1941 was the star of his own series, getting an Oscar nomination for his fourth cartoon, the 1941 short The Rookie Bear. Ising left the studio in 1943.
Ising's original Barney design contained a plethora of detail: shaggy fur, wrinkled clothing, and six eyebrows; as the series progressed, the design was gradually simplified and streamlined, reaching its peak in three late 1940s shorts, the only output of the short-lived directorial team of Preston Blair and Michael Lah. These cartoons tended to have a hint of Tex Avery's influence and more stylized, rubbery movements—which wasn't surprising, as both worked as animators (and Lah ultimately as co-director) on several of Avery's pictures. Avery himself never directed a Barney short. The last original Barney Bear cartoons were released between 1952 and 1954, and Dick Lundy was responsible for those. In the films from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Barney's design was streamlined and simplified, much the same as those of Tom and Jerry were.
In the 1941 cartoon The Prospecting Bear, Barney is paired with a donkey named Benny Burro. Though Benny would only make two further cartoon appearances, he would later feature as Barney's partner in numerous comic book stories.
Barney Bear would not appear in new material again until Filmation's The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show in 1980. More recently, Barney Bear appeared in the direct-to-video films Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse in 2012 and in Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure in 2013. Giant Adventure once again paired Barney with Benny Burro. Barney Bear also made cameo appearances in Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes in 2010 and Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz in 2016.
In the comics, along with Tom & Jerry, Barney Bear appeared in the first issue of Our Gang from Dell August 1942. Barney Bear appeared in most of the Dell issues and some of the Gold Key issues.
Some of the comic stories are "solo" Barney Bear stories, some are Barney Bear and Benny Burro stories and some are Barney Bear with Fuzzy & Wuzzy stories. Barney Bear's nephews, Fuzzy and Wuzzy, got their own series of comic stories, most of which include Barney Bear. Many of Barney Bear's stories feature his neighbor (friend/rival), Mooseface McElk.
Barney Bear had his own series of comic books in Australia that went 10 issues from 1949-1950. These reprinted stuff published by Dell/Western Publishing. Barney Bear also appeared in a series of one-page original comic stories in the pages of TV Comic magazine in the UK, published by Polystyle Publications Ltd.
Uncle Scrooge creator Carl Barks worked on many of the early Barney Bear stories and those have been collected in various prestigious hardcover books from many publishers around the world.
Spire, the Christian comics company know for their Archie comics, published at least 8 single issues of an unrelated Barney Bear comic that seems more like a Christian version of The Berenstain Bears, than anything related to the famous MGM Bear. The comics were published 1977-1982. Barbour Publishing appears to have reprinted some of these comics 1986-1991.
- Rudolf Ising from 1939 to 1941
- Pinto Colvig in 1941
- Billy Bletcher from 1944 to 1949
- Paul Frees from 1952 until 1954
- Frank Welker in The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show; episodes 1-3, 5, 6, and 8
- Lou Scheimer in The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show; episodes 4 and 7-15, wraparound segments
- Richard McGonagle in Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse and Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure
- Stephen Stanton in The Tom and Jerry Show (2014)
- 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
- Barney Bear and the Uninvited Pest 1943
- Bear Raid Warden 1944
- Barney Bear's Polar Pest 1944
- The Unwelcome Guest 1945
- The Bear and the Bean 1948
- The Bear and the Hare 1948
- Goggle Fishing Bear 1949
- 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
- Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes
- Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse
- Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure
- Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz
A selection of Barney Bear cartoons have been released on VHS tapes and Happy Harmonies Cartoon Classics laserdisc by MGM/UA Home Video in the 1980s and 1990s.
The following cartoons can be found as extras on DVDs or Blu-rays of classic Warner Home Video films of the period:
- The Fishing Bear is on the DVD of Pride and Prejudice (1940)
- Rookie Bear is on the DVD of Lady Be Good (1941)
- Bah Wilderness is on the DVD of Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
- Bear Raid Warden is on the DVD of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
- The Unwelcome Guest is on the DVD of Easy to Wed (1946)
- The Bear and the Hare is on the DVD of On an Island with You (1948)
- The Little Wise Quacker is on the DVD of Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
- Barney's Hungry Cousin is on the Blu-Ray of Kiss Me Kate (1953)
- Cobs and Robbers is on the DVD of Easy to Love (1953)
In 2017, most of the Barney Bear shorts were released on the Boomerang streaming app.