National treasure furry friends that continue to be our bear necessities
Our love affair with the teddy bear has not ended. Indeed, you only need to watch television or visit the cinema to see that teddy bear characters are still exceptionally popular. Steve Cain details the top ten.
1 Paddington Bear
Michael Bond, who created Paddington, was inspired to do so when sheltering from bad weather in a toy shop near Paddington station in 1956. The first story was completed within ten days and twenty more would follow over the years. An animated television series based on the books ran from 1976 until 1980.
It was narrated by Michael Hordern, who also voiced all of the characters. The duffel-coated marmalade sandwich-loving stowaway from "‘deepest, darkest Peru" is such a national institution that he helped the Queen get her Platinum Jubilee concert started in June. The pair shared a cream tea before tapping out the beat of We Will Rock You on their china teacups to herald the opening act, rock group Queen.
Created by AA Milne in the 1920s, Winnie-the-Pooh was described as "slow-witted, accident-prone and daydreaming". The "hunny" obsessed bear was the central character of stories that Milne told to amuse his son Christopher Robin.
Disney bought the rights to feature Pooh in animated films in the 1960s and he has been an A-lister among fictional bears ever since. In the 1970s, the BBC children’s programme Jackanory serialised the two Pooh books, which were read by Willie Rushton.
Famed for his red sweater and matching yellow checked trousers and scarf, Rupert was created by artist Mary Tourtel and first appeared in a comic strip in the Daily Express in 1920. He was originally a brown bear but was soon changed to white to save on printing costs.
The dapper bear’s magical adventures invariably begin with Rupert setting out into the village of Nutwood to perform a simple errand for his mother. No matter how they develop, Rupert and his best friend, Bill Badger, are always safely back home in time for tea.
Baloo was "the sleepy bear" in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 collection of stories The Jungle Book. He is the strict teacher of the cubs of the Seeonee wolf pack and his most challenging pupil is "man-cub’" Mowgli.
In the 1967 feature-length animated Disney film adaptation, Baloo is portrayed as a more friendly and even-tempered character who enjoys a responsibility-free lifestyle.
However, he is still a mentor to Mowgli and teaches him ‘The Bare Necessities’ of life via the famous, rousing song, which was sung by the wise-cracking, scatting jazz bandleader Phil Harris, who improvised his lines to make Baloo appear more laid-back.
The ITV children’s series Rainbow was devised in 1972 by Thames Television as a British version of the American educational puppet show Sesame Street.
It aimed to teach preschool children about numbers and language and featured three puppets – self-centred extrovert Zippy, kind and shy George the hippo,and the anxious, clumsy and camp Bungle the bear.
Although on the surface Bungle appeared to be well-behaved and sensible, he had a bit of a sneaky side and a tendency to suck up to those in authority.
SuperTed began as an ordinary teddy bear who, upon manufacture, was deemed defective and discarded into a storeroom. Spotty, a visiting alien from the Planet Spot, discovered him and brought him to life using cosmic dust.
He then took him to a magic cloud to visit Mother Nature, who gave the bear special powers, transforming him into a superhero adorned with red suit, cape and rocket boots. SuperTed’s main foe was Texas Pete, a greedy cowboy, and his two henchmen, the overweight and bumbling Bulk as well as the cowardly and effeminate Skeleton.
Pudsey is the official mascot of BBC Children in Need. He first appeared in 1985 and instantly transformed the brand.
He was created by BBC designer Joanna Ball, and took his name from her home town in Yorkshire. Pudsey is characterised by his famous yellow fur and the multi-coloured polka dot bandage worn over his right eye.
The reason for his eye patch has never fully been explained. However, many assume it is to make him more relatable to the children the charity fund-raises for. Pudsey was originally brown with a red bandage around his head and his buttons spelt out BBC down his front.
8 Big Ted & Little Ted
Big Ted and Little Ted were twin teddy bears that featured in the long-running BBC children’s programme Play School. Big Ted was originally just known as Teddy until his twin brother, Little Ted debuted in 1968.
They were accompanied by an array of other toy characters, including Humpty, a dark green egg-shaped toy, rag doll Jemima, little downtrodden doll Hamble and Poppy, black doll who replaced Hamble in 1986 to represent ethnic diversity in multi-racial Britain.
9 Peppy the Polar Bear
First introduced into packaging in the 1920s, Peppy the Polar Bear is the mascot for Fox’s Glacier Mints. Originally described as "a slow, lethargic bear," Peppy underwent a redesign last year and is now depicted as "a happier and healthier bear".
Peppy (short for peppermint) was originally designed by Clarence Reginald Dalby, an artist from Leicestershire, who later illustrated the Thomas the Tank Engine books. He was paid just seven shillings and sixpence to design the logo – equivalent to approximately £15.40 in today’s money!
10 Sooty & Soo
Everyone knows Sooty – the mischievous, magic-performing glove puppet character. He is a mute yellow bear with black ears and nose who infamously squirts his handler with his iconic water pistol. The character first debuted on TV in 1955.
His girlfriend Soo, a panda bear, is sweet, shy and rather responsible in nature. She hated being tricked by Sooty and Sweep, but didn’t mind tricking others. Soo made her debut in 1964.
The Sooty franchise remained under the ownership of Harry Corbett until his retirement in 1976, when he passed it on to his son Matthew. In 1998, Richard Cadell took over and bought the rights in 2007, ensuring the bear brand’s survival.