Bear is the ursine title character from Bear in the Big Blue House. Bear greets television viewers, who he often addresses directly by facing the camera, with an appraising sniff and the information that he likes the way they smell. He has a strong sense of smell and loves to sniff things, but he enjoys his other four senses as well. Bear oversees everyone at the Big Blue House. Bear has a warm, caring personality somewhat similar in style to Fred Rogers and a well-ranged singing voice.
Bear does not have any children of his own, but seems to have a way with the younger members of his circle, and has raised Treelo since Treelo was a baby. He is full of good advice and warm, caring love. Bear never seems to get angry and often seems laid-back, but he loves to get up and dance the cha cha. He also has an advanced vocabulary and is ready and willing to teach it to others.
Bear's favorite food, like most bears, is honey. He absolutely loves its taste and smell. Another favorite food of his is triple-berry pie. Sometimes in the morning, Bear talks to the sun, Ray and he always talks to his good friend the moon, Luna, before going to bed at night. Bear attended Hazelnut High and sometimes he looks at his old yearbook, located in the attic of the Big Blue House. He was voted "Most Likely to Cha-Cha-Cha."
Apart from Bear in the Big Blue House, Bear starred in the spin-off series, Breakfast with Bear, and appeared in several stage shows. He has also made various guest appearances on such shows as Hollywood Squares, The Wayne Brady Show, Donny & Marie, The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, BBC Children in Need, Milkshake! and Live with Regis and Kelly. His live appearances include MuppetFest, an event for the Center for Puppetry Arts, various baseball-related appearances and The White House Easter Egg Roll.
Bear has been immortalized as a balloon appearing in at least three different parades, and has been produced in plush form and other merchandise. He also made an appearance in the "We Are Family" music video alongside Big Bird, Barney and characters from Between the Lions.
- "Home Is Where the Bear Is" - Bear takes the viewers on a tour of his Big Blue House.
- "Need a Little Help Today" - When Bear comes down with a cold, his friends help him and recall all the help he's given them.
- "Bear's Birthday Bash" - Bear's birthday is celebrated.
- "Bear's Secret Cave" - The kids discover Bear's secret cave that he once played in when he was a kid.
- "I For-Got Rhythm!?" - Bear searches for his rhythm when he forgets how to do "The Bear Cha-Cha-Cha."
- "This Is Your Life, Bear" - Bear wins a trip to Sequoia City and when his friends hear him say he needs a vacation, they sing him a song to show him how much they appreciate him.
Behind the Scenes
Bear is a full-bodied Muppet. The Bear costume weighed 45 pounds. According to Noel MacNeal, it was very comfortable and easy to move around in. In the fourth season, the puppet's eyes underwent a design shift, from circular to more pointed.
In one episode during the first season, Bear kneeled down to talk to Tutter, and at this point Noel MacNeal realized that it broke the illusion, so afterwards whenever he had to get down, Bear would get on all fours, with Jim Kroupa performing the right hand.
Like Big Bird, Bear was performed with MacNeal operating the head with his right hand and a string attached from the right arm to the chest to the left hand. He wore a monitor strapped to his chest to see what Bear was doing. In a Tough Pigs interview, Noel MacNeal spoke a bit about the device:
“There was a monitor. It was what I call Big Bird technology. There was a microphone strapped to my chest, and the string from the left hand to the right hand. But then when I did appearances on other shows like Hollywood Squares or Donny & Marie, and I had to walk out, I couldn’t really count on cameramen knowing how to shoot a puppet. So the Henson Company developed the camera-in-the-eye, so for those shots, I had a camera in the left eye, and a matching glint in the other one. Basically it was like if you put your right hand over your right eye, and make a tube with your left hand and put it over your left eye like half a binocular, that was the vision I had. So for those shows I would have two monitors. I would have the monitor giving me the feed of what you see at home, and then I would have the monitor showing me my actual vision.”
MacNeal is partially responsible for Bear's walk-around presence at Disney Parks, as well as inspiring subsequent live shows. While planning a New Years' trip to Florida, he had the idea to have the Henson Company send the puppet and wrangler Andrea Detwiler to him for a meet and greet at then-Disney's MGM Studios. Bear was positioned next to the Great Movie Ride and immediately attracted a crowd. A Disney staff member, unaware that MacNeal was in the puppet, walked over and attempted to tell him that he was not allowed to talk. Bear simply put his hand on the staff member's shoulder and matter-of-factly replied, "Yes I can!" The popularity of the appearance inspired the VEE Corporation to develop a mall tour, which in turn convinced Disney to buy the concept and bring it to MGM Studios.
Bear was developed as what MacNeal describes as "the anti-Barney": the time spent with the character was meant to be time children and their parents or caregivers could continue to have after the show was finished. In this regard MacNeal was, unusually for a Muppet production, asked to use his real voice as Bear as a way of matching the tone a grown-up would have, as well as a voice that "didn't make you want to gouge your eyes out."
Although the character has been retired, Noel MacNeal continues to create new content featuring Bear using a special Live-Hand puppet version built for him by James Wojtal, in videos that he posts on Twitter, TikTok, and Cameo.