AND THEN THERE WAS THE TIME JOE FLYNN’S VOICE WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH TO BE JOE FLYNN …
HELP! IT’S THE HAIR BEAR BUNCH!
THE COMPLETE ANIMATED SERIES
NEWLY REMASTERED & AVAILABLE ON DVD
FROM THE WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION
Seeing may be believing. But hearing can be a little trickier.
So goes the tale of voice casting for Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch!, the 1971 gem from Hanna-Barbera Studios now newly remastered and available on DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
In the Wonderland Zoo, there are the certain bears who stay at home every night and never quarrel or fight – and then there’s the Hair Bear Bunch, the heppest, savviest and silliest ursines to ever crash out of a zoo. Their bear cave transforms from stone and straw to a swinging, scientific bachelor bear pad at the touch of a button – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Quick-talking Hair (voiced by Daws Butler), befuddling curlicue talker Bubi (Paul Winchell) and master of the invisible motorcycle, the zen-drawling Square Bear (William Callaway) are more than a match for their “keepers” – Mr. Eustace P. Peevly (John Stephenson) and Botch (Joe E. Ross). And that’s even before the other delightful denizens of Wonderland Zoo are always ready to help the Bears in their bigger-than-the-zoo schemes.
This two-disc, 16-episode collection contains all the mod bears’ madcap extra-zoohicular adventures.
Joe Ruby and Ken Spears produced Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! for Hanna-Barbera Studios – one of more than 40 series the duo has been responsible for bringing to animated fruition. The team started as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera, branched out into writing, and eventually went on to create the landmark series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Eventually, the pair would open their own company – Ruby-Spears Productions. The result was some of the most popular animated series on television, including Alvin and the Chipmunks and Superman. Ruby-Spears continues to be a creative force in the industry today.
On Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch!, Ruby and Spears put the show together and wrote the first script. Things went well with just one “minor” bump in an otherwise smooth production road – the casting of the series’ key voice talent.
“The main character was supposed to be a take-off on Joe Flynn’s character in McHale’s Navy,” Spears recalls. “That was a big deal, so we went out and recruited Joe Flynn to do the voice. Only problem was that it just didn’t work.
“Joe obviously knew the character, but he was one of those guys that you really had to see him do the role. It didn’t translate to the voice in the animation. So we had to get somebody to impersonate Joe Flynn to play the Joe Flynn role.”
The call went to John Stephenson, a versatile actor who stands today as the last living principle member of The Flintstones voice cast (he voiced Mr. Slate). It’s Stephenson, and not the oft-assumed Joe Flynn, that provides the voice of Mr. Peevly.
“John did a ton of voice work – he was like the villain of the week for cartoons,” Spears says. “He was always playing the bad guy or someone under suspicion. He was a great character actor and, while he didn’t have a big range in his voice, he did a lot of work for Hanna-Barbera.”
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