DefunctTV: The History of Bear in the Big Blue House


In mid-1997, the Walt Disney Company began making significant changes to their underperforming cable venture, The Disney Channel. Debuting as a premium subscription-based service in 1983, the channel had slowly been transitioning into basic cable in the early 1990s. This introduced the Disney Channel to a much wider audience, but it was still having a difficult time catching up to the other popular children’s networks of the time. Nickelodeon, for instance, was doing exceedingly well. On top of their popular cartoons, the channel had been airing hit live-action TV shows such as Are You Afraid of the Dark in 1991 and All That in 1994. The success of these shows was attributed to their young cast and kid-oriented writing. As the company’s president described it, “The Nickelodeon perspective is that it’s tough being a kid in an adult world… Kids are the ultimate underdogs.” Disney Channel, on the other hand, rejected this route. They wanted to remain kid-oriented throughout all of their shows. The senior vice president of programming, Rich Ross, explained: “Our humor cannot just arise from dissing parents. What I think we’re doing is providing situations where kids and families see themselves in a positive way. While Disney wanted to stay within its mission, it was clear that something would need to change in order to compete with the other channels. In 1997, Disney decided to structure the channel’s programming differently. The morning would consist of shows and animations directed toward the preschool demographic, as older children would be at school during this time. In the afternoon and evening, There would be a heavier focus on programming for other children and preteens. This essentially meant that, for the first half of the day, Disney Channel would be competing with Nickelodeon’s preschool block, Nick Jr., as well as PBS KIDS which, at the time, was airing shows such as Sesame Street, Barney and Friends, and their newest hit, Arthur. With the new structure of the channel in place, Disney began green-lighting original series that would fit within the new blocks. One of these shows would premiere that same year, on October 20th, 1997, and before they knew it, the newly branded Disney Channel had a hit on their hands. “Welcome to the blue house!” “Hello from the small mouse!” “Things to do!” “Fun for you!” “Howdy from the big bear!” “Want some fun?” “Here’s where,” “just for you,” “all is new!” “In the house of blue!” Bear in the Big Blue House was created by writer and producer Mitchell Kriegman, who had previously created the early 90s Nickelodeon sitcom, Clarissa Explains it All. When creating bear in the Big Blue House, Kriegman created a warm atmosphere with a group of characters that truly loved each other and the audience. In interviews, Kriegman would explain that “I didn’t grow up in a very supportive family, but it gave me a lot of time to figure out what one was.” The show’s cast of characters consisted of Tutter (a small blue mouse) Pip and Pop (twin otters) Treelo (a childlike lemur) Ojo (a red bear cub) and the star of the show, a light brown bear named Bear. There were also supporting characters such as a shadow, who would appear on the walls of the house, Ray the sun, who [sic] Bear would talk to during the day, and Luna the moon, who would come out at night to talk and sing with Bear. The majority of the show would take place within the Big Blue House, but characters would occasionally explore the surrounding area and the town of Woodland Valley. The show was produced by Jim Henson Television, with puppet designer Paul Andrejco creating the characters. Bear was operated and voiced by Noel MacNeal, a longtime puppeteer most known for starring in another children’s puppet show, Eureka’s Castle on Nickelodeon, which ran from 1989 to 1995. Many of the characters, including Tutter and Pip, were puppeteered by Peter Linz, now known for portraying Walter in the new Muppet movies. Luna the moon was voiced by Lynne Thigpen, well-known for her career on Broadway and for portraying the chief in the Carmen Sandiego TV series. A never-aired pilot episode of Bear in the Big Blue House reveals that the characters of Pip and Pop were originally brown instead of purple, and Pip’s name was supposed to be Pummel. Disney supposedly wanted the latter changed due to “pummel” sounding too violent. The first season consisted of 26 episodes, all airing within a little over one month between October 20th and November 24th of 1997. Each episode of the first season of the show followed generally the same format, with the goal of each one being to explain a simple concept or scenario. Examples of these from the first season are exercise, birthdays, sharing, and the mail. Each episode would begin with the show’s theme, immediately followed by Bear opening the door to the big blue house and greeting the viewer. He would then sniff around, asking “What’s that smell?” “Wait a second.” “What’s that smell?” He would then realize that it was actually his guest. Bear would then compare their smell to something else of good scent such as pancakes or berries. “It’s you!” “Ooh, tell me do you have your pajamas on? Because you smell like clean pajamas.” He would then introduce today’s activities and focus, typically running into the other characters. “…the crickets, the wind…” “Hey, Bear!” “…Ojo.” “Ojo?!” Bear would sing an original song relating to the episode’s topic. The show utilized a variety of music styles, such as jazz, lassen, and even hip hop. The most recurring song was for Bear’s signature dance, the Bear Cha-Cha-Cha. “Ooh-la-la, time to cha-cha-cha!” “The Bear Cha-Cha-Cha!” After the song, a segment of interviews with real kids would be shown, in which the children comment on the topic. The show then returns to Bear and his friends, continuing the plot of the episode. Many times, Bear would run into Shadow, who would tell him a classic children’s story. At the end of each episode, Bear would find Luna, typically by going to the attic’s balcony. The two would then sing the goodbye song, remembering the fun activities of the day and looking forward to the viewer’s next visit. “But hey, I say, well that’s okay” “‘Cause we’ll see you very soon, I know!” Afterwards, Bear would then say a final word and a personal goodbye to his guest. “Welcome to the blue house…” “He’s the bear who’s singing and dancing his way into your family’s hearts…” “I sure do love to cha-cha-cha!” “…with friends your children will fall in love with…” “…and an adventurous spirit that makes learning exciting!” “It’s a magnifying glass!” “So put a song in their hearts!” “Clean up the house! (Tidy it up, tidy it up!)” “With Bear in the Big Blue House! He’s what’s fun on video from Jim Henson Television!” “See you soon!” The show was an instant success, with children and parents alike falling in love with the characters and setting. Positive comparisons were made between Bear in the Big Blue House and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, and the character of Bear was applauded as being the anti-Barney, a kind, calm father figure, as opposed to the loud, childlike dinosaur. Bear in the Big Blue House was a breakout hit, and it was by far the most successful show on Disney Channel’s newly branded preschool block, Playhouse Disney. A second season of Bear in the Big Blue House was already in production by the time the first one premiered. Season two would air throughout 1998, with the last episode airing in February of 1999. This finale was arguably the show’s most popular episode, entitled When You’ve Got To Go, which tackled the difficult issue of potty training. The show was praised for its handling of the topic. As the show grew in popularity, more merchandise was created. These included albums, books, parade balloons, video games, and a variety of toys. Noel MacNeal would also appear on shows and events as Bear. “And that is how you do the Bear Cha-Cha-Cha!” “Bear, scientists say it’s physically impossible to keep your eyes open when you do it, when you do what?” “Watch C-Span. Have you seen it? …speaker the great state of *snores*” In June of 1999, a month before the third season a bear would begin airing, a live stage show based on the series would begin playing at Disney-MGM Studios, in the location formerly occupied by the soundstage restaurant. The show featured the main characters and the Big Blue House, hitting many of the same beats commonly found in Bear’s episodes. The show would play until August 4th 2001. It would be replaced by Playhouse Disney Live in October of that same year, Which now featured more characters from other Playhouse Disney shows, with the Bear characters only appearing at the beginning and the end of the program The new show would also appear in Disney California Adventure in Hollywoodland in 2003, replacing the ABC Soap Opera Bistro. Bear and his friends would be included in the show until 2007, when they would be replaced with puppet versions of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters. The third season of Bear in the Big Blue House would air through the end of 1999. After this, the show would go on hiatus for nearly three years. In between, a live show entitled Bear in the Big Blue House Live, Surprise Party, would tour the U.S. and Canada. A filmed version would later air in September of 2002. A week later on September 9th, Bear in the Big Blue House would return for a fourth season. This season was much different in style than those that come before it. The show was retooled to put more focus on the characters and locations of Woodland Valley. The theme song and intro were rewritten to the new setting, and the show featured plot lines such as Tutter attending mouse school and Bear volunteering in the town. “Hello, everybody!” “Welcome to Woodland Valley!” The kids’ interview segments were removed entirely, Luna had a more orange appearance, and Shadow had a severely reduced presence. The first and second episodes of the season focus on a storyline Loosely responding to the events of September 11th, with the characters dealing with their library being destroyed by a fallen tree. The fourth season also put the show over the 100 episode milestone. The new episodes aired sporadically throughout 2002 and 2003, with eight episodes not being aired. It wouldn’t be until 2006 that these episodes would be released, but these were shown for a very limited time. Many of them are considered pieces of lost media, as Disney did not release them on home video. Before the release of the final episode of season 4, a spin-off series was created, entitled Breakfast with Bear. The show featured bear visiting kids in the morning to learn about their daily routine and interact with them, with the goal being to promote healthy living. This series aired in short segments within blocks containing other shows on Playhouse Disney, with the final episode airing on September 15 2006. Both Breakfast with Bear and Bear in the Big Blue House would be completely phased out of Playhouse Disney after this, with no more episodes of either series being produced. What makes the removal of the property so puzzling is the fact that, in 2004, Disney acquired the Muppets and other Jim Henson properties, including bear in the Big Blue House. For whatever reason, after obtaining full ownership of the series, Disney only moved forward with the spinoff. Some have speculated that this is due to the sudden passing of Lynne Thigpen, the voice of Luna, on March 12th 2003, but the real reason seems to be that the show had simply done its job in terms of production. With 118 episodes of the main show produced, Playhouse Disney had plenty of material to re-air should they need to. Plus, Disney Channel wanted to focus on new shows and properties for a new generation of children. Bear in the Big Blue House was a staple of many people’s childhoods. With a lifespan of nearly a decade, the image of the seven-foot-tall tan bear sparks memories not only in the children that watched it, but in their parents as well. The show was hugely impactful on children with special needs, specifically those on the autism spectrum. This is believed to be because of Bear’s gentleness as a caregiver, and the calming nature of the show. The series was successful in sticking with Disney Channel’s family-oriented programming, and it helped launch the developing channel into the mainstream. While it is unfortunate that many of the episodes were never re-released and the property was entirely phased out, if bear taught us anything, it was how to properly say goodbye. “Goodbye, goodbye, good friends, goodbye! tomorrow, just like today, the moon, the bear, and the big blue house will be waiting for you to come and play… to come and play… To come and play! Bye now!”

Comments 100

  • Thanx for this! That show launched my career … will ALWAYS remember it fondly.

  • I used to have a PC game from this show when I was young that I absolutely loved!

  • I have this show on DVD

  • You're telling me there's an episode of Hollywood Squares that had not only Bear but also "Macho Man" Randy Savage?

  • I never even heard of this show until I found YTP of it.

  • I would play jet pack joyride all day, and when my other dad came home, we would watch this.

  • 2:08 anime is gay – tutter

  • Plz do a video on Eureeka's Castle!

  • I grew up with this one. The songs still sometimes pop up in my mind randomly years after I had seen them

  • I watched this and only have fond memories of it. At first I thought this video would destroy the series for me (like most Nickelodeon shows thanks to the videos about Dan Scheider…) but that's not the case. All that is left is a smile on my face and that warm feeling of happiness

  • Can you do blues clues next?

  • It was the time my daughter was born. I loved this show.
    RIP Lynne Thigpin, I really had no idea.

  • God i miss this show..

  • I'm autistic and I watched Bear in the Big Blue House in its early years, but I can't say that I necessarily found Bear more appealing than other characters on TV at that time.

  • Um, I'm sorry, but was bear in stage with Macho Man Randy Savage?

  • Right in the feels!

  • I enjoyed watching the show as much as my kids did. Kudos all around to everyone who created and worked on it.

  • I have fond memories of BITBBH. Growing up with kids shows like this was amazing! It’s a shame today’s generation’s shows are full of fart jokes, no proper storylines & basically full of crap.

  • Please do 1 on Barney.

  • Has he done out of the box yet?

  • how could you not show the final goodbye song…. I was just 5 when I found it on TV so I ended up talking about it at school and they watched it and I ended up balling when my mom told me they weren't making new episodes it "had to go away, and it won't come back" That's when I learned that company's only care about money.

  • I really want to see a behind the fame documentary in Bear

  • Uhm you mean the best show ever made?

  • One of the few shows I could actually enjoy with my toddler. Pip & Pop 4ever!

  • 11:01 oh my god that explains why I loved it

  • This show gave me nightmares as a kid

  • Loved that damn show

  • Bear the most creative name of the century

  • When I was in Hokkaido I had bear meat.

    Yum!

  • Thank you Bear in the big blue house, I may have been a little older, as a kid, when I saw you but I always enjoyed that final song.

  • 4:16
    is that the kitchen set from Family Matters?

  • I remember this show! I was most definitely terrified 😂😂

  • My wee heart is bursting! I loved this show x

  • Do beavis and Butthead

  • this was my favourite as a kid :'''''')

  • I hope that you’ll continue DefunctTV. I would really love to see you eventually cover The Big Comfy Couch. Bear and TBCC were hugely important to me as a child, specifically one on the spectrum. Seeing you cover them both would be incredible. I used to have a bear animatronic toy that danced to the bear cha cha cha, and today, i still have my Molly doll from tbcc. Ive seen a lot of requests for it in the comments, so i thought i might add onto that. Thank you for such an amazing video about something i loved so much, and still do to this day.

  • Both of my 2 children were brought up on Bear in the Big Blue House – sigh – loved him 😀

  • The only thing I remember about him is that he guest starred on Hollywood Squares

  • The loud child like Barney!! That description fits perfectly. Barney was originally voiced by a man named Bob West, who also did the voices of Jasper T. Jowls, and Pasquale for the Chucky E. Cheese franchise. And if you put you find Showbiz Pizza on here, you can listen to the audition tapes. There’s 3 tapes for each of the characters. I listened to Jasper & Pasquale, and. OH I was able to find the one’s that Bob West did!!!😆😆😆

  • Hey look! It’s Crisp rat!

  • I used to love this as a child 😭😭❤️

  • Man, this show was my childhood. I vaguely remember it, but watching this video just sent a wave of nostalgia.

    One thing I’ll never forget, though, was Tutter’s Smellseum

  • THE NOSTALGIA IS KILLING ME!

  • BUT WHY AM I CRYING?!… these videos are so well made

  • both channels such now smh

  • can u do reading rainbow n the puzzle place n under the banana tree

  • nothing is the same anymore

  • I remember watching this as a kid.

    Thanks for reminding me Pip and Pop exist.

  • I remember watching a few episodes in preschool while eating lunch…it was 2 years of eating lunch while watching the gentle nature of this bear with his friends, who were slightly more energetic. I finally remember the name and characters,and the episodes who made me who I am.

  • 7:36 Bear and Randy Savage? Now this I gotta see.

  • Can I just say thank you for ending it by showing moon out the window. It really did warm my heart and we are honoring the woman who made the moon alive and who made us happy🌕🌛😊

  • It's such a shame that the whole show was never released on DVD or such. I'm 19 and German, due to the dubs we were a few years behind with this show so it started airing here in the early 2000s if I remember it correctly…just when I was a young child in need of some kindness and serenity. Bear has taught me so much and he gave me so many good memories. Now I know that there's a new Hello after every Goodbye, even if some Goodbyes are forever. Even now as a semi-grown up, I use his lessons to guide my way through tough situations in my everyday life. I've stayed young at heart so I kept on following modern kids shows…but there's nothing like the 80s/90s/00s shows. How the heck is CGI animation gonna teach my future children something about respect and caring about eachother? That's pretty saddening. I'll just buy the few episodes released on DVD to watch them with them…mabe that way I can carry Bear's spirit of kindness and awareness into the next generation 🙂

  • I grew up with this show but I never knew about the woodland valley variation of the show 😂😂

  • man this made me emotional for some reason. this show was such a big part of my childhood. i still somehow remember all the words to the goodbye song

  • love what you did with luna there.

  • Barney looks like some felt abomination

    Bear just looks like a big huggable friend

  • Noooooooo, I don’t wanna see the puppets

  • Awww ❤️ this brings back memories of watching this before school with my baby brother…. When life was easy.

  • After watching the Jim Henson mini-series, it's nice to know that, for a time, the puppeteer company was still in good hands.

  • I didn't watch this episode until now because the only time I watched this show was when I was with my grandma over the weekends. I learned to appreciate good craftsmanship from her because she was amazed by how well everything was designed, and couldn't stop trying to figure out how the Bear costume/puppet worked. She might have been gone for a little over a year now, but I still couldn't help tearing up at times. ;w;

  • This show made my childhood a lot less rough I remember it fondly

  • You should do an episode on Eureka’s Castle

  • I didn't realize Bear was so old! I thought the show came out in the Naughties!

  • 👍🏿💖😢😭🙏🏿🏰😚

  • Anyone wanna explain to me why I just started crying about Bear in the Big Blue House

  • Big Bear in the Big Blue House was THE show of my childhood.
    Thank you for making me remembering it.

    (P.S: thank you Tyler Bunch).

  • 11:20 to the end just hit me back to my childhood

  • Anyone else cry when they played the goodbye song? Please say it wasn’t just me…

  • At the end of the video you immediately feel sad they said “good bye”

  • I loved Bear in the Big Blue House. I remember watching a video tape of the episodes "Mouse Party" and "Bear's Birthday Bash". At one point, I had a Bear in the Big Blue House playset. Thanks for bringing back memories from my childhood, Kevin.☺️

  • Wish I lived with a Bear

  • Can u please do more Tv… i absolutely love it

  • I loved this show as a kid! I always wanted to hear bear sing! I miss it.

  • The actual reason was because Lynn died

  • I had an irrational fear of this bear no lie

  • Can you do a defunctTV for out of the box? It was one of my favorite shows as a kid!

  • The end made me cry 😭

  • Who remembers OObie??

  • I watch this show with my nephew and it's our favorite! I always have fond memories of it ❤

  • Maybe you could make a Defunctland on Bear Live/Playhouse Disney Junior Live

  • I think the thing that makes me the most emotional about the show is the last episodes version of the goodbye song. If you haven't seen it look it up

  • This and "in the night garden" are my favorite childrens shows i occasionally watch and enjoy

  • Thank you so much for mentioning Eureka’s Castle! It was my favorite show growing up and NO ONE remembers it!

  • One of my biggest fears as a kid was the bear sniffing the camera. Loved the show but I had to look away everytime it happened. And this is actually the first time, I watched it all the way through and I shat myself.

  • I remember this show so fondly!

  • I loved this show as a kid and it helped me through some very hard times in my life. I would watch this show as a kid and eventually I grew out of it. Now I am going through a depression and sometimes I watch this show because it is so calm and comforting, it really helps me when I hit rick bottom. Thank you Jim Henson for this incredible show and work of art.

  • Thank you for making this video. It really took me back twenty years when my daughter was so young and we didn't know yet that she had autism. We all loved the show. My dad especially loved it when Luna sang with Bear. That's a nice memory for me. Watching this was bittersweet, because there was a lot of happiness with this show, but it came to an end and then there were so many changes. Never got to see season 4, but this stroll down memory lane has been great.

  • Disney should bring it back.

  • Nostalgia hit me hard, but it didn't hurt.

  • Not gonna lie watching this made me tear up a bit…. So many memories as a kid <3

  • What's the nearest spin-off show like this on PBS Kids but it introduced a sloth and was called big Green world

  • Disney keeps making new kid shows where the characters are emotionless blocks with no soul, simplify every problem, and make you think life is supposed to be happy all the time. Bear was the opposite. The characters had multiple emotions and actually felt real, they didn't over simplify issues but instead put them into terms kids could understand while still keeping the context this is especially present in the episodes that followed September 11. It taught friendship, simple and complex life lessons, music, what a family is. They need to bring back this show. DONT REBOOT IT!!!! YOU HAVE 110 EPISODES OF THIS SHOW PLUS 8 "LOST EPISODES"!!!!! REMASTER THE QUALITY OF THE SOUND AND FOOTAGE AND RERUN THE ORIGINAL SERIES!!!

  • I love these Defunct TV videos, can you make one for Blue's Clues?

  • I wasn’t even born yet when this show was around but it still remains my favorite childhood show to this day

  • Is it wrong that I like old kid show for
    Toddlers

  • Can you do a Dora and friend into the city

  • i wasn’t alive when this show first came out (since i was born in 2000), but my mom made it a point to have me watch this show and i loved it. it makes me so sad to know that it’s gone.

  • Wait. Pip real name is Pummel because it sound a little too violent? Naming a purple otter name Pip strangely than Pummel but when I says Pip out loud, it sound to be a guys in a purple suit with a golden cane with bunch of hooker. Just missing the M.

  • Bears' voice puts asmr YouTubers to shame.

  • i just realized the mouse looks like ratatoulie

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