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17 x 30 minute episodes
There’s little doubt that Smokey Bear is a celebrity. He is recognised and respected throughout the USA in his rugged jeans and ranger hat, his huge hairy chest exposed, delivering his unforgettable safety mantra: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
But what’s the real Smokey like? What does he do in his spare time, when he’s not delivering public service announcements? This Rankin-Bass series sought to answer those very questions.
Smokey lived a peaceful life in the forest, along with neighbours Bessie the pig, Freddie the skunk, Bennie the rabbit, and Gabby the mountain lion. Together, they would teach each other the ways of the world and enjoy a laugh now and then.
But true to his cause, Smokey was always on the alert for fire. Some of his friends weren’t always so careful, so he often had to teach them a thing or two.
Even when Smokey wasn’t talking about fire safety, each episode invariably stressed the importance of preserving the wild.
The cartoon also showed Smokey as a cub, and how he came to be the spokesbear for the US Forest Service. This part of the show was inspired by Smokey’s true-life story.
There really was a bear cub who had been saved from a fire, named “Smokey,” and shipped off to the National Zoo in Washington. There, he was chosen as the Forest Service’s mascot in the early 1940s. He soon began making public service announcements on TV, in his new animated form.
In the late ’60s, long after Smokey was already well-established as an American icon, he was given this Saturday morning show and a new, upbeat theme song.
But Smokey never really needed that show, since he hadn’t quit his day job. The kindly, knowing bear can still be seen working today as the world’s most famous forest protector.