The Bear That Wasn’t is a 1946 children’s book by film director and Looney Tunes alumnus Frank Tashlin. In 1967, Tashlin’s former Termite Terrace colleague Chuck Jones directed an animated short film based upon the book for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Incidentally, The Bear That Wasn’t was the final animated short subject made by MGM and the second-to-last animated project for MGM (The Phantom Tollbooth would be the last). Despite having helped produce the short, Frank Tashlin reportedly was dissatisfied with this film adaptation of his own book.
A bear settles down for his long winter nap, and while he sleeps the progress of man continues. He wakes up to find himself in the middle of an industrial complex. He then gets mistaken by the foreman for a worker and is told to get to work. To this he responds, “But I’m not a man, I’m a bear”. He is then taken to each of his successive bosses, who try to convince him that he
“You are not a bear; you are a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.”
is just a “silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat”, reaching all the way up to an elderly president of the factory who concludes he cannot be a bear because “all bears live in the zoo”. The bear is taken to the zoo, hoping to gain support from his own species, but even the zoo bears claim he is not a bear, because if he was “he’d be behind bars like us”. Eventually he concludes that he must be a “silly man”, and works hard at the factory to the satisfaction of the foreman and the other bosses. However, winter comes again, and he feels cold. He wishes he knew what a “silly man” would do to get warm. But in the end he finds a cave and enters, feeling comfortable and bear-like once more. As the bear is sleeping, he reflects on the events of the year, as the narrator concludes that because all the bosses and even the zoo bears disbelieved he was a bear, did not make it so. “The truth is he was not a silly man…and he was not a silly bear, either”.
Narrated by Keenan Wynn.
Music composed by Walter Schumann.
Adapted and directed by Robert Welch.