As we round the corner towards the Holiday season, here at Berenstain Studios we thought we would revisit our second Holiday TV Special, The Berenstain Bears Meet Big Paw! Nearly 30 years ago on November 20, 1980 The Special aired on NBC and has since found audiences on VHS tape, and now on our YouTube Channel. The plot of the Big Paw special would also later serve as the basis for the book “The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving” Published by Scholastic in 1997.
In The Berenstain Bears Meet Big Paw It’s Thanksgiving in Bear Country. The Bear Family is uneasy when Mama Bear predicts that the “Thanksgiving Legend of Bigpaw” is coming true. The legend says that when bears get greedy and don’t share their harvest, Bigpaw will come to destroy Bear Country. Eventually, the bears all learn a lesson about who Bigpaw really is, and they celebrate the holiday.
Like all of the Berenstain TV Specials, Meet Big Paw was written by Stan & Jan Berenstain. To pitch the idea of “Big Paw” to NBC Execs, Stan & Jan put together a storyboard that we recently pulled from our archive. You can tell by the images below that the original pitch was more focused on Halloween than Thanksgiving, but the main structure of the story is the same. However, it the storyboard does depict a bit more violence than was included in the final cartoon.
Big Paw also featured original music composed and conducted by Emmy-winning musician Elliot Lawrence with Stan Berenstain providing the lyrics. As for the main character, this was the first appearance of Big Paw in an animated form. He had previously appeared in The Bears Almanac from 1973, but has been referred to as “Great Natural Bear”, as a sly nod by Stan to R. Crumb’s character “Mr. Natural”. Big Paw would later be a featured character in the Berenstain Bears TV Series on CBS in 1985-86.
The Berenstain Bears TV Specials brought together a wide range of talents. All of the specials were narrated by Ron McLarty who would later be regarded as one of the country’s leading audio book narrators, having done over 100 titles and received numerous audie awards. Mordecai Gerstein, a children’s book illustrator and caldecott award winner directed Big Paw and the rest of the original TV Specials. The Berenstain TV Specials were also the first productions for Buzz Potamkin, who would later produce well known cartoon shows including Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo, and Dexter’s Laboratory.
We hope The Berenstain Bears Meet Big Paw can get you primed for the holiday season, and maybe instill a little goodwill towards your fellow bears! Check it out below, and find the rest of our specials, and subsequent mid 80’s Tv show on our Youtube Channel!