The Gummi Bears
A Work of Art, a Labor of Love

Exciting escapades and heartfelt laughter await children of all ages, because the lovable, huggable Gummi Bears are here, making magic and mischief in Disney's "Adventures of the Gummi Bears." The Emmy®-nominated series features the memorable personalities of Zummi, Gruffi, Grammi, Cubbi, Sunni, and Tummi Gummi -- six mythical creatures who often find themselves in the middle of intriguing and whimsical adventures. Menacing giants and ogres, knights both dashing and comical, ladies fair and an evil lady foul -- Gummi Glen and the surrounding Kingdom of Dunwyn are populated with a variety of characters who keep the bears busy and bouncing and always beguiling.

"Disney's Gummi Bears" is also a program filled with a variety of puns and spoofs on contemporary language and situations. Each episode in the series is underscored with the humor, warmth, and heart audiences have come to expect from Disney.

Featuring the magic of Disney animation, and backed by music performed by a 40-piece orchestra, "Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears" offers some of the most notable voices in the animation industry: Paul Winchell portrays Zummi; June Foray is Grammi; Lorenzo Music is Tummi; Corey Burton is Gruffi; Noelle North is Cubbi; and Katie Leigh is Sunni. The series is produced and directed by David Block, with Mark Seidenberg and Rich Fogel serving as producers/story editors.

"Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears" debuted in 1985 and quickly became one of the most popular shows on the air. At the series' launch, Disney's chief executive officer, Michael Eisner, stated, "The time has come for our company to participate in improving the quality of children's programs for our present generation of children. Animation is one of the last handmade products of television and film and we're delighted to bring the Disney standards of quality to a whole new audience of kids, parents, and animation fans."

Rooted in mythology and folk legend, "Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears" is set in a medieval fantasy world where, long ago, humans and Gummies lived side by side. "But," explains producer/director Block, "the humans became jealous of the magic and power of the Gummies and went to war against them to steal their secrets. The Gummies retreated across the sea, leaving behind the remnants of their culture and a few Gummies to guard the things that remained."

"The adventures, seen by Disney Television viewers everywhere," notes Seidenberg, "are set five hundred years later, when the descendants of the original Gummies have long forgotten most of their culture, including the secrets of their own magic. However, they do drink the magical Gummiberry Juice, which enables them to bounce and travel great distances -- over high walls, into tall trees, and through the Quicktunnels which run for miles through their underground home -- thus escaping impending danger." The bears often hop in a Quickcar, fasten their seat belts, and speed off on a roller-coaster ride through Gummi Glen and the Kingdom of Dunwyn.

Viewers will be introduced to the revered city of Ursalia, the old capital of the Ancient Gummies, where they meet the aged caretaker Sir Thornberry and an evil human sorceress, Lady Bane. "We hope that these new characters, along with some others we want to surprise people with, will help bring about new situations that will reveal more sides of the Gummies," adds producer/story editor Seidenberg.

"We're very careful not to treat the Gummies as a cartoon 'gang,'" says producer/story editor Fogel. "We try to focus the story on one character so that we can get a sense of what that character is learning as a result of the experience."

Block points out that the series enjoys a wide range of viewers, from three-year-olds to young adults. "On one level," he explains, "we have the Gummies, who fall into the classic Disney mode of personality and design. In fact, in a very loose way, they were based on the Seven Dwarfs, who have a worldwide appeal. Our younger viewers love them.

"Secondly," Block continues, "we attract six- to ten-year-olds because of the show's dramatic setting, where we have dragons and knights in shining armor and battles. We also present very broad physical humor, similar to the broad humor found in the Warner Bros. cartoons of the '30s and '40s. Many of those cartoons were made for adults, but the humor was universal, and kids could find their own reasons for appreciating them. We take that same posture, creating different kinds of humor for different segments of the audience."

"As writers and story editors, we never try to talk down to our audience," adds Seidenberg. "We look at these stories as folk tales to be handed down for generations. They should appeal to more than just children."

"The discipline of writing these shows is every bit as rigorous and well thought-out as it is for any primetime sitcom or hour drama," comments Fogel. "It's classic Disney storytelling. We try to layer it so that there's something going on that will appeal to the whole family. We may put some broad slapstick humor in so that younger kids will enjoy it, but at the same time there's some very sophisticated verbal humor going on that older kids and teens will appreciate."

Each show takes several months to complete, from coming up with the original story line, to the animation work (done in Japan by a staff of approximately 150 artists, animators, and technicians), to the final addition of voices and music.

"I think that 70% of how a show looks depends on the backgrounds," says Block. "That's why the backgrounds we designed for the show are very much in keeping with the look of a feature-length animated film, not the usual Saturday morning television series. Our stories are set in medieval times, with castles and forests and dragons, very rich material for our artists and very much in keeping with the look of many of the classic Disney films.

"Like Disney's Pooh series," he continues, "we use about 20,000 drawings per show, as opposed to some 12,000 normally used in a Saturday morning series. In some episodes, we may use up to 25,000 drawings. With fewer drawings, animation is stiff or there is not much physical movement by the characters. They move left to right or right to left. In our show, we have the characters moving spatially toward the camera, away from it; we use high-angle and low-angle shots. There is always something visually interesting to look at.

"We've always tried to do the show with the Disney image in mind," emphasizes Block. "Children can tell the difference between good animation and bad animation, between a show that looks good and one that doesn't. For us, entertainment is always first. We have strong personalities and an interesting environment for them to work in. Those are the mainstays of what makes Disney animation Disney animation."

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