Special Report We Bare Bears Screening In London
Yesterday (21/10/2017), Cartoon Network UK hosted a special premiere screening for new episodes of We Bare Bears, followed by a Q&A session with the show’s creator – Daniel Chong. The special event was held at BAFTA Piccadilly in London. Last year at the 2016 Children’s BAFTA awards, We Bare Bears won an award for best international children’s show, this year, the show has won two Kidscreen Awards, for best animated series and for best children’s show writing and won an award at the International Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart, Germany for best animated children’s show.
We Bare Bears follows the story of three bears brothers with three unique personalities. Together they try to fit into human society, either by making friends with humans, doing various jobs or even attempt to achieve internet fame, but whenever they find themselves in a difficult situation, they always have each other for support. Grizz (short for Grizzly), is the leader of the group, he’s always optimistic and he’s the sociable and fun loving member of the group, he’s also the oldest and often leads the bears into funny but awkward situations. Panda is the second oldest, he’s the most cautious, sensitive and anxious member of the group, he’s also the most creative member of the group, he’s always on social media and loves watching anime. Ice Bear is the youngest member, he’s also the quietest one but when he says something it’s often meaningful or a funny opinion and he always speaks in third person. Ice Bear is multi-talented and full of surprises, he knows several languages, he’s talented at both the martial arts and the performing arts and is a great chef too and he often remains cool, calm and collected during difficult moments. Sometimes, all three bears walk around in a stack to move about.
At the screening, three episodes were shown: Subway, $100 and Panda’s Art.
In the episode “Subway”, the bears miss a subway train and have to wait forty minutes for the next one, in order to kill the time, they decide to watch Bagel Rat meme videos on Everyone’s Tube on Panda’s phone. Bagel Rat is a reference to the New York Subway Pizza Rat internet meme and Everyone’s Tube is a parody of YouTube. After a while, the bears fight to watch something else instead, this leads to an unfortunate mishap, where the phone is thrown in the air and lands on the subway tracks. Knowing that it’s too dangerous to pick the phone up themselves, Ice Bear comes up with some creative ways to move the phone towards them including sending messages to vibrate the phone and even using a fishing rod (and other long items) with chewing gum or even a drone. Bagel Rat appears and steals Grizz’s bagel shaped fitness tracker and follows the rat through a vent which leads to a room containing the rat’s secret bagel (and bagel-shaped item) collection.
Back on the station platform, the bears see Bagel Rat in the middle of the tracks, they come up the idea of sending a picture of a bagel to the phone so the rat will pick it up, the plan worked up until their train arrived and they thought all was lost. Luckily, Bagel Rat managed to escape safely coming from a drain with Panda’s phone and Grizz’s fitness band. Grizz lets Bagel Rat keep the fitness tracker. At the end, the bears finally board the train and watch a montage of Bagel Rat videos, ending with a video with Grizz’s fitness tracker.
The episode “$100” is another baby bears episode, The episode starts off at the bears’ makeshift home made up of junk, Baby Grizz returns with more stuff that he thinks might be useful, but he didn’t get any food, luckily in the pile of junk that Grizz has brought home is a suitcase with a $100 bill in it but the bears can’t decide what to spend it on, the bears see a battery powered toy car in a toy shop, but are reluctant to hand over the banknote. The baby bears promise not to spend the $100 and started to treat it like a baby, they fight over the note and it gets torn but they repair it. At night, a thief attempts to steal the $100 note and he accidentally wakes up the bears by turning on the vacuum cleaner, the bears chase the thief up a ladder on the side of a building.
The bears the stop the thief and removed his balaclava and it turns out it was their supposed friend – Cory who visits them everyday to give them coupons, the balcony collapses and Panda manages to grab onto Grizz and Ice Bear before they fall. The $100 note appears again blowing in the wind and it gets stuck on to the metal bar next to Panda. Panda has to make a choice of what he thinks is more important, a $100 note or his brothers, he makes the right choice by saving his brothers. A police officer turns up and then arrests Cory after he was told what happened. At the end, the bears see the note blow away but they’re still hungry.
In “Panda’s Art”, Panda attends an Art class at a local community college, but the art teacher doesn’t appreciate Panda’s Japanese manga-style portraits, so Panda tries to find something different to paint and in a different art-style. Panda finds out that Charlie has crept into the Bear’s house and realises that Charlie is the perfect subject to paint and promises to give Charlie the painting after its been marked by the art teacher. Panda then works hard on the painting, he then shows Charlie, Grizz and Ice Bear the finished painting and they’re all stunned by how great the painting is. The art teacher is impressed and gives Panda an A+ grade, Panda returns home and gives the painting to Charlie. There’s one problem, the art teacher phones up and says that an art curator is coming to pick up the painting as he wants to include it in his exhibit in Florence.
Panda realises that he can’t take back the painting, so he attempts to paint another one, everytime he tries to recreate the painting it ends up as a parody of a famous painting featuring Charlie. Panda thinks the paintings are talking to him and are persuading him not to take back the painting from Charlie except the Vincent Van Gogh painting who tells him to steal the painting back and keep quiet. Panda goes outside into the muddy woods to find Charlie’s new home (an abandoned car) to steal the painting. With much difficulty, Panda grabs the painting and runs away and gives the painting to the art teacher and art curator. Panda is full of guilt from stealing it and wanted it back and grabs onto the painting with his muddy paw and ruins it. As the painting is ruined, the art curator is no longer interested. Charlie appears and Panda nervously hides the painting, Charlie notices the painting behind Panda and thought that Panda took the painting away so he could sign it with his paw.
The screening was followed by a Q&A (Question and Answer) session with the creator of We Bare Bears – Daniel Chong, the session was hosted by TV presenter Nigel Clarke, also known as the presenter of the UK version of Cartoon Network EMEA’s (Europe, Middle East and Africa’s) brand new game show – Ben 10 Challenge. This session was an opportunity for people to ask Daniel questions about the show.
During the Q&A, Daniel mentioned that the show has its origins in a web comic he created (The Three Bare Bears) which featured the show’s main characters, however the comics weren’t popular or known, but he continued to do it for his girlfriend’s niece who loved his work. Before working at Cartoon Network, Daniel worked at Disney’s Pixar division, known for their family friendly, award-winning, emotion-driven 3D CGI movies. While working at Pixar, Daniel worked as a storyboard artist on Inside Out, Cars 2 and two Toy Story shorts – Toy Story That Time Forgot and Toy Story of Terror.
During his time at Pixar he gained a lot of experience on how to produce a story, this includes story structure and improvisation which give a natural and organic feel to the story as if it’s taking place in real life. Although he enjoyed what he was doing, he felt that he wanted to do his own creative piece and the only way he could do it was to take the risk by leaving Pixar and pitch his own show ideas. Daniel also said that story structure is important, a story usually has three acts and they must connect together, plot predictability must be avoided and finding a heart to the story is important to make sure there’s an emotional connection with the viewer, this is needed to retain and grow an audience which helps to renew the show for another season. Ideally, he would like to make a show that’s more immersive and to experiment with more camera shots, but this can be an impossibility due to budget and time constraints.
Daniel also pitched a show idea to Nickelodeon and made a pilot, but unfortunately it was rejected even though a lot of time and effort was put into it. He continued to work on the comic and pitched it to Cartoon Network as part of their development programme, they were impressed; a pilot was produced and the show was then greenlit to go into full production. By the time Daniel had a chance to have his own show, he already had worked in the animation industry for eleven years. It was mentioned that making a show has a steep learning curve and it’s very hard, being a show creator means that you might need to have full-on involvement in any aspect of production when needed. Everything on the show is hand-drawn and painted, this is to make it appear more friendly and to give the show a nostalgic aesthetic. The show could of been made digitally, but it wouldn’t of had the same feeling. After the storyboarding process is the animatic stage which is an animated storyboard, during this stage, library music or well known songs are put into scenes as “temp music” to set the tone and emotion of the scene, this is then passed to the show’s composer – Brad Breeck who then composes a similar piece of music which matches the scene.
Daniel also mentioned that some of the characters in the show are based on real people, Chloe, the bears’ young friend, is based on his girlfriend’s niece. Charlie is based on a friend he knew from high school and Nom Nom is based on a famous dog on the internet who Daniel’s girlfriend hates. During the Q&A session, it was mentioned that a We Bare Bears movie is a possibility, but the show’s production team are just focusing on the show at the moment.
It’s yet to be revealed on how Grizz, Panda and Ice Bear actually first met, but one episode focusing on Ice Bear before he met the others has already been aired – Yuri and the Bear which tells the story of Ice Bear’s origins and an episode based on Panda’s story has been finished with one episode based around Grizz’s story coming soon.
The reason why bears were chosen for the main characters is because the university in the show is based on UC Berkeley, a university located in the San Francisco Bay area, their sports teams are referred to as the “Golden Bears”, also a bear appears on the state flag of California and the Californian Grizzly Bear is California’s state animal. The show is also set in a city based on San Francisco and the surrounding area which is located in California. As mentioned by Daniel, the main characters could of been hedgehogs if he didn’t choose bears.
The baby bears episodes are more flexible in terms of scenes and locations, these episodes are about the bears’ adventures when they were cubs. When the bears were younger, they’re always travelling, when they became adults they decided to settle down. It was a difficult decision for Daniel, but he said his favourite episode is “Burrito”, which is about Grizz having an unhealthy fixation on an oversized burrito covered in a silver wrapping, the episode has an emotional flashback ending with Baby Grizz stuck up a tree and hugging a firefighter’s arm covered in silver wrapping while being rescued, which explains his obsession. Ice Bear didn’t speak at all as a baby, which actually makes sense as he doesn’t speak much as an adult, but as he got older he has became a bit more sociable. The bears don’t exactly know how old they are, but they believe to be in their teen or twenties.
The three bears represent three aspects of Daniel’s personality, while working on the show and working in a team, he’s more like Grizz, as you have to be sociable and work with loads of people, in front of friends he’s more like Panda as he’s more friendly, and in front of his parents he’s more like Ice Bear as he has to be more serious. If Daniel was one of the bears, he would be Ice Bear because of Ice Bear’s many talents and as a kid he used to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings, some shows he remembers watching include The Smurfs, Muppet Babies and Garfield he also used to read Calvin and Hobbes comic strips too.
A question was asked about why the show isn’t getting enough airtime on Cartoon Network in the United States, Daniel explains that the international market is more important which is why he’s been travelling to different locations around the world. The show is popular in Asia, there’s even We Bare Bears branded cosmetics in China. He’s also a fan of British animation including Wallace and Gromit, and during his stay in London he also met the creator of Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball – Ben Bocquelet.
After the Q&A, there was an opportunity to meet Daniel in person and to get an autograph, I waited until the end to give everyone else a chance, while I was waiting I talked to the presenter of Ben 10 Challenge – Nigel Clarke to talk about his new show, then I talked to Jakki Chrysler, PR officer for Turner UK to talk about what’s coming up soon on Cartoon Network. Eventually, I got to meet Daniel and got my autograph. Daniel is a such a nice guy and it was a pleasure to meet him in person! It was an amazing event and I hope that everyone who went to the screening enjoyed it. Special thanks to Cartoon Network UK and BAFTA for organising the event.
New episodes of We Bare Bears air on Cartoon Network UK from Wednesday 1st November, airing on weekdays at 4.30pm!