With new movie Ted (read our review here ) introducing us to a foul-mouthed teddy bear brought to life after a wish, SFX assesses a few other toy bears of note…
For most of us, a teddy bear was a childhood companion we carried everywhere like a talisman, treated like a living creature and hugged tightly as we fell asleep. In film and TV, however, teddy bears are a little shiftier. Some are gits. Some are evil. Some are even zombies…
Jayne Nelson takes a look at all Teds great and small.
(By the way, our definition of “teddy bear” may not necessarily be your definition of “teddy bear”. Read on for details…)
Toy Story 3
Name: Lotso (as in “Lotso hugs”)
Played by: Ned Beatty
Lotso proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that teddy bears should never be taken at face value. He may be pink and smiley with a jolly demeanour, but underneath there’s a heart of solid coal, bitter and twisted and determined to make other toys suffer...
In fact, Toy Story 3 ’s furry villain, as you can see from his flashback origin story in this clip, was once a little girl’s much-loved cuddly pal. After being rejected, the shock was so great the unfortunate bear went full-on Dark Side. While we can understand his response to being lost and replaced – and we sympathise – the sheer level of evil Lotso embraced definitely makes him the Darth Vader of the toy-verse.
Played by: Derek Griffiths
The ursine star of this popular and very, very silly ’80s TV show was an ordinary toy who was brought to life by Mother Nature. One minute he was a lifeless bag of Nylon fur and stuffing; the next he was pulling on a cape and calling himself SuperTed! Ta-daaa!
SuperTed and his pals brought us a whole heap of chuckles as kids, mainly down to either the show’s tongue-in-cheek narration or to its fun little touches, such as the fact that Ted is a teddy bear who sleeps with his own little teddy bear. The rest of the cast were good fun, too, from Jon Pertwee’s enthusiastic performance as Ted’s alien pal Spotty, to an (allegedly) evil skeleton who was so camp you could pitch him in a forest and sleep in him like a tent.
However, we never quite got over the one thing about SuperTed that was unintentionally disturbing: the fact that when he changed from Ted to SuperTed, he would remove his skin . There’s something about a bear unzipping his fur and stepping out of it that seems just wrong...
Names: Various, from Rita Mortis (geddit?) to Abnormal Cyrus
Played by: Linda Blair, Rick Baker, Clive Barker, among others
Inclination: Gloomy, murderous
As Toy Story 3 displayed so poignantly, children will outgrow their once much-loved toys but, if they’re lucky, some of these toys will end up being played with by the next generation of kiddies in gardens filled with a glorious sunset glow. However… if you infected Toy Story 3 with a zombie plague, attacked its heroes with razorblades and forced them to watch slasher movies with their eyelids pinned open, you’d end up with Teddy Scares .
Teddy Scare s is a comic-book series, a range of toys and a short film with an impressive voice pedigree (see cast list, above). It’s also a bit twisted, as the opening blurb on their website proves:
“Don’t be frightened. I was once your friend. I played with you during the day and guarded you when you slept at night. When you were sick, I stayed by your side. When everyone was too busy, I was there for you. Time passed and you left me behind. I waited and waited for you to remember me as my insides rotted.
“I’m back for you. I want to show you my world now. Enjoy your stay, but remember why you came or you may go mad…”
Basically, these are zombie teddy bears. These are sick, tortured, maniacal bears who want revenge on you for abandoning them. We approve of this idea, actually, because teddy bears generally have a hard time of it (being carried by one leg, savaged by the pet dog, getting jam in their fur). It’s about time they struck back, isn’t it?
(There was also an unconnected Teddy Scare comic strip in Monster Fun in the ’70s - image courtesy of wackycomics.com )
The Hallucination Bear
Played by: N/A
Inclination: Not good. Definitely not good.
We really don’t have much to say about Tetsuo’s pant-wettingly terrifying bear-related hallucination except for the obvious: drugs are bad, m’kay?
Name: T. Bear
Played by: N/A
The Supernatural episode “Bedtime Stories” featured a town where everybody’s wishes came true – good news for a little girl, Audrey, who wanted nothing more than a real, live Teddy to have endless tea parties with. Unfortunately, once poor Teddy achieved sentience, he took one look around him and comprehended the futility inherent in existence, not to mention all the death, destruction and misery in the world. Despair, anger, wailing and much alcohol followed.
Eventually, before the Winchester brothers could solve the mystery in the town and free poor Teddy Bear of his curse, he attempted suicide. Alas, it’s not that easy to blow your brains out when you’re a stuffed toy...
Names: Various, but the most famous Ewok is Wicket.
Played by: Various, with Wicket played by Warwick Davis.
Inclination: Generally peaceful until provoked. After that, evil little bundles of attitude
Don’t give us all that “they’re a species, not cuddly toys!” nonsense – of course Ewoks are teddy bears. They’re teddy bears with teeth, weapons and rocks, mind you, but they’re still teddy bears. While they may have received a modicum of respect in Return Of The Jedi (particularly as they fought the Empire and some of them got all exploded and dead, wagh!), any ounce of desire for audiences to take them seriously was thrown away by the time Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure came along in 1984. It paired the furry critters with two kids just to emphasise how cuddly and teddy bear-like they really were.
And then there was the cartoon series; check out the credits below. Seriously, all they needed after that was a string pull in their backs that made them say, “Teddy loves you! Be chihuahua!”
AI: Artificial Intelligence
Played by: Jack Angel
Inclination: Pretty zen, actually
Robot boy David (Haley Joel Osment) might not have real feelings or emotions but he still gets to cuddle his very own teddy bear in Steven Spielberg’s 2001 fantasy. And the teddy can cuddle him back, too, as it’s a robot like him – one with superior intelligence, a personality and a bizarrely gruff human voice.
As anyone who’s watched AI will tell you, Teddy’s one of the best things in the film: a furry friend who never lets David down (he’s pretty much the Jiminy Cricket to David’s Pinocchio) and the kind of toy most children would love to get their hands on. He would probably have been a mass-marketed Ted if only the film hadn’t gone in some strangely adult directions... and if the technology had existed in 2001 to make him as cool as he is in the film.
People are still trying, though. A full decade later, check out this “living” teddy being developed as a companion for old people in Japan. Isn’t it just like our Teddy? Also… awwww!
Names: Various, although the lead bear (in black) is Sir August DeWynter
Played by: Various and Sean Connery
Secret organisations, villains and bad guys meet a lot, and sometimes they don’t want to know who else is in the club, just in case one of them is rumbled and they tell the police about the others. In such cases, a disguise is in order – and what better disguise for a meeting of these bad guys than, uh, er... a… teddy bear costume?!
Okay, okay, it’s crap. Utter, unadulterated codswallop. Someone in the script process was joking around and said, “You know what would liven up this otherwise atrocious remake of the ’60s TV show? Bear costumes!” And, God forbid, someone took them seriously.
Even leaving behind the extraordinary impracticality of wearing a bulky, hot and ridiculous bear costume, what self-respecting villain would ever agree to such a degrading thing?* Especially a villain obsessed with the weather, not wildlife.
Honestly, it’s un bear able. Pun fully intended.
*The original Avengers episode “Mr Teddy Bear” did feature an assassin who used a bear in his meetings... but he certainly didn’t dress up as one.
Played by: N/A
Inclination: None – he’s an innocent bystander
Lancelot is the teddy bear owned by Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah in Labyrinth , and while he’s not alive in the same sense that many of the bears on this list are, he does have a big part to play in the film even though he’s an inanimate object.
It’s after Sarah realises that her beloved Lancelot has ended up in her little brother’s room – much to her annoyance, although we maintain she’s too old for stuffed toys anyway – that she makes a wish for Toby to be taken away by goblins. Her wish comes true, she sets out on a quest to find him, David Bowie wears very tight tights, yadda yadda... you know the drill. But it’s one girl’s love of a bear that gives Labyrinth its plot, and so we have Lancelot to thank for this.
Just try not to judge Sarah for (at the start, at least) choosing a toy over her little brother. Wow, that’s cold .
Rupert The Bear
Played by: Various
Okay, we’ll admit it – we’ve tried hard to keep this list restricted to teddy bears and Rupert isn’t a teddy bear, just a bear who happens to wear clothes. But since his creation in the ’20s as a comic strip for the Daily Express , he’s become so popular that these days many kids have Rupert cuddly toys... effectively making him a teddy bear. If kids are falling asleep with him in a (literal) bear hug, then he’s good enough to make our list!
And of course Rupert is prime SFX material: he’s an anthropomorphised bear who gets up to all sorts of adventures with his friends in the little town of Nutwood and beyond. One story could see him riding the back of a dragon in China, while another may have him exploring the bottom of the ocean with sea serpents. He definitely has a more exciting life than that other iconic British bear, Paddington, and best of all... he has the world’s catchiest theme song!
The bear belonging to one of the “Others” in Lost, seen being dragged through the jungle on a rope. Creepy as all hell!