After five years, 4 seasons of a hit animated TV series, a movie that wraps things up and an untitled spin-off series in the works, We Bare Bears creator Daniel Chong is content with his creation that follows the antics of bear brothers Grizz, Ice and Pan as they try to navigate and integrate into human society.
Loosely based on Chong’s original web-comic, the cartoon became an instant hit amongst children and adults when it debuted on Cartoon Network in 2015. We Bare Bears turned into such a cultural phenomenon that you don’t even need to watch the TV show to recognise the triple “bear stack” and related imagery, which can be found on stationery sets, beauty products and even dinner plates.
In an era where shows and movies are constantly being rebooted ala Transformers, Spider-Man, Batman, etc, Chong is not opposed if We Bare Bears were to be rebooted some time in the future.
“When the show finished there were high schoolers telling me like, “I’m in college now!”,” laughed Chong in an exclusive one-to-one interview with Geek Culture, where he talked about the upcoming movie and his plans for the future.
“To reboot is kind of for a new generation, for these kids who are now growing up so there is value to it. I think Bears is one of those shows that you can probably reboot and re-modernise with new contexts and it probably wouldn’t miss a beat. I would support it – but I also support new content and new ideas, there should ideally be a nice blend between the two.”
In the upcoming We Bare Bears: The Movie, the trio head out on an adventure-road trip, as they carry on their bear-y self and find their fates intertwined with an evil villain named Agent Trout. Trout believes that neither Grizz, Ice and Pan belong in human society and is determined to remove them from their homes. Trout tears the brothers apart via horrid means of capturing and detaining, and it’s all too similar to what’s happening in America where immigrant families are being detained in centres and children are forcibly taken away from their parents.
Grizz, Ice and Pan refuse to be separated and so they choose to leave town and try to seek refuge in a new safe place. That said, the movie discusses some heavy themes like discrimination and the importance of community, especially what wonders finding community can do for people who have none.
“For me, the thing about Bears, is the importance of finding your own people, you know?” shared Chong. “They have to find their own [families], they don’t have a choice. They’re on their own but they realised in the movie that they’re stronger together and that they can accomplish more together. It’s a message that I care about a lot – you find your people and you are stronger because of that. That’s the core of Bears.”
With Chong born to Singaporean parents and raised in America, We Bare Bears can be seen as an allegory to being a minority. The political issues addressed were definitely a conscious choice of the 41-year-old animator, but what he wants viewers to take away from the movie is that it’s not just political, but instead, it’s a movie that teaches love and acceptance.
“It’s a movie that’s just about being kind to others and accepting each other and learning not to discriminate,” said Chong.
“If you’re a parent, you want to teach your kids to be kind, you want to teach them to care about other people and you want to teach them not to discriminate for no reason. My hope is that people will look past these boundaries and barriers people have artificially created and know that this is really just a story about acceptance. It’s the thing that we all want – just to belong,” explains Chong.
We Bare Bears: The Movie still remains light despite the political undertones. In fact, it hits the right spot in being comical, family-friendly and relatable for its adult viewers. Chong credits all of it to his team, citing that animated content isn’t strictly a children’s medium and that he and his crew are just trying to make each other laugh at the end of the day.
“The reality is we’re all adults and we’re actually putting our adult experiences into these shows. So it actually, in some ways, shouldn’t be surprising if it does hit. We’re just trying to make ourselves laugh and that’s how we were able to balance it and make it appealing to both. It’s just being lucky with a great crew who’s really talented.” smiled Chong.
We Bare Bears: The Movie marks the end of the animated series’ 4 years. It’s last episode released 27 May 2019, totalling up to 140 episodes produced under the TV show. For fans of the stackable bears, it’s not entirely the end.
The movie teases what viewers can expect – a new chapter for the bears, a new spin-off series featuring the bears as cubs. The cubs have made it to the big screens in a number of We Bare Bear episodes like Baby Bears On A Plane and Yuri And Ice Bear. Understandably, the episodes with baby Grizz, Pan and Ice are the ones that make hearts squeal.
The baby bears are more adorable than the grown bears who tend to be quite annoying at times. The baby bears spin-off release date has yet to be released, and Chong has chosen to still be as tight-lipped as ever. After all, the creator will be serving as executive producer on the spin-off too.
When asked if there was anything he would change about the TV series, the animator sat in thought for a bit, reflecting on the past 4 years of this web-comic turned cartoon.
“The reality is I honestly don’t look back with regrets because the show evolved into something I never could have imagined,” Chong pondered.
The show’s first season saw many of Chong’s ideas and what he wanted the show to be about. The crew were often looking to the 41-year-old for answers and direction, but as soon as the second season came around, We Bare Bears became a collaborative work.
“I’m relying on my writers, my story crew, all the artists and just the crew to take ownership of the show and contribute and put their own experiences and put their own sensibility and push the show to become something that can go for as long as it up till it got a movie. And I’m just proud of it, not just on my own, but as a crew, I know that we all just binded it together and made this thing which has just been a blast to work on,” beamed Chong.
Apart from the spinoff series, Chong is also working on other projects. Whilst details are all under wraps the We Bare Bears creator teases that it would be huge. The animator is also incredibly thankful for the experience of making We Bare Bears as it built a foundation for bigger, greater things.
“I’m in it for the long run, so you might not hear from me for a while. But I am working on something.”