Humphrey the Bear is a cartoon character created by the Walt Disney company in 1950. He first appeared in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose, in which Goofy tried to take his picture. After that, he appeared in four classic Donald Duck cartoons: Grin and Bear It, Bearly Asleep, Rugged Bear, and Beezy Bear. Disney gave him his own series in 1955, but only two films resulted (Hooked Bear and In the Bag) before Disney discontinued making theatrical short subjects. When the shorts division closed, Humphrey was the last of only seven Disney characters who had been given a series of their own, starring in cartoons who opened with their own logo (the six other were Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip 'n Dale [counting as one], and Figaro).
The Humphrey cartoons have been aptly described by Leonard Maltin as "belly-laugh" shorts, and they feature a broader, wilder style of comedy than the usually cute or coy gags typically associated with the Disney company.
Humphrey is a big, foolish, opportunistic brown bear who lives in Brownstone National Park. He is constantly trying different ways to cadge food and/or shelter from unsuspecting visitors. Unlike other Disney characters, Humphrey does not speak, but makes inarticulate noises expressing satisfaction, resignation, and anxiety. Those grunts were supplied by Disney staffer Jimmy MacDonald. When stricken by worry or panic, Humphrey runs desperately in place, with his feet seemingly headed in all directions. Humphrey's foil is usually Donald Duck; otherwise it is the officious park ranger, voiced by Bill Thompson. The ranger was never identified in the theatrical shorts, but when the films were re-edited into an hour-long Disney TV episode, the ranger now had a name: J. Audubon Woodlore.
Humphrey began his career in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose. In this cartoon, Goofy decides to take the task of a photographer. He goes to a park to photograph a bear that refuses to be in the camera. The rest of the cartoon centers around Goofy and the bear at wits. In the end, Humphrey prevails. Humphrey would return to the screen in Donald Duck's Rugged Bear. This cartoon is the first to feature Humphrey's name and dominate personality. In the short, it's hunting season in Brownstone Park, and Humphrey is the only bear unable to make it to the safety of the bear cave. In fear, Humphrey rushes in the nearest house, which happens to belong to a hunter, Donald Duck. Humphrey attempts to leave but hunters outside are viciously shooting, making it impossible. Desperately, Humphrey poses as Donald's bear rug. Throughout the rest of the short, Humphrey is constantly tortured as Donald believes the bear to be nothing but dead skin, and uses it to aid him in things such as cracking his walnuts and picking the cap of his soda pop. After a long hunting season, Donald departs his season house and heads back to his real home. Humphrey is now free to go, but it turns out, the bear rug he replaced, was actually another bear that was hiding from hunters just like Humphrey, much to the latter's surprise.
After a few more shorts with Donald, Humphrey gained two of his own shorts entitled Hooked Bear and In the Bag. The films were popular in theaters, and the character was familiar enough to be included in the Mickey Mouse Club credits (Humphrey's holding the trampoline that bounces Mickey Mouse in the air).
Although the series Humphrey starred in enjoyed only a short run, a later generation of Disney artists and directors remembered Humphrey fondly, and cast him in episodes of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Humphrey along with Louie the Mountain Lion appear in the episode Bearing Up Baby, where he watches over a young boy named Jeremy along with the Rescue Rangers. After the baby is safe, Humphrey is attacked by hunters but is soon rescued by the rangers. In this appearance, Frank Welker provides Humphrey's gruff voice.
Humphrey returned to the screen in three new shorts: Donald's Grizzly Guest and Donald's Fish Fry reunite Humphrey with Donald Duck, and in Hot Tub Humphrey Humphrey is once again in the title role, alongside Ranger Woodlore.
Humphrey appears as a cameo guest in several episodes.
Humphrey's largest role is in the episode "Humphrey in the House". In the episode, the Magic Brooms are on vacation and the club is a mess. Minnie hires Humphrey and the other Brownstone Park Bears to tidy things up, but Humphrey uses the time to swipe food from other guests. Because of this, when the Magic Brooms return, Humphrey is denied a picnic lunch unlike the other bears who are going back to the Park and he has to stay behind to clean up his messes. In "Goofy's Menu Magic", he showed to be more than excited to hear that the evening is all about food.
In Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Humphrey is one of the many Disney character guest to be trapped inside on Christmas Eve. Humphrey also appears celebrating the defeat of the Disney Villains at the end of Mickey's House of Villains.
Humphrey appeared in the episode "Clarabelle's Clubhouse Carnival" where Humphrey is apart of Pete's carnival game "Guess Pete's Weight" when Minnie takes a turn it is revealed Pete and Humphrey weigh the same.
Humphrey has a recurring role in the series but unlike his previous appearances, Humphrey wears clothing and lives in the town where the main location Minnie's Bow-Tique is found. He was first seen in a cameo role in "Trouble Times Two".
A bear statue in armor located in Dark Beauty Castle "bears" a striking resemblance to Humphrey.
As of 2012, Humphrey makes no live appearances in the parks, but his likeness can be found occasionally. Walt Disney World Resort's hotel, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, holds Humphrey as their mascot. In the hotel, he is featured on a totem pole with Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Lodge legend has it that when one rubs the nose of the Humphrey portion of the totem pole, it will ensure a magical vacation. He also appears in some Animal Kingdom and Frontierland merchandise.
Humphrey and Woodlore also appear on a Fire Danger sign in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure.
In 2012, Humphrey appeared on a poster in the Storybook Circus section of the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland. His likeness is also featured on the signage above the Big Top Treats candy kitchen inside Big Top Souvenirs.
- Hold That Pose - debut, in a Goofy cartoon
- Grin and Bear It
- Bearly Asleep
- Rugged Bear - First pairing with Donald Duck
- Beezy Bear
- Hooked Bear - First solo cartoon
- In the Bag - Last solo cartoon
Mickey Mouse Works shorts
- Donald's Grizzly Guest
- Donald's Fish Fry
- Hot Tub Humphrey - Only solo Humphrey cartoon in Mickey Mouse Works, although released as a "House of Mouse" cartoon
- Survival of the Woodchucks
- Donald Duck Presents (anthology series)
- Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
- Goof Troop
- Mickey Mouse Works
- House of Mouse
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Humphrey can be seen with a crowd of Disney characters at the finale of the television special This is Your Life, Donald Duck.
- In Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Minnie's Bow-Toons, Humphrey's nose is in the shape of a heart.
- Jack Hannah, who directed the 1950's Humphrey shorts, revived the "dumb bear" idea for Walter Lantz's "Fatso Bear" cartoons in 1960 and 1961.
- Humphrey's freeloading characteristics would be roughly copied with Yogi Bear and possibly Top Cat for Hanna-Barbera Productions.