Humphrey is a big, foolish, and opportunistic brown bear who lives in Brownstone National Park. He is constantly trying different ways to catch 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, being one of the few Disney characters to star in their own series. With animated shorts becoming discontinued shortly after, however, Humphrey's series was short-lived.
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 boy 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 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 the episode "The Birthday Song", Humphrey is one of the guests at Mickey's birthday bash. Humphrey also appeared in "Springtime" as one of the woodland creatures. During Pete's rampage, Humphrey is frozen in place while trying to escape.
In the animated series, Humphrey appears as a bear skin rug (hearkening back to his role in Rugged Bear) in Clinton Coot's cabana that is brought back to life by an enchanted gem called the Spark of Life. Despite the hijinks across the New Quackmore Institute that ensue in his reanimating, the Caballeros decide to let him keep the Spark and he remains as a supporting character in the remainder of the series.
Humphrey appeared alongside other classic Disney characters in the opening of the original Mickey Mouse Club series, where he marched along with other Brownstone bears. He was later seen holding the trampoline Mickey bounces on in the song's climax.
Humphrey and Woodlore appear on a Fire Danger sign in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure. During the 2015 renovation of the former Condor Flats into the Grizzly Peak Airfield, the Fly 'n' Buy gift shop was renamed "Humphrey's", with Humphrey's face appearing on the pin trading sign by the entrance.
Humphrey's likeness can be found in Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which 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.
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.