The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)

This half-hour special from the 1970s tells the heartwarming story of a stoned bear who is tricked into a life of slavery by Santa Claus.

At least, that's what I got out of it.

The first few minutes are somewhat intriguing.  There's a "bear city", where a large number of anthropomorphic bears live and work.  There's a lot of attempted comedy around the supporting characters and the honey factory where they all work; a few of the jokes are actually worth a chuckle.  The designs exist somewhere in that nebulous region between Yellow Submarine and Dr. Seuss, and, while they're not bad, they're not exactly inspired.

While the rest of the bears are getting ready to hibernate for the winter, our intrepid hero, named... ergh... Ted E. Bear... wants to stay up and find Christmas.

Spoiler alert: he finds it in the most trite, obvious place possible, with the help of a strange man in a red suit Ted can't identify, despite having been obsessed with Christmas his whole life and having studied every known aspect of the holiday.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  First, he damages some equipment, gets interviewed by the bear news, and tries to buy a ticket to Christmas.  If you ask me, the other bears are right to laugh at him after that incident, which they do, mercilessly.  He bids a final farewell to his roommate and a woman who behaves like a love-interest, then, while his friends fly south to hibernate in a vacation-spot (you know what: I'm not even going to touch that), he heads out on foot in search of Christmas.

On the way, he stumbles briefly into a cave and is almost mauled by a real bear in a scene that makes me wonder what Ted is actually supposed to be.  This mystery isn't helped by his arrival in what seems to be New York City, where we finally get a sense of scale.  Like his namesake, Ted is toy-sized, so there's no need for the humans to fear him.

In fact, he doesn't even turn heads.  I realize this city is known for being hard to impress, but I'd think a walking, talking teddy bear would at least deserve some attention.

He spends some time in a toy store in a relatively disturbing scene where we get meet some rejects from The Island of Misfit Toys, then Ted crashes into Saint Nick in an alley, and takes his advice on where to head next.

Great lesson for the kids, that.

He ends up falling asleep under the Christmas tree of a poor girl living in a high-rise apartment on 33rd street, which is a good reminder of how times change.

In addition to being incredibly boring, the resolution is ultimately unsatisfying.  Structurally, this is a story about enlightenment.  Ultimately, this is laid out like Plato's Cave Allegory, but they've amputated the second half.  Ted discovers the truth behind Christmas, but he doesn't go back to share his discovery.

Come back next week, when we'll be discussing the Dialectic as it pertains to The Smurf's Christmas Special.

In the meantime, if you ignore my advice to skip this one, you can watch it on Netflix or, if you don't have a subscription, you can check it out for free on Youtube.

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