Each Saturday morning, we’ll remind you of the time when it was still cool to wake up early on weekends. So whenever the hell you wake up these days, there will be a nostalgic treat waiting for you, reminding you of those old jammies you used to wear and that old television set. They make even less sense now, but that’s half the fun. We hope you enjoy.
The Cartoon: Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears
Animation Studio: Disney
Original Run: September 14, 1985 – February 22, 1991
Aired On: NBC 1985-1989, ABC 1989-1990, Syndicated 1990-1991
- Zummi Gummi – the keeper of Gummi wisdom
- Grammi Gummi – the matriarch, and brewer of Gummiberry juice
- Gruffi Gummi – the surly one
- Tummi Gummi – the fat stupid one
- Sunni Gummi – the girl one
- Cubbi Gummi – the whippersnapper
- Cavin – the human
- Princess Calla – the human’s love interest
- Duke Igthorn – the bad guy
- Toadwart, or “Toadie” – the bad guy’s aptly named toady
The medieval fantasy kingdom of Dunwyn.
Dunwyn is a peaceful realm whose benevolent royal power, King Gregor, is continually plagued by the sinister and power-hungry Duke Igthorn and his goon squad of moronic ogres. But Igthorn’s evil schemes are routinely thwarted by a young squire named Cavin and his chums, the Gummi Bears.
When the series began the Gummis were thought to be mythical creatures. Cavin was mocked for believing they existed — a belief strengthened by the Gummi medallion his late grandfather had given him. But it turns out there is a very small band of Gummis still alive, living in an expansive subterranean warren called Gummi Glen, which can be navigated by an elaborate subway-esque network called “quick tunnels.” Though these Gummis still possess the knowledge to brew Gummiberry juice – which is essentially a narcotic that gives them the ability to bounce – they have long forgotten the ways of the Great Gummis. When Cavin finds himself in Gummi Glen after escaping an ogre attack, it turns out that his special medallion is in fact the key needed to open the Great Book of Gummi. Now the clan elder, Zummi Gummi – who is prone to spoonerisms – has access to a host of ancient Gummi wisdom and magic. And then Cavin and the Gummis all totes become besties.
The on-going threads of the series largely surround Igthorn trying to get his hands on Gummiberry juice (which gives humans temporary super strength), and the fact that Cavin is supposed to keep the existence of the Gummis a secret. But as the show progresses, more individuals find out, particularly Princess Calla (there is also some adolescent romance with Cavin and Calla). Other relevant characters emerge as the series progresses. A flamboyant new Gummi Bear named Gusto Gummi is discovered trapped on a tropical island and brought back to Gummi Glen. And there is also Lady Bane, an evil sorceress who possesses her own Gummi medallion. Duke Igthorn totally wants to hump Lady Bane, and is often pussy-whipped into doing her bidding even though she pretty openly hates him and he has no chance.
Gummiberry juice was always the most intriguing aspect of the show. Even as a kid I found this myriad of characters fiending and jonesing for this special elixir to have comical parallels with alcohol and drug addiction and abuse. I also thought it was kind of strange that only Granni Gummi knew how to make the concoction. She was old. What if she died??? It would be lost forever! Tell someone else! Write it down! Though eventually she did teach Sunni Gummi. Pft. How sexist. Well, I think I have good reason to be concerned about the future of Gummiberry juice, considering that there isn’t much hope for the Gummi race. Gusto and Sunni could have a kid, but pretty soon there is gonna need to be a lot of incest. And what if they don’t have any girls? So for the sake of posterity, here is the recipe for Gummieberry juice:
Start by tossing six handfuls of red gummiberries into the pot. Then toss in four orange gummiberries, then three purple gummiberries, then four blue gummiberries, then three green gummiberries, and finally one yellow gummiberry. Now comes the all-important stirring scheme. Stir slow to the right. Then slow to the left. Then tap the pot gently with your spoon to get rid of bubbles. Tadah! You got your ass some Gummiberry juice! Bouncing party!
The Short History:
Legend goes that during the mid-80’s Disney CEO Michael Eisner was struck by a bolt of inspiration when his son asked if he could purchase some Gummy Bears candy. There, while staring into the begging, gluttonous eyes of his child (I like to imagine it was future director Breck Eisner) Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears was born — although it never had an actual connection with the candy, which confused the shit out of me when I was a wee lad. Eisner’s “idea” was handed over to Jymn Magon, who had a hand in either creating or writing nearly every noteworthy Disney TV project during that era, and TV history was set in motion.
It is easy to forget (or never know, depending on your age and knowledge of animation history) that it wasn’t that long ago that TV animation sucked. I don’t mean that the programs sucked. But the animation generally did. Animation was expensive and time-consuming, which had always made it an illogical filmmaking format for TV. Hanna-Barbera’s big revolution was figuring out a way to completely half-ass animation enough to make it efficient and more importantly, profitable. It is also easy to forget that Disney never had a major serialized animated TV series prior to Gummi Bears. Michael Eisner may be an unlikable douche, but it is undeniable that he got Disney back on track in the 80’s. And one of those track-getting-back-on moves was bringing the kind of quality animation people had long associated with Disney features and shorts to regular television.
Gummi Bears premiered on NBC in 1985 alongside The Wuzzles (created by Eisner himself). The Wuzzles fizzled almost immediately, but Gummi Bears proved a success, staying on the airwaves with new episodes long enough to make it into the first season of Disney’s game-changing Disney Afternoon programming block. The monster success of Ducktales is rightfully acknowledged as the biggest boom for children’s afternoon cartoons, but it never could have happened without Gummi Bears paving the way.
When Gummi Bears started it featured the work of several voice acting legends. Gruffi Gummi was played by Bill Scott (George from George of the Jungle, as well as Bullwinkle from The Rocky and Bulllwinkle Show); Zummi Gummi was played by the great Paul Winchell (Tigger from Disney’s many Winnie the Pooh films); and Tummi Gummi was played by Lorenzo Music (the long-running voice of Garfield). Both Scott and Winchell passed away during the series, being replaced by future voice acting legends Corey Burton and Jim Cummings.
As far as I can tell there was not a crazy amount of merch. How did Disney miss the opportunity to market Gummiberry juice boxes? Hi-C made Ecto Cooler for godsake! If kids could get excited about pretending to drink fucking disgusting ghost slime, I think they would’ve dug pretending to drink delicious magic berry juice that gives you dope super powers.
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Previously on Saturday Mornings: