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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smokey Bear and Thanksgiving is there a connection?


 Wow I can’t believe that it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Thankfully the wildfire activity has drastically reduced in Virginia and Nationally. Louisiana is still extremely dry but a real good and effective prevention/education campaign is helping keep the fire starts down. Congratulations to the Fire Prevention and Education Teams working out of the Kisatchie National Forest. I hear they are close to producing 2 psa’s, one with the Swamp People and another with the Duck Commanders; these should be unique to say the least.
Most of the leaves are down in the higher elevations of Virginia and it’s NOW we need to have some regular rains and snows to keep the threat of wildfires down. I should say to keep the affects of wildfires down we need PEOPLE to be aware and responsible and to follow Smokey Bears messages to keep the wildfire starts down!
As we go into Thanksgiving week I hope you find the following bit of Smokey history interesting and also find the new coloring sheet fun and helpful in spreading Smokey’s message of Thanks and Wildfire Prevention.
And YES VIRGINIA and others there is a connection between Smokey Bear and Thanksgiving!!!!

 The Ballad of Smokey The Bear Premiered on THANKSGIVING DAY (11-24-1966), 45 years ago! It was the third Rankin/Bass special on the General Electric Full Color Fantasy Hour. This special was written by a newcomer to animated entertainment named Joseph Schrank, who had worked on many classic feature films at MGM. This was the first and last animated-children’s “movie” Schrank wrote. In the tradition of such Rankin-Bass productions as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy, the TV holiday special The Ballad of Smokey the Bear was made in the stop-motion Animagic process (simplistically described in the TV Guide listings as "animated mechanical puppets").
Johnny Marks, composer of the songs from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer took on this project as well. Eight brand new songs, written by Mr. Marks are heard in this saga of Smokey Bear's rise from cub-hood to his emergence as an icon for the fire-prevention campaign. “Don’t Wait” (sung by Mrs. Beaver to Mr. Beaver) is especially good and sounds like it was patterned after the Rudolph song “We’re a Couple of Misfits”. Many of the other songs are not ones worth remembering. The Theme Song was very well done, “The Ballad Of Smokey The Bear”, and musical score is credited to Maury Laws. Former NBC Executive Larry Roemer, Directed the special, as he had the Rudolph special.
The story is narrated, and occasionally sung, by no less than James Cagney, here providing the voice of Big Bear. Curiously, the "official" voice of Smokey, Jackson Weaver, is not heard, though Weaver recorded an LP that was released concurrently with this program.
The Ballad of Smokey the Bear has been out of production for a long time but you might be able to find a copy from time to time on sites such as eBay. I am fortunate to have a copy and enjoy watching it from time to time. If you find a copy I am sure you will enjoy and keep a close eye out for the escaped Gorilla at the end of the special.
Cast of The Ballad of Smokey the Bear
·         James Cagney - Big Bear
·         Barry Pearl - Smokey the Bear
·         William Marine - Turtle
·         Herbert Duncan - Beaver
·         Rose Marie Jun - Mrs. Beaver
·         George Petrie - Fox
·         Bryna Raeburn - Mama
Some of the above information was taken from an article written by Rick Goldsmith “The Ballad Of Smokey The Bear TV Special”.

Ballad of Smokey the Bear Preview (about a 3min segment)  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Fred,
    Thanks - this is a great story. I remember watching the show that night! To add a little to it, the General Electric Company sponsored the Smokey Bear balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that year to advertise the Ballad of Smokey Bear. The balloon flew in the parade each year (with the exception of 1971) through 1974. Smokey Bear will be appearing in the parade this year on a Macy's float saluting the 85 years of the parade!