In honour of Paddington 2, out this Friday and currently gaining promo via a lovely M&S advert, here are our picks for the greatest bears to have appeared in film. Needless to say, they’re a lot more cuddly at the pictures than in the wild!
A bare necessity of any ‘greatest bears’ list is of course Rudyard Kipling’s Baloo, star of two Disney classics. Kipling got the name from the Hindi word Bhalu, referring to several species of bear, and described the character as being ‘the sleepy brown bear’. Sitting somewhere between a sloth, Asian black and Himalayan brown bear in film depictions, Baloo was immortalised by the voice of Phil Harris in 1967, with Bill Murray nailing the ‘live action’ remake last year. Watch out too for Andy Serkis’ interpretation of the character next year.
Silly old bear! Another Disney favourite – or, rather, another literature icon conquered by the film studio giant – is A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. The bittersweet origins of Pooh have just been relayed in the wonderful Goodbye Christopher Robin, but it’s the voice of Sterling Holloway that springs first to mind. Winnie got his name from a Canadian black bear in London Zoo at the time but was, of course, inspired by the teddy bear of Milne’s young son Christopher Robin.
3. Iorek Byrnison
Muddled flop of an adaptation that The Golden Compass might be, it’s not for want of Philip Pullman’s mighty polar bear Iorek Byrnison. A Panserbjørn (armoured bear), Iroek was the ousted King of Svalbard when we first met him in Northern Lights. An expert smith, Iorek was strong, kind, fair and powerful. For all it’s faults, The Golden Compass certainly didn’t hold back on some fearsome bear-on-bear fighting. Plus, he was voiced by Sir Ian McKellen!
This list’s only none-literary steal, Ted was the star of Seth MacFarlane surprisingly heartfelt 2012 comedy: Ted. Eight year old Josh is stunned when his jumbo-sized teddy bear of a Christmas present springs to life at the start of the film, quickly becoming a celebrity. Twenty-seven years later and the pair are still strong but Ted ain’t so cuddly, having taken to swearing, drinking and being generally crass. Voiced by MacFarlane himself, the character proved actually to be surprisingly endearing. Ted 2 was a disappointment but film number one was a joy!
There were naysayers when the Paddington of Paul King’s cinematic adaptation of the Michael Bond character was revealed. Devotees complained that he didn’t look like the Paddington they knew and loved, whilst a misjudged promotional image of the bear in front of Buckingham Palace quickly became a terrifying meme. To make matters worse, Colin Firth went and dropped out of the film having failed to find the voice. Well, naysayers begone! Paddington turned out to be one of the best family films ever made and became an instant classic. Bond based his character on a lonely looking teddy bear he discovered in a London shop, near Paddington Station, on Christmas Eve 1956, with the first of over twenty books being released two years later. Bond sadly passed away earlier this year but with the legacy going strong in this now franchise, it’s a delight to find that someone really is looking after this bear.