Disney Cartoon #17: CinemaScope Special: "Hooked Bear" (April 27, 1956)
by Albert Gutierrez
Last week I mentioned how I wanted to cover "Hooked Bear" due to its anniversary being close to the date of Saturday Matinee. But instead, I pulled "Beezy Bear" from the hat. Ironically, when I pulled the number out this week, it was number seven, "Hooked Bear." Not only is "Hooked Bear" the seventh CinemaScope cartoon, but it's the seventh CinemaScope cartoon I'm reviewing for Saturday Matinee...and the seventeenth overall. Just ten entries ago, I was mentioning how the number seven seems to follow me. If this isn't proof, I don't know what is!
In "Hooked Bear," we get the bear's second favorite food after honey: fish. It's fishing season at the park and Ranger Woodlore is making sure all the fish are proper sizes. It wouldn't do at all if someone were to catch a fish that's too small! Among those fishing is good ole Humphrey, but he has trouble catching fish with his paws. So he grabs a net and a rod, and is about to start fishing like humans do, until Ranger Woodlore takes away his gear and tells him, "Go fish like a bear!" Ranger Woodlore then checks up on the Fish Hatchery, where he - for lack of a better word as I'm not a fisherman - grows new fish. Literally, he takes fish eggs and "plants" them in the water as if they are seeds. When they grow, he grabs a bucketful and tosses them in the lake to grow even more. Humphrey is in the lake, trying desperately to catch a fish. He soon realizes that if he holds up a small fish and rings it like a bell, a larger fish will jump up for it. It's the perfect way to capture fish! However, every time he tries to capture fish, he ends up losing them.
When he does capture a healthy amount of fish, he then dumps them all for a very big fish...which turns out to be a balloon fish that a little boy has. Humphrey then gets the idea to attach a fin to his head and swim underwater, pretending to be a shark and scaring all the fishermen away. He now has a portion of the lake to himself and is all set to go fishing. But he sees Ranger Woodlore dumping a bucket of fish into an even larger bucket, and so Humphrey jumps into that bucket too. What he fails to realize is that the bucket is attached to a helicopter, with Woodlore flying above to dump even more fish into the lake. Woodlore soon receives a call from his superior: fishing season ended yesterday! No fish can be caught. Instead, it is now hunting season. Which means Humphrey must run for his life!
What I liked about this short was the creativeness in the visual gags. Humphrey may have some silly ideas when it comes to catching fish, but they come across beautifully, as do some of Woodlore's gags. When he tosses some rainbow trout into the lake, we see an actual rainbow from the bucket. I know next-to-nothing about fishing, but if this is really how it's done (a park ranger tosses little fish from a hatchery into a lake), then I really should go fishing one of these days. The first (and so far, last) time I went, I was six years old and we always had to throw our fish back into the water.
I'm a bit Humphrey'd out at this point, although there are still some pre-CinemaScope shorts of his that I haven't covered. Thankfully, I've already scheduled the bulk of my Saturday Matinees for the summer and so by the time I do reach another Humphrey short, it'll be a refreshing change. As this is the last Humphrey cartoon I'll be covering in CinemaScope, it's nice to see his evolution over the course of the nine shorts. His first short, "Bearly Asleep" is definitely the strongest in terms of visual gags and character development, and is my favorite of the four. "Beezy Bear" and "Hooked Bear" both are very well made despite a few flaws. His last short, "In the Bag" (which I covered as #12) has a great and catchy tune even though I always feel bad for how everyone else treated Humphrey. But that seemed to be the whole point of his character: he'd get the short end of the stick because he was the short stick.
"Hooked Bear" is only available on DVD in "Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities". And once more, with feeling: you can also check it out on a website that rhymes with ZooChoob, MooStoob, NewReub, or BlueFood (maybe that's a bit of a stretch...).