Sorry Curious George, Babe the pig, Babar, and Toto, but bears make the greatest fictional animals. Maybe it’s because you wouldn’t want to hang around them in real life (see: Grizzly Man), but of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, the big, fuzzy mammals are usually dumb and loveable enough for us to forget that, in real life, they’d probably be no fun to hang around.
This weekend marks the 55th anniversary of one of our favorite fictional bears, Paddington. The stories of a marmalade-eating, toggle coat-wearing, Peruvian-born bear trying to figure out his new life in England have brought joy to generations of children, ensuring that Paddington is one of the greatest fictional bears ever created.
But where does he rank among our top 15?
Honorable mention: Yogi and Boo-Boo Bear
We really like these guys, but we also liked them when they were called Fred and Barney. And exactly how is it that these two can put on ties but they need to bum around Jellystone and steal picnic baskets? The whole thing is a little weird to us, and that incredibly awful film that came out a few years ago with Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake doing the voices (but not dressed up in actual bear costumes, which would have saved the entire stinking film) really hurt the Yogi and Boo-Boo legacy.
15. Gentle Ben
Who wouldn’t want a massive black bear for a best friend? Even though Gentle Ben originally starred in the eponymous children’s novel by author Walt Morey, he’s best known from the late-1960s television show starring a young Clint Howard as Mark Wedloe.
14. Smokey the Bear
What sort of a dead inside type of person makes a list of great fictional bears and doesn’t include a bear that tries to get you to stop forrest fires? While we don’t know how much good he’s done since being created in 1944, at least he has a good message.
13. Hillbilly Bears
We’d be fine if the Hillbilly Bears — Maw and Paw Rugg, their teenage daughter Floral, and their young son Shag — somehow got their own live-action movie, starring real human actors. But we also think it’s time that society realize that they’re the Hanna-Barbera bears people should pay attention to, and not a pair of honorably mentioned residents of Jellystone…
12. The Coca-Cola polar bears
Even though they’re peddling a product that makes you fat and could lead to your death, we still love these sweet polar bears.
11. Little Bear
He’s based on a character drawn by Maurice Sendak. Case closed.
We don’t know much about these Japanese koalas except that, well, they’re koalas, and we need to make sure this list isn’t all made up grizzlies and brown bears. (And yes, pedants, we know that koalas are actually marsupials, but they’ve been culturally coded as bears. So there.)
9. Every bear John Irving ever wrote about
Especially the bear in The World According to Garp.
8. Teddy Ruxpin
This talking bear still haunts the fuck out of an entire generation of foolish kids who grew up in the 1980s and begged their parents to buy them one of these things that only worked when you weren’t expecting it to (I know this from personal experience…). But that’s part of the reason he deserves to be ranked here.
7. Grumpy Bear
Here’s a dose of cold, hard truth: the Care Bears are really annoying. They’re all cheerful and happy, and naive. Grumpy Bear, on the other hand, is a way of life; we are all Grumpy Bear from time to time, and we just want all the other happy bears to leave us the hell alone.
6. Fozzie Bear
Muppets tend to reign supreme in our hearts, but Fozzie sorta proved that he couldn’t hack it in the bear world when he couldn’t even manage to hibernate with his own kind in The Muppets Take Manhattan. This knocked his ranking down a bit.
5. Baby Fozzie
Let’s face it: Fozzie Bear was way cuter as a Muppet Baby. When he gets older he starts becoming needy and his bad jokes get tiresome.
4. The Berenstain Bears
We love the Hillbilly Bears, but the nameless family that lived “in a big treehouse down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country,” remains our favorite fuzzy brood, even though there’s something sort of backwoods-cultish and creepy about them.
Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book creation became the poster child for chilled-out beasts when Phil Harris voiced this joyfully slothful bear in the 1967 animated adaption of the book.
2. Paddington Bear
Yup, here he is. Paddington is our second favorite bear.
Fuck the haters: Pooh hangs around wearing no pants and eating honey out of a jar with his hands. If you don’t like that, then you don’t like living.