The Bear That Couldn’t Sleep
Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!
Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising were working for Uncle Walt long before the Mouse came into being. So they were around to see him get screwed on the deal with his production company’s first major star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. To avoid having that sort of thing happen to them, they made sure to copyright the Bosko character in their own names! When their first big job, producing the earliest Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies to be released by Warner Brothers, went sour after a few years, they were able to take Bosko with them, ultimately using him in the Happy Harmonies they made for MGM.
The subcontractor studio thing was always problematic. So MGM brought cartoon production in-house. Rudy and Hugh eventually wound up as employees of the MGM animation department. It was in that capacity that the former created the first original MGM cartoon star, Barney Bear. This generally good-natured, mostly-anthropomorphic grizzly never rose to the popularity of later MGM characters like Tom & Jerry or Droopy, but he did get twenty-six classic theatrical shorts over a decade and a half. He was a regular in the MGM print publications, and has turned up regularly in projects featuring the studio’s characters all the way through today.
Here is his first appearance from 1939. More from the OldHorseman.