Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears was an improbable concept that turned out to be quite magical. It was about a small group of anthropomorphic bears who live underground in a high fantasy land of magic and monsters. They possess unique secrets and technology that is coveted by humans, so they live a provincial, hidden existence, coming above ground only to forage. As with all good cartoons, the success of the show didn’t spring from the premise, but from the delightful ensemble of characters. The bears were each unique in look and personality, and while they had a lot of problems from outsiders, particularly the sinister Duke Igthorn, many episodes centered on their inner, familial clashes.
The cast of the show is a veritable “who’s who” of classic cartoon voice actors. It includes Paul Winchell, June Foray, Lorenzo Music, and the lesser-known Michael Rye, who voices both Igthorn and the good King Gregor with magnificent, unforgettable aplomb.
While the show features a few youthful characters to appeal to the kiddie audience, I found that I enjoyed the grown-ups the most. In fact, I found Cubbi and Sunni, the kid bears that I should have related to, a little annoying.
What’s interesting, though, is that my absolute favorite character is the bear who is neither young nor old, but someplace mysteriously in-between: Tummi.
Tummi Gummi is a neutral zone. He doesn’t voice any strong opinions, and tends to go along with whoever calls for his help. Most of the time he just wants to stay out of the way and indulge his passions, which include food and model ship-building, but mostly food. He is slow in movement and speech, but he can be quick-witted and cunning when it counts. He’s a young adult who hasn’t quite matured or figured out where he fits in the world, but he loves his adoptive family and would do anything for them.
This episode, The Oracle, is Tummi-centric, and one of my favorite cartoons of all time. Not only is it well-animated, well-acted, and well-directed, it’s extremely funny, and has lots of clever twists. My only nitpick is that I’m not sure that Tummi learns anything from his little adventure. It’s not a big deal, though, as a lack of resolution is a common problem with short cartoons. It really doesn’t matter anyway. The Oracle stands out to me as a perfect example of good-natured, humorous writing combined with skilled art.