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What happened to Humphrey B Bear and who was the person behind Australia’s beloved character? | Explainer

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If you were a child growing up in Australia any time between 1965 and 2009, chances are you were a fan of the fictional TV character Humphrey B. Bear.

Despite being cancelled twice, the show that made Humphrey a household name, Here’s Humphrey, ran for a staggering 40 seasons and produced more than 3000 episodes.

Despite Humphrey never speaking, both the TV show and he won numerous awards, including a Logie for Favourite Children’s Personality, before disappearing from TV screens for good.

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Humphrey B Bear
Humphrey B.Bear first appeared on Australian TV screens in 1965. (Nine Network)

Humphrey B. Bear’s long History began in 1965. Then known as ‘Bear Bear, he was created by Rex Heading, the program and production manager of Adelaide TV station NWS9.

After the station’s resident children’s character Bobo the Clown moved to a rival network, Heading invented Humphrey B. Bear, with the character making his first appearance on the children’s TV show The Channel Niners.

The tall, shaggy brown bear with a large, glossy black nose wore a straw boater hat, colourful waistcoat and oversized yellow bow tie. His lack of pants at times caused controversy.

By 1967, he had been renamed Humphrey B. Bear – the ‘B’ stood for Bear and was a nod to his former name ‘Bear Bear’ – and got his own TV show, Here’s Humphrey. It featured a catchy jingle that started with the line, “What a funny old fellow is Humphrey, he gets in all manner of strife.”

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Humphrey B Bear (AAP)
Humphrey B. Bear is a much-loved children’s TV character. (AAP)

The show was made by Adelaide-based Banksia Productions and was filmed in the Channel 9 Studios in North Adelaide, with Australian actor, singer and dancer, Edwin ‘Ted’ Duryea the first to play Humphrey.

The show was set in a magical forest and saw Humphrey, who didn’t speak, paired with a human presenter, who narrated their adventures.

The show aired as 30-minute episodes aimed at preschoolers and was an instant hit, winning its first Logie in 1969 for Best Children’s TV Series.

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Over the years, seven different people donned Humphrey B. Bear’s suit while almost two dozen presenters took a turn as his sidekick.

Humphrey B. Bear made an appearance at the third birthday party of Robert Irwin, who is pictured with sister Bindi and mum Terri at Australia Zoo in 2006. (Getty)

Humphrey B. Bear was used to sell albums, songs and merchandise, and the public queued sometimes for hours just to get up close to him at appearances.

After more than 30 years on air, the show was cancelled in 2000, resulting in a public backlash that even saw then Prime Minister John Howard get involved.

As a result, a new series was commissioned. A total of 180 new episodes aired before the show was eventually axed in 2003.

The show has been translated or produced in 55 languages with versions of the show in the US and Spain.

After a four-year hiatus, a new series of Here’s Humphrey was announced, which aired from December 2007 until 2009.

There were plans to revive the show in September 2019, however it did not come to fruition. Helena Harris, who created the children’s TV shows Bananas in Pyjamas and Hi-5, was behind the plan.

The Humphrey B. Bear brand is now owned by OZPIX Entertainment.

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Much-loved children’s character Humphrey B, Bear supports Leukaemia Foundation. (Instagram)

In 2020, Village Roadshow Studios announced it would give Humphrey B. Bear a new ‘home’ at its Gold Coast headquarters.

Humphrey B. Bear was last seen in a series of live shows. A new website humphreybbear.com says it is launching soon.

He has supported a range of charities, including the Leukaemia Foundation. He is active on social media, including Instagram

He also as his own YouTube channel.

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