Friday, August 31, 2012

Can't Bear the "New" Smokey Bear

Classic Smokey Bear Poster
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I have a real fondness for classic advertising mascots. And one of my all-time favorites is Smokey Bear.

It's probably because my family camped so much at National Parks, as well as State Parks, in the 1960s. Inevitably, there would be Smokey Bear signs in the ranger stations, on park kiosks and even on some trees in the camping areas.

Although Smokey had a very serious message, the bear was so gentle and likable that it was easy to see why he was a favorite of kids.

That's why I was so disappointed to see a billboard last week on the way home from work featuring the brash "new" Smokey Bear that's currently featured in a TV campaign.

What's that? You didn't know there was a new version of the beloved fire prevention spokesbear? Sadly, there is – and I pretty much dislike him. Here's what the billboard – seen from I-90 Westbound just past the W. 117th Street exit – looks like (below).

This "new" Smokey has shaggy, computer-generated fur and realistic eyes. But what he doesn't have is heart. He looks like he could rip you apart limb from limb with his bear, uh bare hands – and then scoop up the remains with his shovel!

Not to be completely negative, I think the current TV commercials are somewhat clever and entertaining. But I still think Smokey looks far too menacing – and needlessly "realistic" – especially his muzzle.

The "new" Smokey is also featured exclusively on the Smokey Bear website (below) with the classic Smokey relegated to the history section.

Anyways, I prefer the old panda-like Smokey. Remember when he looked like this (below)?

You could tell right away that he was a friend of children and his fellow forest animals.

Through the years, Smokey appeared on countless posters, and in a variety of books and comics that reinforced that strong connection to kids.

He also appeared in animated TV commercials like this one (below) that appealed to kids. Smokey makes a cameo near the end of the spot, which is narrated by Paul Frees.

The "new" computer-generated Smokey is annoying to me because the creative team involved makes no attempt to breath life into the beloved character that all of us have known throughout our lives using the wonderful technology that is available. Instead, they redesigned Smokey's classic, well-known appearance and personality (that have been consistent since the 1940s) into something more "hip" and realistic – thus removing almost all of the goodwill and equity in the original image.

I can barely bear this new bear.

However, all is not lost. The "new" Smokey's appearance seems to be limited to the TV campaign and the website. You can still purchase lots of items featuring the classic Smokey Bear through a quarterly catalog published by Woodland Enterprises (below) by special agreement with the U.S. Government.

Here's the link to the company's website, where you can shop online or request a printed catalog.

Anyway, here's hoping the new CGI Smokey attracts some attention with the TV campaign, and then quietly disappears into the woods.

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