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The Stories Behind 6 Vintage Forest Fire Prevention Characters

You’re no doubt familiar with Smokey Bear, the anthropomorphic bear who proclaimed, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” but did you know there used to be an entire menagerie meant to help prevent major fires in the United States? From the Fire Wolf to the Guberif, each of these characters were used in campaigns to create awareness for fire safety in American woodlands during and after World War II.

1. SMOKEY BEAR

Smokey Bear is easily the most famous fire prevention mascot, and he has been featured in the longest running PSA campaign in American history. Since August 1944, Smokey has appeared on posters, in TV commercials, and on road signs prompting citizens to conserve and protect forests.

Smokey was created during World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor. A number of the men who subsequently joined the American armed forces were firefighters, and their absence left the forests largely unprotected. The Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters, and War Advertising Council worked together to organize the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program, which launched a campaign to promote forest fire prevention. They realized the impact of animal messengers early on when a promotional poster featuring Bambi in 1944 garnered the public’s attention (remember Bambi and his woodland friends fleeing a large, scary wildfire near the end of the film?). But the Bambi image was on loan from Disney, so they needed to come up with something new that they could own. Smokey Bear was soon introduced by illustrator Albert Staehle as a campaign symbol aimed toward both children and adults. By 1946, Forest Service artist Rudy Wendelin tweaked the bear’s original design to create the artwork we’re familiar with today.

There was also a real bear named Smokey Bear, but he was named after the cartoon, not vice versa. In 1950, a burned bear cub survived a fire in Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico and was named after the popular fire prevention figure. The orphaned cub was rescued from charred tree, and his paws and hind legs were bandaged by veterinarians in Santa Fe. News outlets picked up the story of the injured baby bear, and people all over the country called to check in on the cub. Eventually he was donated to Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo, where he continued to promote fire safety until his death in 1976.

And as for the confusion between the name Smokey Bear and Smokey the Bear, songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins are to blame. After Congress took Smokey Bear out of public domain in 1952, Nelson and Rollins penned a theme song wherein they added the infamous ‘the’ to keep the rhythm.

The Smokey Bear campaign has stood the test of time. In 1964, the US Postal Service issued the fictitious bear his own zip code (20252) as he was receiving nearly a thousand letters per day. He also has a commemorative stamp and his own Smokey Bear Historical Park. (In 2008 he was even given a new motto—”Get Your Smokey On”—but the official Smokey Bear site has since reverted to the original slogan.)

2. WOODY

A surprisingly popular character, Woody was simply a talking log of wood (somewhat reminiscent of Ren & Stimpy’s Log, but with language capability). Back in 1941, faced with the threat of federal regulation and increasing criticism, the American Forest Products Industry (AFPI) decided to form a public relations program. They started running ads the following year that spoke to the benefits of forest products and protecting natural resources.

By 1944, the character Woody was created for an advertising campaign and was used to symbolize proper forest management and forest products; additionally, his image was sometimes used to drum up support for the war effort. After the war, Woody evolved primarily into an advocate of forest fire prevention and, like the Guberif (see below), became a symbol for the national Keep America Green Movement. Not only did Woody appear on promotional items and road signs, but in the 1950s, he was featured in comic books and on greeting cards. Woody also made public appearances, but he was eventually overshadowed by Smokey Bear and gradually disappeared from use.

3. THE FIRE WOLF

An antagonistic figure, the Fire Wolf also came into being at the end of World War II when patriotic concerns about forest fires began to give way to economic concerns. With the timber supply being threatened by fires, forest industry groups opted to try to educate people about fire prevention. One of the AFPI's 1945 advertising campaigns featured a character called the Fire Wolf. Debuting the year after Woody, the Fire Wolf was named "Forest Enemy No.1," and it’s easy to see why. His body was made out of flames, and he made a habit of befriending campers who refused to put out their fires and smokers who were careless with their still-lit cigarettes. Ads featuring the Fire Wolf stalking innocent woodland creatures appeared throughout the U.S. and in Canada, thanks to the Shawinigan Industries of Canada, but the campaign was short-lived. The Fire Wolf only appeared in print ads, and unlike Smokey Bear and Woody, he never gained much traction with the public.

4. CAL GREEN

In 1940, Washington state created the first statewide forest fire prevention organization of its kind with the Keep Washington Green Association. By 1949, 24 states had Keep Green programs, and by the 1960s, Keep California Green decided they should have their own mascot. Announced in the 1965 Keep California Green newsletter Keep Greener, cartoon logger Cal Green briefly served as a symbol of the California timber industry as well as a regional figure for fire prevention in what was a growing national movement. Cal’s image showed up on signs and mailings around the state, but the character never managed to catch on, perhaps because Smokey Bear already had such a strong foothold as the national symbol of fire prevention.

5. GUBERIF

A Guberif—"firebug" backwards—was a kind of grotesque insect created by the Keep Idaho Green campaign in the mid-'40s. The character, meant to differentiate Idaho’s fire prevention campaign from those of other states, was said to start forest fires due to reckless behavior. The creature was more popular during its time than you might expect, considering it was a giant bug. In 1951, the Guberif was featured on over 100,000 postcards and 300 road signs in Idaho, some of which can still be seen today, and live Guberifs even showed up at some events.

6. JOE BEAVER

Noted cartoonist Ed Nofziger, who drew characters such as Mister Magoo as well as working for companies like Hanna-Barbera and magazines like The New Yorker, also created the character Joe Beaver. As a pacifist and member of the Church of the Brethren, Nofziger was assigned to the Forest Service as an alternative to active duty during World War II. Joe Beaver first appeared in a publication for the Otsego Forest Cooperator in Cooperstown, N.Y., where Nofziger was stationed. Local popularity led the Forest Service to take the cartoon national, and Joe Beaver soon appeared in trade journals and other publications across the United States. The cartoon was even featured in the 1945 overseas edition of Life magazine.

Save for his ability to speak, Joe Beaver was otherwise a normal animal. He didn’t wear clothes, he lived in a forest, and he built dams like any of his real counterparts. Nofziger never made any money off of his creation, as it was officially owned by the Forest Service, but he had no complaints. "He does not contribute to my family income," Nofzinger once said. "He is a public service. He is given away free." Nofziger continued to put out Joe Beaver cartoons until the end of the 1940s, when the mascot was no longer used by the Forest Service.

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15 Solid Facts About The Flintstones
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Pre-dating The Simpsons by almost 30 years, The Flintstones was the first primetime animated show on TV and, until 1997 when The Simpsons stole the crown, The Flintstones aired the most episodes of any animated show in primetime, with 166 episodes between 1960 and 1966. The show was so successful, it established Hanna-Barbera as the largest producer of animated films.

Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble, live in Bedrock during 10,000 B.C. Fred and Barney work at a quarry, and Betty and Wilma are homemakers who are constantly at odds with their husbands. In the third and fourth seasons, respectively, kids Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm joined the cast.

Akin to other Hanna-Barbera-produced shows like Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones reappeared in many other series and specials throughout the decades, including two live-action theatrical movies and several spinoff series, including 20 episodes of The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, featuring the kids as teenagers. Nearly a dozen TV specials aired, including The Flintstone Kids’ “Just Say No” Special, a couple of Flintstones holiday specials, and a made-for-TV Jetsons/Flintstones mash-up. Along with all of the shows, The Flintstones launched multi-million dollar merchandising with Fruity Pebbles cereal and Flintstones vitamins. Here are 15 brontosaurus-sized facts about one of the greatest animated families of all time.

1. ORIGINALLY, THE FLINTSTONES WERE THE FLAGSTONES.

Joe Barbera thought about calling the show The Gladstones, then decided on The Flagstones until he realized there was a comic strip with the same name. In 1959, they filmed a 90-second pilot. Daws Butler provided Fred’s gruff voice and June Foray played Betty. Unfortunately for her, the part eventually went to Bea Benaderet. “I was terribly disappointed, and when my agent talked to Joe Barbera, he said they wouldn’t even let me come in and retest for the part or any of the others,” Foray told Hogan’s Alley.

The pilot didn’t air, and the name got changed to The Flintstones. But in 1993, Cartoon Network unearthed the pilot, found in a New York storage warehouse. “It was this mythological sort of thing animators had heard of it, but nobody had actually seen it,” Mike Lazzo, the Cartoon Network’s head of programming, told Entertainment Weekly. “So we sent out teams of researchers to look for it all over. It was like the search for the Holy Grail.” The pilot finally aired on TV in May of 1994.

2. BARNEY AND FRED WERE DRAWN TO RESEMBLE CAVE PEOPLE.

Ed Benedict was one of The Flintstones’s designers. He told Hogan’s Alley that he sketched the characters to look like “cave people wearing long beards, with scraggly, unkempt hair and in slightly distorted, hunched-over shapes.” Barbera didn’t like the designs, so Benedict “straightened them up” and made them more “clean-cut.”

“Barney, as originally designed, had a strap over one shoulder, and when he turned he had a bare shoulder,” Benedict said. “It just didn’t look right, so we had to correct that. I was told they had a pet, so a dinosaur seemed appropriate, and that’s all Dino is: a small dinosaur. I had six spots on Fred’s loincloth and remember exactly that it was reduced to four. I continued to add little things, like the necktie on Fred and the stone necklace that Wilma wears. Joe just continued making very small changes, bit by bit. Joe was going more for a neat, cute look, but not cute for its own sake.”

3. ALAN REED INVENTED “YABBA DABBA DOO.”

Flintstones source WebRockOnline says the origin of Fred’s iconic “Yabba dabba doo” catchphrase came from Alan Reed, who voiced Fred, and reportedly used the line during a recording session. Reed’s mother apparently used to say, “A little dab’ll do ya,” which inspired Reed. “Alan said, ‘Hey, Joe, where it says yahoo, can I say yabba-dabba-doo?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ God knows where he got it, but it was one of those terrific phrases,” Barbera said.

4. THE FLINTSTONES DIDN’T COPY THE HONEYMOONERS.

It’s true that Fred was based on Jackie Gleason’s Honeymooners character Ralph Kramden, but Joe Barbera made him different. “So many people say, ‘Did you copy The Honeymooners?’ I said, ‘Well, if you compare The Flintstones to The Honeymooners, that’s the biggest compliment you can give me,” Barbera told Emmy TV Legends, “but The Honeymooners don’t have all the gags that we had in there,” including a Stoneway Piano and the Polarrock Camera.

5. HANNA-BARBERA DID HIRE A FORMER HONEYMOONERS WRITER FOR THE FLINTSTONES.

As Barbera relayed to Emmy TV Legends, he hired a guy who had written for The Honeymooners. “We paid him $3000 and he was terrible,” Barbera recalled. “And the reason being is, he just wrote words. It was all dialogue. He had no visual gags, no nothing. Yak, yak, yak, yak. The Honeymooners had a lot of dialogue, but it was their expressions and [Art] Carney’s attitude that made it work. When you’re doing an animation, you better go beyond that. You can’t just have people making faces at each other. You have to move them.”

6. THE FLINTSTONES HELPED SELL CIGARETTES.

In the 1960s, Winston cigarettes sponsored The Flintstones. At the end of the show, Fred and Barney would be animated to smoke the cigarettes. In one black-and-white spot, Barney and Fred avoid yard work. “Let’s take a Winston break,” Barney says, as he and Fred light up. Wilma and Betty catch them in the act and throw yard equipment at them, and Fred says the tagline, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”

The smoking was short-lived: Enacted in 1970, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act required stricter health warnings on cigarette packs, and it also banned cigarette ads on TV and radio. Later on, The Flintstones started shilling the healthier Welch’s grape juice.

7. PEBBLES WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A BABY BOY.

In 1962, during the show’s third season, the producers decided Fred and Wilma should have a child. Barbera told Emmy TV Legends the plan was for their child to be a boy, until Ideal Toy Company (the company that created the Rubik’s Cube and Betsy Wetsy) changed his mind. One day, Barbera received a call from the guy in charge of Flintstones merchandising. “He said, ‘Hey, I hear you’re having a baby on the show.’ I said, ‘Yeah,’” Barbera said. “He said, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ ‘What else, a boy. A chip off the old rock.’ He says, ‘That’s too bad. I have the ideal toy. If it was a girl, we could’ve made a hell of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s is a girl.’” They sold three million dolls within the first couple of months.

8. MEL BLANC KEPT VOICING BARNEY DESPITE A HORRIBLE CAR ACCIDENT.

The Man of a Thousand Voices portrayed Barney Rubble, even following a devastating head-on car collision in 1961. Blanc didn’t let a 70-day hospital stay deter him too much, and when he got out of the hospital, the cast and crew came to his home to record episodes. Blanc recounted the experience in his book, That’s Not All Folks, writing: “Tangles of wires were scattered all over the floor, and chairs and microphones were arranged around my hospital bed.”

The cast gathered around Blanc, and the producers talked to him through a built-in speaker. “Every couple of hours Joe would ask if I was too tired to carry on, but I insisted on completing the show,” Blanc wrote, saying that they recorded about 40 episodes in that manner. “Thankfully, by September, my doctors allowed me to sit up a bit, elevated by way of a pulley-cable system, to a semi-sitting position. It was no more than a few inches difference, but as I laughingly told my colleagues, ‘How nice is it to be able to look at your faces instead of at the damned ceiling.’”

9. THE VOICE OF WILMA THINKS SHE AND FRED “REALLY LOVED EACH OTHER.”

Jean Vander Pyl supplied the voice of Wilma Flintstone from the show’s beginning to the day she died, in 1999. Though Wilma and Fred argued a lot, they did have a rock-solid relationship. “I loved the bum,” Pyl told the Los Angeles Times in 1989. “Sure, Fred was a yahoo and I got mad at him all the time. But we really loved each other. Our romance was one of the things that made us so popular. We were real.”

Pyl also voiced Rosie the Robot and Mrs. Spacely on The Jetsons, but it’s Wilma who made her famous. “I know I’m going to get killed for saying this, but Wilma had a great ‘housewife whine’ to her voice,” Pyl said. “She commanded enough authority to run the house but kept an equal amount of warmth. Wilma is a communicator and a lot of women relate to that, at least I know I do. I think there’s a lot of me in Wilma, and even though she’s just a cartoon, I think my voice is one of the things that made her so human.”

10. ACCORDING TO HARVEY KORMAN, THE GREAT GAZOO IS WORTH MONEY.

The actor provided the voice of the “superior and arrogant and elite” Great Gazoo, a green alien, for 13 episodes, from 1964 to 1966. Korman told Emmy TV Legends that he didn’t realize how popular—and lucrative—the character was until he attended conventions. “Some years back, I traveled for Hanna-Barbera,” Korman said. “They had these huge conventions and seminars where collectors collect cels, and the cels with The Great Gazoo on it are worth lots of money. Collectors on eBay and stuff want my autograph.”

11. IT TOOK NINE YEARS (AND 32 WRITERS) TO BRING THE LIVE-ACTION FLINTSTONES MOVIE TO THE BIG SCREEN.

Even though the 1994 film grossed $341,631,208 at the worldwide box office, the film was in development hell for years. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, producers Keith Barish and Joel Silver commissioned Steven E. de Souza to write a script for a Flintstones movie in 1985. Steven Spielberg, who had directed John Goodman in Always, recommended Goodman for the role of Fred. In 1993, eight writers wrote a new draft of the script, but only three writers were credited. Richard Donner was once attached to direct but Brian Levant took over (he also directed the sequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas).

The plot of the final film centers around a work scheme and kidnapping, but an earlier version had a Grapes of Wrath-like plot. “I don’t even remember it that well, but Fred and Barney leave their town during a terrible depression and go across the country, or whatever that damn prehistoric thing is, looking for jobs,” Mitch Markowitz, one of the earlier writers, said. “They wind up in trailer parks trying to keep their families together. They exhibit moments of heroism and poignancy.”

12. THE FLINTSTONES ARE COMIC BOOK HEROES. 

'The Flintstones' comic book from DC Comics
DC Comics

On 2016, DC Comics turned America’s favorite modern Stone Age family into comic book heroes with The Flintstones #1. The summary reads, “Welcome to Bedrock, where Paleolithic humans head to dinner for a taste of artisanal mammoth after shopping at Neandertall & Big Men’s Clothing … Join Fred and Barney as Mister Slate sends them on a mission to show some Neanderthals a night on the town in hopes of luring them into this new system called ‘working for a living’—in Slate’s Quarry, of course.”

13. THE FLINTSTONES AND WRESTLING CAME TOGETHER IN 2015.

In 2015, The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age SmackDown was released direct-to-DVD. It features Fred and Barney hanging around with animated versions of wrestling stars like John Cena (John Cenastone), Rey Mysterio Jr. (Rey Mysteriopal), and Daniel Bryan (Daniel Byrock). “We recorded it at SummerSlam 2013,” Bryan told IGN. “The weird thing that happens when you go from kind of being a nobody to being in a new type of position is that all these crazy things happen to you. Like, ‘Wow, I’m a toy.’ And now ‘Wow, I’m a Flintstone.’ It’s really strange to see yourself animated like that, with the little caveman outfit and those feet. It’s borderline surreal.”

14. FRED AND WILMA WERE ONE OF THE FIRST TELEVISION COUPLES TO SLEEP IN THE SAME BED.

It seems strange now that married couples weren't allowed to share a bed on American television, but watch enough old TV shows and you'll see that, indeed, husbands and wives usually slept in separate beds. While many sources claim that Fred and Wilma were the very first couple to share a bed on American television, that title actually belongs to Mary Kay and Johnny, a sitcom that ran from 1947 to 1950. Still, Fred and Wilma were one of the first—and definitely the first animated couple. Pretty progressive for a Stone Age family.

15. A NEW FLINTSTONES PROJECT HAS BEEN IN THE WORKS FOR A FEW YEARS.

The Flintstones last appeared on TV in 2001’s The Flintstones: On the Rocks. In 2011, it was reported that Seth MacFarlane wrote an animated Flintstones TV pilot for Fox, which they rejected. Gilmore Girls’ Dan Palladino and Family Guy’s Kara Vallow were supposed to produce the show. Earlier this month, MacFarlane finally said that he was giving up on the project. In 2014, Warner Bros. revived the idea of a theatrical animated Flintstones movie, the first since the box office failure of 2000’s The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. Chris Henchy was scheduled to write the script, with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay executive producing. Since then, the project has been quiet.

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15 Surprising Celebrities Who Voiced Characters on SpongeBob SquarePants
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by Jenny Morrill

There are some voices in SpongeBob SquarePants that are instantly recognizable—SpongeBob's shrill laugh, Squidward's nasal complaining, Mr. Krabs's pirate-esque demands for yet more money. Occasionally, though, a voice pops up that's familiar in a different way.

If you ever watched an episode of SpongeBob and found yourself thinking “Hey, isn't that ... ?,” you probably weren't imagining things. The show is littered with guest voices from all walks of life, and here are 15 of the most memorable.

1. JOHNNY DEPP

In the season six episode "SpongeBob vs The Big One," Depp plays Jack Kahuna Laguna, a surf guru attempting to teach SpongeBob and his friends some of his surf moves. This episode also features a cameo by The Monkees's Davy Jones as himself.

3. MARK HAMILL

The Star Wars actor appears in the episode "Night Light" as The Moth, an arch enemy of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.

3. DAVID BOWIE

SpongeBob SquarePants
Nickelodeon

The late rock legend starred in the made-for-TV feature length special Atlantis SquarePantis as Lord Royal Highness, ruler of Atlantis who becomes annoyed with SpongeBob when he accidentally pops the world's oldest bubble.

4. VICTORIA BECKHAM

The former Spice Girl makes an appearance in the season six episode "The Clash Of Triton," as Queen Amphitrite. Well, of course she was going to be playing royalty.

5. CHRISTOPHER GUEST

The Spinal Tap legend plays Stanley S. SquarePants, SpongeBob's accident-prone cousin, in the season five episode of the same name. But Guest isn't the only member of Spinal Tap to have a guest role on the show...

6. MICHAEL MCKEAN

In the season nine episode "License To Milkshake," SpongeBob discovers his milkshake license has expired, so he must go back to the Milkshake Academy and relearn his skill under the tutelage of Captain Frosty Mug, voiced by McKean.

7. IAN MCSHANE

Nickelodeon

Star of Lovejoy to some, star of Deadwood to others. In the season six episode "Dear Vikings," McShane plays Gordon, leader of a group of Vikings from whom SpongeBob wants to learn about Viking history.

8. MARION ROSS

Better known as ultimate TV mom Marion Cunningham from Happy Days, Ross had a recurring role on the show between 2010 and 2011 as Grandma SquarePants.

9. GENE SIMMONS

Yes, that Gene Simmons: Gene Simmons from KISS. In the season five episode "20,000 Patties Under The Sea," Simmons plays a sea monster who has been asleep for the last 79 years, only to be woken up by ... you guessed it: SpongeBob and Patrick.

10. JOHNNY KNOXVILLE

The Jackass star appears in the season nine episode "Extreme Spots," in which SpongeBob and Patrick attempt to join a stunt team called The Drastic Radicals. Knoxville plays Johnny Krill, one of the lead stunt performers in the team.

11. PAT MORITA

Most fondly remembered as Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies, Pat Morita definitely can't be accused of playing against type in SpongeBob. In the season four episode "Karate Island," he plays a self-styled karate guru who will stop at nothing to sell timeshares to SpongeBob.

12. AND 13. ADAM WEST AND BURT WARD

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In the season seven episode "Back To The Past," the original Batman and Robin star as a young version of their SpongeBob counterparts, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, whose adult selves are voiced by Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway.

14. RAY LIOTTA

By no means the only A-list actor to appear on SpongeBob, the Goodfellas star appears in the season five special "WhoBob WhatPants" (also known as "Whatever Happened to SpongeBob?") as leader of the street gang the Bubble Poppin' Boys.

15. PANTERA

Scary rock metal guys Pantera have a song featured in the season two episode "Prehibernation Week." The song accompanies a montage of Sandy and SpongeBob taking part in the most dangerous activities they can think of.

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