Uncannily Smokey Uncannily Smokey

Uncannily Smokey

Smokey the Bear

I can’t describe this commerical any better than Jason Kottke does on his blog:

“Smokey the Bear is back! And he’s preventing forest fires in Uncanny Valley State Park!”
  • Ugh ! Doh ! HUH ? WTF !

  • Auuggghhh! And the Smokey bear face on the Home Page icon at Smokeybear.com look like he had plastic surgery!

    I have got to be an ad agency voulenteer and make more stupid ads!

    What would I make a client the next victim???

  • Sean Williams

    Maybe it’s just me but my first impression was the Incredible Hulk with fur.

  • John F A

    Did they put human lips on Smokey’s muzzle?

  • Henry

    Whoa! That hot chick turned into an ugly/scary bear. No dates for her…

  • Sam Elliott sounds scary when he’s telling you what to do…

  • Edwin Austin

    Just bearly tolerable

  • Ahhhh! Look at the hands! Such a structure for nightmares– plus the fact Smokey can now manifest through random people (like the Agent Smith from the Matrix) to bid his fire warnings.
    Truly disturbing.

  • Keith Bryant

    Only advertising executives can prevent trans-gender bears.

  • OK, this is some kind of creepy mind control, right? The young woman is an alien, and her kind are about to takeover the earth?

  • It reminded me of this (right around 6:12):


  • I feel a big part of “uncanny valley” is the tendency of CG characters (and their animators) to always aim the eyes and head straight at what they are looking at. Real humans do this quite a bit too, but there’s enough organic life in a real face to negate that zombie pose.

    However, when a human does mocap that organic extra is lost and we are left with head and eyes pretty much locked together

    There’s more to uncanny valley than that, but if that one bad habit could be broken these sort of things would turn out better.

  • smokey’s hott. does he work out or what?

  • The eyes! The EYES!!!

  • ovi

    my reaction to that was the same as the first reaction to smokey from the bikers…that puzzled, creeped out, “what in the world” reaction.

    it was about as appealing as a thick black pubic hair in my breakfast…

  • red pill junkie

    Where the hell are my matches?!


    Makes me want to start one…Ouch! did I say that? Something about that CG bear wearing pants… scares me more than a circus clown….

  • Ryan

    Seriously, why do you bother with this kind of stuff?

    It’s very easy to go around finding the many examples of ugly, incompetent animation out there. It’s low-hanging fruit.

    But in the guise of being hip and snarky, the Brew spends an inordinate amount of its time propping up these easy strawmen, so it can effortlessly knock them down. It’s like beating up a two-year-old.

    There are two much better options:
    1) Focus on displaying the BEST stuff out there, analyzing why it’s so good…


    2) Pick some animation that came close to being good, but didn’t quite make the grade. Dissect it scene-by-scene, explaining how it could’ve been better, or discuss the artistic principles it didn’t achieve.

    Either of these options would represent a maturing, as well as a greater usefulness of this site as a resource. I realize they may be harder and more time-consuming to do–but ultimately far more informative.

  • let’s hope they leave woodsy the owl the hell alone!!..this creeped me out..smokey with a girls voice…wow..

  • Scroll down to see another especially c-r-e-e-p-y version of Smokey painted by the late Tom Beecham, a talented wildlife painter who did a lot of cool magazine illustrations and paperback covers back in the ’60s:


    Smokey (who resembles something from the Island Of Dr. Moreau) looks like he’s rescuing those fawns and is carrying them back to his cabin for dinner…and THEY’RE the dinner!

    The same guy also painted this, the cover of the first issue of KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE, which is as good as anything Frank Frazetta ever came up with:


  • Bobby D.

    They cut out the part where John Lasseter introduced Smokey…

  • Carlos

    I liked him better in 2D when he didn’t make my eyes bleed.

  • What’s brown and puts out forest fires?

    Smokey the Shit.

  • Andrew

    Thanks for the quote! Now I know NOT to view the clip.

    Didn’t Orville Redenbacher teach us anything?

  • Joe

    Poorly conceived and even more poorly executed!

  • ridgecity

    It’s not that bad… detailed animation isn’t cheap you know… And this ads doesn’t bring any profit whatsoever unlike Nike & Chevrolet… If this was Disney I would see it as cheap… Smokey the bear getting CG is overkill…

    And uncanny valley relates to humans, not animals… bears don’t wear pants, at least not outside of Russia…

  • Keith Paynter

    Wow. Smokey’s in touch with his feminine side.

  • Mike Grimshaw

    This… thing… should be hidden from sight.
    I have scars on my retinae from looking at it once.

  • Sweet merciful Crap……. I remember when he was drawn, its seemed so much less plastic then this…and a hell of a lot more charming…

    thumbs down.

    Also Props to floyd norman for siting one of my favorite disney shorts.

  • Dock Miles

    An extra-creepy, gender-bender Smokey. But his most disturbing quality has always been … the pants.

    It started when he was the cub saved from the fire. “We saved your ass. Now we own it. Cover it with these pants and start hustling it to ‘prevent forest fires.’ Only you can prevent unfortunate consequences.”

    It’s like John K’s (last?) great moment with Boo Boo Bear going wild — the ultimate moment is tearing off the clothes.

    Throw off your chains, worker-animals of the world — you have nothing to lose but your pants!

  • This exemplifies the problem I have with most CG animation: it looks freaky. Realistically rendered, but FREAKY. It also influences the concept artists and script writers to travel down this same disturbing road. Just because you can do this type of rendering/morphing, whatever the hell it is, doesn’t mean it’s the way to go. Or best for the storytelling.

    The old 2D Smokey spots had soul. This crap is devoid of the human touch and thought process.

    Light the match, start the engines, burn this drivel to the ground.

  • Jeff Kurtti

    Amen to Ryan.

    Once everyone’s through with the snarky and self-satisfying commentary about Smokey’s latest campaign (yes, you are all so clever and superior), if you drill around the site there’s a nice history of the character, his origins, and various incarnations over the years.


  • Pedro Nakama

    This is more creepy than the CG Chester Cheeto!

  • On a positive note(that somehow gets overlooked), there is some REALLY impressive character animation in the new RAID commercials. Every time it comes on the tv screen it stops me in my tracks. I can’t seem to find what studio did it, but its an exemplary addition to the long history of animation in those commercials.

    It kinda bums me out that a crappy CGI spot haunts the top of the page at Cartoon Brew while no one directs any attention towards the rare appearance of quality 2D animation on todays tv channels…

  • Jonathan

    I agree with Ryan.

    Websites that discuss live action films, cinema, don’t go out of their way to mock low budget TV commercials.

    I wonder why this is?

  • amid

    Ryan – If you read the site regularly, then you know that we already spend plenty of time highlighting qualtiy animation and discussing why it’s so good. Just in the past week, we had a lengthy piece about the qualities of John and Faith Hubley’s indie shorts. Also, I pointed out Tony White’s Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook, Gary Leib’s supercreative Meatpacking history short, and linked to promising student works like Le Chat Noir and Bio-Hazard.

    Cartoon Brew is a conversation about the world of animation, both good and bad. Just as important as inspiring readers with the best of the art form, it is also useful to point out the lesser works, like Smokey, so that others will not repeat the same mistakes. Ad agencies and studios who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create graphically inept and conceptually ineffective work need to be called out. Corporate clients, viewers, and the artists working on these spots all deserve better.

  • I don’t know the story behind this spot, or the production company involved, but I would guess that they did exactly what they were asked (and more than likely directed) to deliver. Looking back at some of the Smokey art that Jeff linked to, and the clip I linked to in my post, it’s easy to see that there is a long running tradition of Smokey being quite realistic and almost Furry in appearance. The lip sync isn’t the greatest, but it never has been with this character. I would guess that if he were using his usual low voice in the piece, it wouldn’t be seen in such a negative light. The people who did this obviously know their stuff. In CG, a furry bear with pants isn’t the simplest thing to pull off. I think the spot does what it was designed to do, and it’s well within the established look of the character. Are there things about it that could have been done better? Yes, but this is true of anything. Overall it is a successful piece. When was the last time we had a wildfire discussion here?

  • Adam

    Kill it! Kill it with fire!

  • drmedula

    Am I the only one who flashed back on this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXcrbpMNvTs

  • snuppy

    Im no American, so I dont know this smokey. But seeing some of his older commercials on youtube, this new one seems to be one of the least scary:D
    Dead eyes x2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_0EBcqy-gI
    Dead eyes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxRxPVc_zuY

    Even Disney mocked it in the late 50’s. So what’s new?:D

  • Alex B

    I never thought the uncanny valley phenomenon would happen with cartoon bears, but…yeesh.

  • Haha frightening! Oooh, that’s Sam Elliot hm?

  • MattSullivan

    Say no to bears. They suck! CG or otherwise. i have to live with three of the damn things living in my backyard here in Colorado! Bears are the number one threat to humanity! And now we have to deal with shapeshifting femme-bears?

    NOOOOOOO! :}

  • Andrew

    The creepiest part wasn’t the animation, it was the tagline: “wildfires” just doesn’t sound right.

  • PLEASE keep finding and posting insane stuff like this. I need some place I can go to lose brain cells. Thanks!!!!

  • OM

    …Several points:

    1) Ryan, if you don’t like the way Jerry and Amid are running things, then do the rest of us a favor and don’t let your a** hit the door on the way out.

    2) Amid, you and Jerry keep running things the way you are. You’re doing a great job, and running Cartoon Brew just the way I’d be doing it if I weren’t already running OMBlog.

    3) On a side note, those who can’t stand this clip I’m pretty certain are probably spoiled by the old Rankin-Bass Ballad of Smokey The Bear stop-motion special from the early 60’s. Now *that* was a superior piece of work :-)

  • Jonathan

    … a few points

    1) If I read a blog, and all the posts are in agreement, there wouldn’t be much point in reading them.

    2) What irks me is when readers comment on how awful something is, then I go to their website and find even worse stuff.

    3) There will always be low-end art. And it diminishes the critic who goes there. It’s a dead end.

  • glad the work provoked so much from you guys…


  • glad no one complained about the crappy lighting…