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‘We Bare Bears’ Is An Allegory for Being A Minority in America, Says Creator Daniel Chong

Daniel Chong, the creator of the Cartoon Network series We Bare Bears, released a statement on Twitter this morning that, as far as we know, is the first official reaction to the U.S. election from the creator of an animation project for a major American corporation.

Daniel Chong, creator of "We Bare Bears."
Daniel Chong, creator of “We Bare Bears.”

While Chong doesn’t explicitly reference the U.S. presidential-election result, his message of “love, understanding, tolerance, diversity, and peace,” for those who are “nervous for the future” could not be more timely.

Chong, who is the only minority creator of an original series currently airing on Cartoon Network (and one of a handful—if that—in the 24-year history of the network), explained that the often unmotivated poor treatment of the bears in the show is rooted in his own experience as an Asian-American and an “an allegory for what it feels like to be a minority in America.” He explains that that seed forms the basis of the show’s broader and more relatable thematic concept of “the need to fit in and belong.”

In the letter, he reaffirms his commitment to using his platform as a TV series creator for telling stories that “showcase the better and brighter parts of who we are as people—and the virtues and flaws that connect us, not tear us apart.”

In late-October, Cartoon Networked renewed We Bare Bears for a third season. The new season will launch in the first half of 2017. Second season episodes are currently premiering regularly on the network.

Here is Chong’s full statement:

  • Conor Murnane

    A very admirable effort, it’s just a shame We Bare Bears itself is nothing special. These central ideas would be much more effective if the show wasn’t so focused on being trendy and pandering to 20-somethings on Tumblr.

    • Jason

      There is nothing wrong with shows that use modern technology. Just because you’re stuck in whatever decade you grew up in and refuse to accept change, doesn’t mean everyone should do the same. Unless it’s a period piece, film and art should reflect the modern times.

      • Fried

        There’s a difference between Panda owning a smartphone and Panda owning a smartphone with plots centered around him trying to get likes on Facebook while browsing dating apps and going on Skype to impress a girl and getting dating lessons from a meme legend whose videos go viral on YouTube.

        I certainly never saw any of the themes Daniel is expressing in the show. In fact, the random humans often react to the Bears in very plain ways. The fact that they’re bears seems to only be acknowledged by Chloe. I would have never thought the show even had any such themes because it seemed very bent on being as safe and appealing as possible.

        • Minato Arisato

          That’s because the heads of CN toned it down after they saw the original comic.
          Who knows how different it would be without that restriction.

        • Dave 52

          I guess you haven’t seen the episode “Burrito” have you?

  • Tony

    This explanation of the show answers one of the questions I always had about it: namely, why don’t people freak out that there are three bears running around? The bears being a stand-in for a minority group puts their interactions with others in a different light. To them, being a bear is no different than being Korean or Muslim or Hispanic; it’s just another ethnic group being discriminating against.
    This extends to other characters that befriend the bears. There’s Chloe, who on top of being Korean-American, is also a pre-teen prodigy going to college, often overwhelmed by the academic expectations of someone twice her age. There’s Charlie the sasquatch, desperate for friendship, but at the same time extremely averse to human contact. And there’s the gung-ho Ranger Tabes, mocked by her peers for being incredibly passionate about her work. All of these are, like the bears, coping with being different, unable to conform to society’s norms. They are all kindred spirits facing a dispassionate world that doesn’t understand them.

  • Tigercat919

    I think that the show itself is a little too plain and isn’t really anything out of the ordinary.* But still, you have to admire how Daniel Chong is willing to create a show that has a unique message that isn’t projected as much as you’d think it would be. That’s especially the case in an animation industry that isn’t as diverse as the rest of television has become in recent time.

    Of course, you don’t want to make it to where you’re trying too hard to where you compromise other things in the show. Whether or not it’s intentionally trying to target the Tumblrverse with “representation” or “feels” is unclear though…at least to me it is.

    *Ice Bear is still entertaining. Ice Bear exists to charm people and carries much of the show.

  • James Madison

    I am glad for Mr. Chong’s comments. I haven’t watched “We Bare Bears”but the theme is very timely and needed. I’ll definitely look to watch it now.

  • So anybody who is irritated by the Bears cringey shenanigans is a racist?

  • Rafterman00

    The world isn’t ready for what Ice Bear can do.