In every TV series there’s a break out character, but none have ever quite captured an audiences imagination like Ice Bear on Cartoon Network’s We Bare Bears.
The series concept, of three anthropomorphic bears living in a world of humans and trying to fit in, is simple enough but Ice Bear is an enigma. Unlike his brothers, the outgoing Grizz or unlucky in love Panda, Ice Bear isn’t quite so easy to describe.
He’s an astounding cook to the point of becoming the head chef at a Japanese restaurant. He tinkers with robots and once journeyed across the city to retrieve a stolen roomba. He’s been a fashion model, plays the bagpipes, and knits. We could spend this whole article just listing everything Ice Bear is capable of.
He’s also almost silent and only speaks in third person one-liners.
In “Our Stuff” he produces a pair of shurikens out of nowhere. “Ice Bear bought these legally,” he simply states.
After the Bears watch a movie in “Grizzly the Movie” Ice Bear gives the kind of insight more Hollywood executives need. “Ice Bear appreciates they didn’t force romantic subplot.”
In “The Demon”, Ice Bear and his human friend Chloe face off against the titular dog. Chloe warns Ice Bear, “The Demon is ruthless.”
Ice Bear climbs over the fence to meet the dog, dropping the truth bomb, “Ice Bear has fought personal demons. Years of therapy.”
While the show doesn’t often put the spotlight on Ice Bear and give him focus episodes as reguarly as Grizz or Panda, he’s still an integral part of the cast. Having a main character who barely talks and when he does its mostly one-liners was a challenge for We Bare Bears creator Daniel Chong and the other writers.
“We slowly learned how to write him and when was the right time to come in with a one liner for him. I think we found out a good rhythm for him is something happens, Grizz says something, Panda says something, and then Ice Bear will obviously finish off the joke.”
A great example of this is in the episode “Panda’s Art” where Panda draws portraits of the other Bears but his teacher thinks he has no talent.
Panda: “I’m mediocre, guys. She said my passion outweighs my talent.”
Grizzly: “I don’t know, man. This is pretty awesome. I mean, so rendered.”
Ice Bear: “Ice Bear appreciates chiseled abs.”
Chong attributes much of Ice Bear’s writing to comedian Demetri Martin, who voices the stoic bear. Martin often improvs during recordings and “that helped a lot to evolve (Ice Bear’s) character and have it grow a lot.”
Chong cites Aardman Animation’s Wallace and Gromit as a huge influence on the Ice Bear character, specifically Wallace’s faithful dog companion, Gromit. While Gromit may not say anything he’s, “very expressive and does a lot of things around the house.” Ice Bear, like Gromit, is often tasked with cleaning up the Bears home and sometimes appears frustrated with his lazy housemates.
Another influence is Snoopy, part of the Peanuts series by Charles M. Schulz, since, “he has this free spirit quality that Ice Bear also has.” See the picture below for all the evidence you need of Ice Bear’s free spirit.
Both of those characters never speak and Ice Bear can sometimes go a whole episode only saying one or two lines. Despite that, Chong has several different ways of making Ice Bear engaging to the audience.
“Sometimes I tell the board artists, ‘just have him do something weird in the background.’ The main action Grizz and Panda can be evolved in.”
Chong cites the episode “Ranger Tabes” as a perfect example of how to best utilize Ice Bear in this way. In the episode, a package isn’t delivered to the Bears on time so they enlist the help of over zealous park ranger Tabes to help find it. In one sequence of the episode the Bears are in a police station and, looking to give Ice Bear something to do, the We Bare Bears team created a small visual gag that wasn’t in the script.
“This is something one of our story artists Madeline Sharafian added because there’s so much dialogue going on with Tabes and Panda/Grizzly that Ice Bear would just be standing there. She put up this wanted poster of Ice Bear in the background at the police station and all you saw was Ice Bear in the background, all while this conversation was happening he was just staring at his wanted poster. I think that’s brilliant.”
Chong thinks that moment perfectly summarizes what Ice Bear is, that he, “can exist in the background and it’s almost like a joke you don’t even see but he’s back there doing his own thing. Sometimes when we have trouble writing him we’ll just put him the background doing something weird and that resolves him.”
This compliments Chong’s description of Ice Bear as a loner.
“I think he’s kind of an outsider and he deals with it in his own way and he doesn’t need to be awkward about it. He’s a little more comfortable with himself because he’s the weird one and no one pays attention to him.”
No matter how much Ice Bear might be outside the norms of society, the audience has still embraced him with all their hearts. But what does Demetri Martin think about his character? He hasn’t given many interviews about Ice Bear, but when he spoke to AfterBuzz TV in 2016, he was jokingly delighted that,
“Bears are traditionally underrepresented in media. Now we finally get it.”
He also pushed for an Ice Bear spin off special. “Just a very quiet hour long. Like Robert Redford in All Is Lost.”
A We Bare Bears style special where Ice Bear is alone in a boat for an hour? Yeah, we’d watch it.
Ice Bear and Shamus Kelley want justice. Follow Shamus on Twitter!
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!