Jan Berenstain, who created the classic Berenstain Bears children’s book franchise along with her husband Stan, has died at the age of 88. Her passing comes as the Berenstain Bears celebrates the 50th anniversary of the series’ first story, published by Dr. Seuss. Stan Berenstain died in 2005.
The Berenstain Bears, first introduced in the 1962 book The Big Honey Hunt, have also appeared in several TV specials, two separate cartoon series and a variety of toys and products.
“These two people, Stan and Jan, were married forever, were dedicated educators,” The Berenstain Bears voice actor Brian Cummings told Just My Show. “They loved the kids and they loved doing things that were good for kids. So every show was destined to have a point and to have a purpose and to mean something to kids. And I think over the long term, stuff that really means something survives over things that are just merely entertaining.”
Cummings, who has voiced characters in countless animated series including DuckTales and G.I. Joe, played the part of Papa Bear in the 1980s Saturday morning cartoon that aired on CBS.
“I think that the thing about the Berenstains are it’s a family,” Cummings said by telephone, shortly after learning of the author’s passing. “It keeps the comedic stuff that people laugh at, so dad’s a bit of a buffoon sometimes, but not a total one. He has some wisdom. It’s just that he kinda needs to be completed by the strength and the intellective mom. And the two kids are..I think people related to them because it relates to their lives.”
Cummings says that while the characters’ creators were not frequently present for the show’s production, it was very obvious that they were highly involved. It’s their vision, he says, that’s responsible for the series’ success.
“There are some things that are done for little kids that don’t have great stories and great production values and great characters,” he told JMS. “Berenstains did and it started with Stan and Jan. It’s like Dr. Seuss’s stuff was great because it came from the mind of Ted Geisel. And that was Dr. Seuss being intuitive and knowing what he did and doing it well. Stan and Jan were the same way.”