Bear in the Big Blue House is an American children's television series created by Mitchell Kriegman and produced by Jim Henson Television for Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney preschool television block. Debuting on October 20, 1997, it aired its last episode on April 28, 2006. Reruns of the program continued to air on Playhouse Disney until May 6, 2007.
In 2004, The Jim Henson Company sold the rights to the show, including characters, content library and copyrights, to The Walt Disney Company; it is now owned by The Muppets Studio, a subsidiary of Disney that also owns, and is named after, The Muppets characters and copyrights.
Bear lives in the Big Blue House where he is a caregiver for his friends Ojo, a bear cub; Tutter, a mouse; Treelo, a lemur; otters Pip and Pop; and storyteller Shadow. He and his friends have many adventures together. Those normally include solving problems, sharing, cooperating with each other, and developing social/life skills.
Each episode opens with the welcome song, Bear detecting a scent in the viewers (which he likens to a pleasant smell) and appearance of the characters. Each show focuses on a theme (ex; "sleep", "doctors", "Thanksgiving") which folds into a lesson at the end. Songs and jokes accompany the episode. The character "Shadow" narrates a segment with shadow puppets in each episode. Most of the segments are in song, while some are simply a short story relating to the episode's theme. At the end of the program, Bear sings the goodbye song with Luna, the moon.
- Bear (performed by Noel MacNeal) – The protagonist of the series, he is a large bear who is very kind and lovable. He is tall and has light brown fur. Bear acts a caregiver to Pip, Pop, Ojo, Treelo and Tutter. He was designed by Paul Andrejco.
- Tutter (performed by Peter Linz) – A small light blue mouse who loves cheese. He lives in a mousehole in the kitchen of Bear's house. He is considered the show's breakout character. He was designed and built by Paul Andrejco.
- Pip and Pop (performed by Peter Linz and Tyler Bunch) – Two purple otter twins who live in the otter pond by the Big Blue House. They were designed by Paul Andrejco.
- Ojo (performed by Vicki Eibner) – A curious red bear cub who has a wild imagination and is good friends with Treelo. She was designed and built by Paul Andrejco.
- Treelo (performed by Tyler Bunch) – A white, blue, and green lemur who is playful, loves to dance, always active and good friends with Ojo. He was designed by Paul Andrejco and built by Kip Rathke.
- Shadow (performed by Peter Linz, voiced by Tara Mooney) – A shadow girl who is always laughing, telling stories, and sneaking up on Bear.
- Luna the Moon (operated by Peter Linz, voiced by Lynne Thigpen) – A talking Moon. At the end of every episode Bear walks out onto the balcony and discusses the episode's theme with her. They sing "The Goodbye Song" while playing a montage of the day's events. She was designed by Paul Andrejco and built by Ed Christie. "Luna" means "Moon" in Italian, Spanish, and Latin.
- Ray the Sun (operated by Peter Linz, voiced by Geoffrey Holder) – A talking Sun who would often rise (or set) at the beginning of some episodes, starting from Season Two. He will also occasionally tell Bear what the weather will be like throughout the day. Sometimes, he also sings the "Good Morning song". He was designed by Paul Andrejco.
- Grandma Flutter (performed by Alice Dinnean in 1997–1998, Vicki Eibner from 1998–2003) – Tutter's grandmother who has a dance called "The Grandma Mambo". She has a granddaughter named Baby Blotter. She was designed by Paul Andrejco and built by Michael Schupbach and Kip Rathke.
- Cousin Whiner (performed by Victor Yerrid) – One of Tutter's cousins.
- Uncle "Jet Set Tutter" (performed by Tim Lagasse) – Tutter's uncle.
- Doc Hogg (performed by Tyler Bunch) – A pig who is the local physician. He was designed by Paul Andrejco and built by Eric Englehardt.
- Benny the Bat (performed by James Kroupa) – A fruit bat living in the attic of the house.
- Jeremiah Tortoise (performed by James Kroupa) – An elderly tortoise living in Woodland Valley.
- Lois (performed by Vicki Eibner) – A Blue-footed booby living in Woodland Valley. She usually mishears things that her friends are saying.
- Annette (performed by Vicki Eibner) – An armadillo who runs the Woodland Valley Cinema and is very shy.
- Henrietta Vanderpreen (performed by Vicki Eibner) – An ostrich who is the editor of Woodland House Wonderful, a magazine of interest to residents of Woodland Valley.
- Skippy - A blind red squirrel living in Woodland Valley that wears sunglasses and uses a cane. He is good friends with Treelo.
- Big Old Bullfrog (performed by Peter Linz) – A bullfrog living in Woodland Valley.
- Jacques the Beaver (performed by Peter Linz) – A French beaver living in Woodland Valley.
- Miss Maxwell (performed by Jennifer Barnhart) – A mouse who is a teacher at the Mouse School.
- Rita Mouse (performed by Anney McKilligan) – A mouse who attends Mouse School with Tutter. She needs some help with painting but is very good at soccer.
- Keisha (performed by Vicki Eibner) – A mouse who attends Mouse School with Tutter.
- Moss (performed by Noel MacNeal) – A mouse who attends Mouse School with Tutter.
- Cousin Jitter -
- Harry the Duck (performed by Eric Jacobson) – A duck who has been seen several times through the show who addresses bear as "Mister Bear" and quacks repeatedly when he is upset. He was designed by Paul Andrejco.
- Otto and Etta Otter (performed by James Kroupa and Vicki Eibner) – Pip and Pop's grandparents who run the Woodland Valley Library.
- Ursa (operated by Matt Vogel, voiced by Carmen Osbahr) – Bear's old friend from Mexico that appeared twice in "And to All a Good Night" and "You Never Know."
- Yukker Tutter (performed by Eric Jacobson) - One of Tutter's relatives. He is distinguishable by the bucket he wears on his head.
Several of these characters appeared in a music video for the We Are Family Foundation. Bear also appeared as a celebrity in the 2002 revival of The Hollywood Squares; he notably appeared in Whoopi Goldberg's final episode.
Bear in the Big Blue House was initially produced from 1997 to 2003. The sudden death of Lynne Thigpen, who voiced 'Luna' the Moon, led to production being put on hiatus for three years, along with a planned film.
In 2005, two years after Thigpen's death, Tara Mooney, who voiced Shadow, told Irish radio station Today FM that "the crew's hearts just weren't in it anymore".
After the hiatus and the spin-off Breakfast with Bear, a final run of new episodes aired on the Disney Channel in April 2006, with the last episode airing on April 28, 2006. Repeats of the show ceased altogether in May 2007 (December 2010 in the UK). Thigpen was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna.
The show was shown throughout the world including in the United Kingdom on Playhouse Disney UK and Channel 5, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Australia, on RTÉ Two in Ireland and on Playhouse Disney and TV Globo in Brazil.