With all due respect to the Avengers, none of them are quite as cuddly as the teddy bear that magically came to life, developed superpowers, and was able to help save the world.
SuperTed is a Welsh cartoon show about a teddy bear with superpowers. It was created by Mike Young and led to a series of popular books, and a cartoon series that ran from 1983 to 1986. Young created the idea to help his son deal with a fear of the dark.
This story has connections to Harry Potter, the Beatles, Captain Marvel, and Welsh pride all wrapped together.
I’m Canadian, but I grew up between Canada and England. As much as my childhood was full of North American influences such as G.I. Joe, Mr. Dressup, and Transformers, a big part of my upbringing involved British Content.
I loved Blue Peter, Bananaman, read Dandy and Beano, and of course–loved SuperTed. Every little kid loves superheroes and Superman–and they also love stuffed animals–so why not combine the two.
This is what led Mike Young to create a story that was originally geared for his young son who was having trouble sleeping at night due to fear of the dark. Let’s take a look back at the cuddliest superhero of them all: SuperTed.
How Was SuperTed Created?
The year was 1978, and as mentioned, Mike Young from Wales had a young son who was afraid of the dark. We’ve all been there as kids, but Young wanted to help his son tackle this problem head-on.
One night, he went to check on his son who would constantly be awake. When he went in, he noticed a teddy bear sitting on his bed.
The first idea Young had was to create a story of a bear from the woods who also had a fear of the dark. Young expanded on the idea that the bear should have superpowers. The powers would come from Mother Nature. Superheroes are a big part of every kid’s upbringing, so Young thought that the bear should turn into some sort of superhero.
This would happen anytime the bear would say a magic word given to him by Mother Nature. This word would let the ordinary bear turn into SuperTed. Young tells the story that this came about because when he had gone back in his son’s room, he was holding a tea towel and that he used that to make a cape on the bear.
This isn’t exactly Harry Potter, but it’s interesting to see another situation where a bedtime story for kids turned into something much bigger.
Young’s son loved the story and was going to school and telling his classmates about the adventures of SuperTed from the previous night’s stories. Young would run into people in town who had heard the stories from their own children.
Young believed there may be something to this creation.
Taking SuperTed to the Next Level
To take SuperTed to the masses, he needed to be more than just a bear that helped kids with their fear of the dark: he needed to be a real superhero. This helped to evolve SuperTed into a crime-fighter—like all good superheroes.
There were also adversaries such as the evil Texas Pete.
Young decided to put his stories into a book.
The first versions he created weren’t really working, but then he went to a local printer who helped him polish up the book’s production and publication. The format and structure of the book worked well and Young would go on to quickly write 100 different stories.
The book spread very quickly, and a few of them made their way around the world getting the attention of Disney and Warner Bros. Before SuperTed would become a cartoon–It was already getting interest as a live-action film.
The idea was simple and a teddy bear-superhero seemed like a can’t miss hit for younger audiences. Way back in 1980, Warner Bros. offered $250,000 to hold the rights for a future live-action film version of SuperTed. They also wanted to be involved with creating British cartoons—but Young had a specific request: He wanted production to be entirely Welsh, not based in London, and to provide jobs to Welsh people.
But before all that, the cartoon show of SuperTed was about to take place.
The SuperTed Cartoon
The SuperTed cartoon expanded on the simple story of SuperTed and gave him a more cosmic origin. The cartoon would run from 1983 to 1986, last 3 seasons, and be made up of 30 episodes.
The cartoon was what would take SuperTed around the world and would be shown in 30 different countries.
But similar to the Warner Bros. Deal, Young wanted to keep things local. He was approached by several companies to animate and produce the cartoon, but it was the same story–come to London.
Young was obviously proudly Welsh and decided to go out on his own. This was a big risk, but he created Siriol Productions that would be based in Cardiff. This way, he could provide employment, and opportunities, to fellow Welshians.
But there was another big reason Young created his own production company: more control. When given over to another production, they would lose control of the essence of SuperTed. Some of the other companies wanted SuperTed to go in a more violent direction. Nothing extreme, but he was a superhero so there would be an essence of violence.
Young wanted nothing to do with that and wanted to create a show that he–and other parents–would be proud to show their children. They wanted something that was creative, fun, and non-violent. They also didn’t want their episodes to follow asinine, cookie-cutter plots, but wanted to do something that at least had a little substance to it.
The Premise of SuperTed
The bear in the woods/Mother Nature connection was out. What was in was a bit more of a Marvel, Cosmic Universe story that wouldn’t be too out of place with Guardians of the Galaxy.
The premise goes a little something like this. We see a teddy bear factory (fun fact: the term Teddy Bear comes from Teddy Rosevelt who had a stuffed bear named after him) and a regular teddy bear on the assembly line.
This particular bear was seen to be defective and tossed aside. But then, we meet an alien-type creature covered in spots. He’s an alien from the planet Spot who for some reason is hanging around a teddy bear factory on Earth. The spotty alien sprinkles some cosmic dust on the bear and it brings him to life.
But surprise! Mother Nature actually is back and the alien brings the now sentient bear to her to get his full super powers. I’m wondering now if there’s a connection/relation between SuperTed and Teddy Ruxpin. Teddy Ruxpin also has a bit of a magical history when you look back at that cartoon.
Check out my full blog all about this and Teddy Ruxpin here.
So now this bear is alive, and full of powers. But he can only harness those powers when he says that magic word given to him by Mother Nature. When he does, he transforms into SuperTed with a full costume and cape.
So SuperTed is actually more connected to Captain Marvel than any other superhero. The rest of the premise involves SuperTed and Spotty travel around the world helping those in need, but they also travel throughout space, too.
We also get more acquainted with the villain, Texas Pete. Pete has two bumbling sidekicks including a very flamboyant skeleton and a meat head goon named Bulk. One of the hardest I ever remember laughing as a kid was to a book/tape combination of SuperTed where Texas Pete says that he will bash Bulk’s brains in, to which Bulk replies: “what brains, Tex?”
So now SuperTed and Spotty try to do good throughout the universe while trying to thwart Texas Pete’s plans for world domination.
The Further Adventures of SuperTed
As mentioned, the first version of SupeTed lasted for three years and 30 episodes and was seen in over 30 countries.
So I remember watching and loving this during the time I spent in England, but I was unaware that a new series came to North America. It was called “the Further Adventures of SuperTed,” and came out in 1989. By that point, I was a bit too old, but also unaware that it existed.
This series was produced by Hannah Barbara, even though it took a little bit to get there. Young knew that he would have to let a bigger company take control of SuperTed if it was going to grow. This is where he was able to sell a stake of it to Disney and this was significant because it was the first time the giant company had bought animation from an outside studio.
This was a huge risk for Young, but he really had no choice. So Disney bought a majority of the rights and brought in Hannah Barbara to actually make it.
The original SuperTed had already been appearing on the Disney Channel in 1984. The Further Adventures of SuperTed would be a bit higher-end–with even better production values. But there were a few changes:
- Extra villains were added
- There was a new American-style intro
- The show would poke fun at American culture
- SuperTed would be voiced by Danny Cooksey instead of Derek Griffiths who voiced the UK version
- The BBC would air this version but re record the voices of the original British actors
Side note: the British actors for the original show were some big time players at the time. But how did an upstart new production company get them? Well, you can thank the Beatles for that–kind of. Young was cousins with Victor Spinetti who appeared in many Beatles films. Spinetti had amazing connections and when it came time to cast the show he said he would take care of it and assembled a top notch voice talent team.
There were also a TON of new characters including: Major Billy Bob, The Space Beavers, Kiki, and Blotch just to name a few.
The weird thing with this new series is that each episode was split into two making for 26 10-minute episodes instead of 13 regular ones. Because of the rerecording, the series would debut in January 1990 on the BBC, but came out in 1989 in America.
A SuperTed Reboot?
Mike Young has done a lot of work with his production company and now lives in Los Angeles. In 2014, he announced plans for a new series. The plan was to create 26, half hour episodes ready to go by 2016. That obviously didn’t happen, and things seem to be pushed to the backburner.
Just a few weeks ago (as of the time of writing this, April, 2021), according to the BBC, it was announced that things were back in action and the plan is to release new episodes in 2023.
The plan is to make a CGI series and hopefully it will be picked up by either Netflix, Disney+, or HBO Max. It would seem to make sense that it would work for Disney+ as they do have a connection to the property.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is a big nostalgia factor that should draw some people in, but will they stay? SuperTed is still a British staple and the average American still probably doesn’t know about it.
But what about a modern audience? There are so many things vying for kids’ attention–will a superhero teddy bear capture their interest? I would think it does have a fighting chance. It’s still that combination of superheroes–which kids will always love–a teddy bear–which kids still love–and something that is cute.
If you’re British, you most likely know of SuperTed. If you’re from anywhere else–this may be somewhat new to you. But overall, SuperTed can be considered a big success because by the end of his run, the show had been seen in 128 different countries, and dubbed into 32 different languages.
Personally, SuperTed is one of my favorite childhood memories and is still one of my favorite cartoons from growing up. It was weird having these two different worlds between Canada and England, each with their own unique shows. But I was thankful to be exposed to shows like SuperTed right in their prime.