Humphrey the Bear is a gluttonous brown bear that first appeared as an unnamed bear in the cartoon Hold That Pose, on November 3, 1950. Three years later, Jack Hannah revitalized the bear as a recurring adversary of Donald Duck, beginning with the cartoon Rugged Bear in 1953. Since, Humphrey has been depicted as a scheming, yet hapless wild bear residing in Brownstone National Park. He is in constant pursuit of food, typically from the visiting campers. Humphrey’s antics are typically foiled by the pompous caretaker of the park, J. Audubon Woodlore.
Humphrey is a big, foolish, lazy, and opportunistic brown bear who lives in Brownstone National Park. He is constantly trying different ways to catch food and/or shelter from unsuspecting visitors. Unlike other Disney characters, Humphrey does not speak but makes inarticulate noises expressing satisfaction, resignation, and anxiety. Those grunts were supplied by Disney staffer Jimmy MacDonald. When stricken by worry or panic, Humphrey runs desperately in place, with his feet seemingly headed in all directions. Humphrey's foil is usually Donald Duck; otherwise, it is the officious park ranger, J. Audubon Woodlore.
Humphrey began his career in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose. In this cartoon, Goofy decides to take the task of a photographer. He goes to a park to photograph a bear that refuses to be in the camera. The rest of the cartoon centers around Goofy and the bear at wits. In the end, Humphrey prevails.
Humphrey would return to the screen in Donald Duck's Rugged Bear. This cartoon is the first to feature Humphrey's name and dominate personality. In the short, it's hunting season in Brownstone Park, and Humphrey is the only bear unable to make it to the safety of the bear cave. In fear, Humphrey rushes in the nearest house, which happens to belong to a hunter, Donald Duck. Humphrey attempts to leave but hunters outside are viciously shooting, making it impossible. Desperately, Humphrey poses as Donald's bear rug. Throughout the rest of the short, Humphrey is constantly tortured as Donald believes the bear to be nothing but dead skin, and uses it to aid him in things such as cracking his walnuts and picking the cap of his soda pop. After a long hunting season, Donald departs his season house and heads back to his real home. Humphrey is now free to go, but it turns out, the bear rug he replaced, was actually another bear that was hiding from hunters just like Humphrey, much to the latter's surprise.
After a few more shorts with Donald, Humphrey gained two of his own shorts entitled Hooked Bear and In the Bag, being one of the few Disney characters to star in their own series. With animated shorts becoming discontinued shortly after, however, Humphrey's series was short-lived.
Humphrey made several appearances in Walt Disney’s anthology series.
In “Duck Flies Coop“, Donald quits Disney Studios to seek adventure in the great outdoors. His travels lead him to Brownstone National Park, where he attempts to find peace within Mother Nature. He instead finds himself in trouble with Humphrey, Chip and Dale. Even more so when Ranger Woodlore fakes an injury to transfer park duties onto Donald. The cartoons used in the episode are Grin and Bear It, Bearly Asleep, and Rugged Bear.
Humphrey makes a cameo appearance at the end of the Wonderful World of Color episode "A Square Peg in a Round Hole". Having spotted Ludwig Von Drake tearing up his notes and throwing them on the ground, the bear, standing next to a trashcan, growls at the professor for his littering and hands him a poker and bag with which for Von Drake to clean up the mess he made.
The episode “The Ranger of Brownstone” chronicles the opening of Brownstone National Park, under Ranger Woodlore’s authority. Woodlore’s preparations are continuously disrupted by Humphrey’s antics, however, as illustrated in the cartoons Grin and Bear It, In the Bag, Hooked Bear, Rugged Bear, Beezy Bear, and Bearly Asleep.
Humphrey along with Louie the Mountain Lion appear in the episode Bearing Up Baby, where he watches over a young boy named Jeremy along with the Rescue Rangers. After the baby boy is safe, Humphrey is attacked by hunters but is soon rescued by the rangers. This marks the final time Jimmie MacDonald provides the bear's voice.
Humphrey returned to the screen in three new shorts: "Donald's Grizzly Guest" and "Donald's Fish Fry" reunite Humphrey with Donald Duck. In the former, Humphrey grows tired of his leaky cave and takes up residence in Donald’s RV. In the latter, in anticipation for winter, Humphrey tries to steal Donald’s fish as a means of food supply. Humphrey plays the lead role in "Hot Tub Humphrey", where he tries to take a bath in Ranger Woodlore’s hot tub, due to the lake being too cold.
Humphrey appears as a cameo guest in several episodes.
Humphrey's largest role is in the episode "Humphrey in the House". In the episode, the Magic Brooms are on vacation and the club is a mess. Minnie hires Humphrey and the other Brownstone Park Bears to tidy things up, but Humphrey uses the time to swipe food from other guests. Donald manages to stop Humphrey, only to tear the bag, making a huge mess, and Ranger Woodlore scolds Humphrey for the big mess he made. Because of this, when the Magic Brooms return, Humphrey is denied a picnic lunch unlike the other bears who are going back to the Park and Woodlore forces him to stay behind to clean up his big mess as punishment, much to Humphrey’s dismay. After Humphrey stops cleaning, one of the Magic Brooms force him to continue cleaning up. In "Goofy's Menu Magic", he showed to be more than excited to hear that the evening is all about food.
In the episode "The Birthday Song", Humphrey is one of the guests at Mickey's birthday bash. Humphrey also appeared in "Springtime" as one of the woodland creatures. During Pete's rampage, Humphrey is frozen in place while trying to escape.
In the animated series, "Bear Rug" (as Humphrey is named here) appears as a bear skin rug (hearkening back to his role in Rugged Bear) in Clinton Coot's cabana. In “Mount Rushmore or Less”, the Caballeros became the guardians of the Spark of Life, an ancient artifact with the power to animate objects. Donald hides the Spark inside the bear rug, inadvertently granting it life. Bear Rug immediately runs loose around New Quackmore in search of food, with Donald, José Carioca, and Panchito in pursuit. Eventually, the villains Baron Von Sheldgoose and Lord Felldrake Sheldgoose catch wind of the Spark’s presence within the bear, and attempt to capture him. When they are foiled by the Caballeros, Felldrake tries to destroy them, but is foiled by the fumbling bear rug. Back at the cabana, the Caballeros contemplate extracting the Spark of Life from the Bear Rug, but choose not to as thanks to the bear for saving their lives. Bear Rug remains as a supporting character in the remainder of the series, becoming particularly good friends with Ari.
Humphrey makes a cameo appearance in "Cheese Wranglers", where he takes cover from a rainstorm with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy during “The Wrangler’s Code” song.
Humphrey appeared alongside other classic Disney characters in the opening of the original Mickey Mouse Club series, where he marched along with other Brownstone bears. He was later seen holding the trampoline Mickey bounces on in the song's climax.
Humphrey and Woodlore appear on a Fire Danger sign in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and on body dryers near the exit of Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure. During the 2015 renovation of the former Condor Flats into the Grizzly Peak Airfield, the Fly 'n' Buy gift shop was renamed "Humphrey's", with Humphrey's face appearing on the pin trading sign by the entrance.
Humphrey's likeness can be found in Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which holds Humphrey as their mascot. In the hotel, he is featured on a totem pole with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. Lodge legend has it that when one rubs the nose of the Humphrey portion of the totem pole, it will ensure a magical vacation. He also appears in some Animal Kingdom and Frontierland merchandise.
In 2012, Humphrey appeared on a poster in the Storybook Circus section of the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland. His likeness is also featured on the signage above the Big Top Treats candy kitchen inside Big Top Souvenirs.