The Tao of Grumpy


I am an Adult male. I am a Farmer and Business Owner.

I am also the brother of a whole mess of Sisters, and the Father of multiple daughters. This, I feel, gives me the strength (and excuse) to admit that my favorite Care Bear is Grumpy.

You could say that I grew up around the Care Bears, but not in the traditional way. My stepfather is an artist at American Greetings, but at one time, he ran wild in the dream factory as a Toy Designer for TCFC (Those Characters From Cleveland). It was a profitable machine that churned out Strawberry Shortcake. He is one of the main designers for the Madballs and the creator of the Get Along Gang. He has an imdb page that he ignores, despite my protests that I would have an imdb credit printed out on business cards, even if the credit was ‘man who farts.’

Despite all this, some days he’d drag home as if someone had shot his dog. Those were the days that I could see that Mercenary Artists have it rough. Everyone thinks that artists have it easy because they just sit and draw all day.

Student- You say that we create art from a wound that won’t heal. What’s your wound?
Roma- My wound? It’s my belly button. It’s an oozing, dripping thing. And what I’m dripping is developer.
(Class laughs)
Wound? A wound is an insult. The question is when to say yes to accepting that insult. Yes changes you. Letting someone in changes you. Deciding to go out that night you got into a car accident changes you.
My wound? I have the same wounds as everyone else. Otherwise we can’t make art or we’d just be talking to ourselves.

-Roma, the unnamed Photography Professor, to his students, “Shit My Photography Professor Says”

The life of an Artist-for-Hire is one of extreme soul-wearying toil. ‘Paint a feeling for me. Bleed a little. Ah, no… Can you fix this?’ You paint even when the subject is too vapid to fathom.

When you cannot create, you can work. -Henry Miller

Those days he came home, looking as if all hope was lost, we knew he had been working on the Care Bears. Care Bears has a way of getting on a man, like pitch on your soul. After a particularly long stint in Care-a-lot, his card output took a decidedly Care Bears bent. I could always spot it by the eyes: Fragile constructs of realistic happy blankness.

Growing up, I had visited the TCFC office when it was off of W. 117th, just barely in Cleveland from Lakewood. The whole neighborhood is now apparently gone, and a Starbucks sits in a strip mall at right about the correct location.

When I’d see the yellow brick building, I’d get ecstatic. The interior of the building held an ever-changing whirlwind of magic and strangeness. Once I saw a man who, as a sleeve, wore the most realistic dragon’s head I had ever seen outside of a movie, his other hand the dragon’s wicked grasping claw. I still have no idea what it was for.

The interior was divided into a claustrophobic maze of grey cubicles, yet each artist was allowed to run riot within the confines. Sometimes, there was a blank: a neat (or new) artist, but others were an explosion of Jim Henson Creature Shop. Strange prototypes for toys that never came into existence lined the shelves, giant trucks with monster faces, along side of toys bought on regular toy store combing.

My stepfather had more toys than I did, and all of them were ‘for reference.’  To dig through his collection revealed toys that I had a vague recollection of seeing famous for a season or two before being forgotten. Some were mind-blowing… Others, he had multiples that I could sneak away and play with.

He was always standing by to dismantle a toy that had ‘broken’ though at this late date, through the eyes of a Father myself, his claims that my toy had broken become somewhat suspect. He was eternally wanting to take things apart to see how they worked.

When I was young, I would pick on him about it, but I began to see that, for some reason, Care Bears had worn a raw spot in his heart, so I left it alone, only asking if I saw him feeling especially crushed. To this day, I have no idea why it hurts him so.

The Care Bears have recently rebooted (approximately 2012). The graphics are good and the squeaky voices have been regaled to a side joke. Grumpy is now voiced by Doug Erholtz, whose work you may recognize if you have ever heard a male voice on in a dubbed Manga movie. He sounds more like a dejected plumber played by John Goodman these days, lives in his “van” (a vehicle I vaguely remember seeing around the TCFC office in the 80’s…. A cloud-shaped gypsy wagon with a cherry-picker arm that ends in a cloud-shaped bucket), and wears a bandoleer when they go on missions.

When the other Care Bears use their belly badge powers, their symbols fly around and do magic. Grumpy’s magic power is that he can rain on himself. Every time he gets ticked off, a cloud appears and he sits in the rain. This happens often because, deep inside, despite all the magic he is surrounded by, everyday, there is something in Grumpy that really doesn’t like living in Care-a-Lot.

The other day, I saw Grumpy Bear of the Care Bears mixing cookies out of random kitchen ingredients poured into a flower vase and shaken. These cookies are supposedly so good that the Care Bears will fight each other to eat one off of the ground and, when Grumpy begins selling them out of the back of his van, the Care Bears line up to trade all of their possessions for them.

The bad guy in the story is Share Bear, who becomes so jealous that she hires the standard Care-a-lot thug to smash his stove. (Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot Episode: “Jealous Tea” Season 1, Episode 5, 2012)

Breaking Bad, in bear form? I almost choked on my Tea, right there in front of the kids.

It wasn’t until I watched it again (by myself… to make sure that I hadn’t lost my mind) that I realized what Grumpy was to the Care Bears…. an outlet for the angst of artists at the toil, manufacturing dreamy balls of fluff that they had come to loathe.

These days, those artists are grandfathers, so Grumpy has taken a more Allan Quartermain vibe, though because of this, he becomes more aware of the limitations of being a fluffy magic bear.

In 2007, Oopsie was introduced. (“Revoltosito” for our Spanish audience) A cheesy grin and stupid hair, he’s powerless and accident-prone.

Oopsie the Care Bear, TCFC American Greetings

Oopsie the Care Bear, TCFC American Greetings

Unique among all Care Bears, he does not have his own Belly badge and thus possesses no special powers of any kind, but he will often draw a yellow shooting star on his stomach with a marker. His fur is green.

Perpetually klutzy and accident-prone, this bear is constantly making mistakes, or “oopsies”, which continually effect himself and others. Not only that, but he is the only bear in Care-a-Lot to lack a Belly Badge, meaning he has no extraordinary abilities to speak of. While at first it may seem like poor Oopsy is doomed to spend his life in second place, his true potential begins to shine through as he overcomes his own disabilities, often putting forth more effort and dedication into solving problems as they arise. In fact, his unique and practical approaches have saved the day multiple times, especially in situations when the other bear’s powers have been nullified in some way. He is often seen palling around with his robot friend Wingnut.” (Source:

This was the same 2007 that saw American Greeting sell a lot of licenses in a flurry. Suddenly, Care Bears are on Dollar Store items. It had not been well received when it happened, with thousands laid off, but when the Economic Crash hit, they survived. Of course, now their target family audience can only afford Dollar Store items. That was just kismet, I guess.

So, yes. Grumpy is my favorite Care Bear, because I bore witness to the fringes of the storm that birthed him.

It looks like they realize this, too, and seem to be taking the franchise is a dark direction. Someone needs to reboot He Man before I lose my Man Card.

(Second round of Therapeutic Botox into my neck and shoulders tomorrow morning. Not looking forward to it.)

If you get a chance, check out ‘Shit My Photography Professor Says.’ Graphics people are all insane, and I miss every one of them.



One thought on “The Tao of Grumpy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s