USA — He may qualify for Social Security, but Smokey Bear is not hanging up the shovel quite yet. In fact, thanks to computer enhancement the bear is more buff than ever – and taller than most NBA players to boot.
And he’s hitting the small screen for another round of forest fire prevention.
He’s even copping a new ëtude, asking Americans to “Get their Smokey on.” Translation: Become Smokey Bear-like when you see morons acting irresponsibly with camp fires, cigarette butts and matches.
While other spokes-animals and public service campaigns come and go, Smokey has had a knack for keeping up with the times.
His is the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history, according to the National Forest Service and the National Ad Council.
Key dates in the life of Smokey the Bear
1940 Some of the very first fire prevention campaigns begins pre-Smokey. 1942 Fire prevention rises to national awareness when, during World War II, a Japanese sub surfaces off the coast of Southern California, exploding shells near an oil field and the Los Padres National Forest. If the forest goes up in flames, who’s going to fight the fires – most men are at war – and all that wood will burn. 1943 Posters emblazoned with a likeness of Hitler and Hirohito announce “Forest Fires Aid the Enemy” and “Our Carelessness, Their Secret Weapon.” 1944 Bambi becomes the forests’ first spokesanimal. On loan from Walt Disney, Bambi proves animals make good spokesmen. Aug. 9, 1944 The first Smokey Bear poster is issued. Bear in jeans, belt and hat is dousing a camp fire. 1950 Smokey is big enough to be featured in Ladies Home Journal and do radio spots with the likes of Bing Crosby and Marshal Matt Dillon, aka, James Arness. 1950 The world gets a real life Smokey after a badly burned bear cub was rescued from a New Mexico forest fire. After his burns healed he moved to the National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. 1953 After appearing on a stamp and in Newsweek, Smokey is made into a 26-inch doll. 1955 Smokey gets his own comic book series with Dell Comics. (See graphic, above) Sept. 8, 1962 Invitations go out for a wedding reception for Smokey Bear and Goldie. The festivities at the National Zoological Park. This would be the black bear cub who was burned. 1964 Smokey gets so much mail at the zoo, he earns his own zip code, 20252. 1968 Smokey and Bambi do a television spot. 1968 Smokey isn’t the only ad going. Rod Sterling does a very Twilight Zone-esque spot about an average family, driving on an average day, when the average dad tosses a cigarette butt out the window.. becomingÖ. Da da da da, da da da daÖ a forest and animal murdering criminal ignorant of his own crime. 1973 Fighting familiarity, the Forestry Service uses a comely redhead to make Smokey’s pitch, but in the end she peels away a mask to reveal she’s the bear. “If you knew it was me, would you have listened?” 1975 Division of Forestry announces that during the last 30 years, the number of forest fires have been cut in half “because you listened.” 1976 Smokey, the burned bear cub dies of natural causes at the zoo and is buried in Smokey Bear Historical Park in New Mexico. 1980 Smokey dolls still in production. He also adorns 20-cent stamps. 1990 Radio spots continue to talk about Smokey’s message, though the bear remains silent. 1995 Smokey hits the Saturday morning cartoon circuit with public service announcements featuring him with other cartoon characters. 2000 You can buy a Wacky Wobbler, bobble headed Smokey doll. 2004 Smokey shows up in another ad. He says nothing but intimidates a camper into properly dousing a camp fire. 2009 Smokey, headed for retirement age come August, gets a buff new look as the National Ad Council unveils a new Smokey campaign. This time computer-animated Smokey is taller than an NBA player and broader than the Brawny guy. He’s lost the paunch and is packing a six-pack of furry abs. And he’s no longer pitching only personal responsibility, but interventionÖ step up and stop people who are irresponsible with campfires and cigarette butts.