For several generations of people, the Care Bears are icons of warmth, love, and symbols on one’s belly that indicate your inner self. Although they were first created in 1981 by illustrator Elena Kucharik as a nakedly commercial grab for greeting cards, they swiftly managed to find a new life as avatars of good vibes in culture. Although it is easy (and fun!) to make fun of the Care Bears as a kind of saccharine pop culture element that has not aged well, it is an undeniable fact that they have stuck around far longer than their Garbage Pail peers. Currently, they are popular enough that HBO Max has ordered six new 22-minute Care Bears: Unlock The Magic specials, according to Deadline.
The Care Bears have pretty much existed in every medium of pop culture since they were first created, but animated cartoons are where they have been able to best express their modus operandi of love, self-respect, and bellies. Since 2019, the latest iteration of the franchise has aired as Care Bears: Unlock the Magic; it first aired on the Warner Bros-owned Boomerang Network as well as the Cartoon Network. HBO Max began airing the program in 2021 and appears to be ready to become the new home of the group of colorful, magical bears for the foreseeable future.
Care Bears: Unlock the Magic most prominently features Cheer Bear, Good Luck Bear, Funshine Bear, Share Bear, and that cantankerous fellow Grumpy Bear as they have adventures through the land of the Silver Lining because children’s entertainment does not need to be subtle. They are frequently opposed by a group of entities collectively known as The Bad Crowd, led by the arrogant, self-centered Bluster. The Care Bears generally combat The Bad Crowd through their innate goodness, sense of sharing and caring, and the power of courage and friendship. Again, while it is easy to cynically make fun of this kind of thing, the Care Bears actually teach some valuable lessons for growing children.
The Care Bears are a pretty big get for HBO Max, as a universally recognized intellectual property for developing children. The streaming content market has never been as competitive as it currently is, and the dominant platforms are doing everything they can to fill available niches. As Disney+ has a built-in advantage when it comes to children’s entertainment, it makes sense that HBO Max would try to maximize their ownership of the Care Bears to the broadest possible audience.
HBO Max will presumably space out the upcoming Care Bear specials across the next year or so, but it seems entirely probable that the platform will further develop the franchise for streaming. After all, the most Goth Batman and the monochrome Justice League can only garner so many viewers, and they would do well to be attracting an audience that needs lessons in caring, sharing, and how to live in clouds. Reportedly, each of the specials will be tied around a different learning “mini-movie,” so we can expect a whole lot more Care Bears content in the future.