You can now buy officially licensed WereBears t-shirts from the cult clothing people at TruffleShuffle. The charcoal coloured tee shirts are available in both Men's and Ladies sizes, and feature a vintage distressed WereBears print on the front. Great design, and a brilliant way to share the bears!
If you're after more information on the WereBears, George Nicholas (the creator of the bears) runs an official WereBears website and has also developed a fantastic CG realisation of the WereBears. Hooray! Check out www.werebears.com to see the video in full, along with some computer concept artwork!
Now, the WereBears, eh? Strange little guys, viewed with suspicion, that are all cute when you get them. However, a flick of the wrist and you can turn their heads and paws inside-out to reveal scary faces with wide, staring eyes, and sharp claws.
A couple of them (Howler and Grizzler) have a couple of rows of teeth. Fang, as you can imagine, has just one fang. Gums is similarly self-explanatory.
My brother Rick (whom my family always referred to as 'the WereBear Keeper') started collecting the WereBears in the mid-late 80s, and even now that I'm 31 they still live with me. They live on the top of the wardrobe in a cute little line, and quite often invade the bed. The rest of the time, according to our own stories, they like to dig tunnels and live in WereBear Wood, somewhere underground.
The WereBears were created by George Nicholas Creations (who is now the managing director of Impact Murals) in 1983 and manufactured under license by Hornby Toys. For a background history of the WereBears, click here. What follows is my own homage to the bears.
WereBears were available from any decent toyshop. For our family, living in Buxton in Derbyshire, this meant that we had to travel for an hour to Stoke on Trent to buy new bears at Toys R Us. Around 1988 though, a set of four smaller ("baby") WereBears were produced, who weren't changeable but constantly in "scary" mode. We had the full set of these guys (and the very tall, battery operated Growler) because we could get them Argos in town, but we were still missing the large, changeable version of Gums. On one particular visit to Toys R Us in the very early 1990s, they didn't have any WereBears on the shelves. Apparently Hornby, the model train company who also manufactured the WereBears, had stopped making them.
Each of the changeable bears also came with a story tape, which was narrated by Oliver Postgate of Bagpuss fame. The first side was a generic introduction to the WereBears, and the second side was a story specific to the bear you had bought. According to the story tapes, the WereBears were handmade by Baron Egon (pronounced "Egg-On") Baconburger in Castle Casserole in the small Bavarian village of Munchen Luncheon. However, the curse that plagued his family (they were werewolves) was also passed down to the bears on a fullmoon...hence the WereBears were created.
According to the cassettes, Fang (red body, yellow face and blue shorts) foiled some international jewel thieves; Grizzler (yellow body, pinkish face, striped green and white jumper and...hmmm...no shorts) saved an annoying little brat kid from the guard dogs on a building site; Howler (light blue, yellow shorts and a pink face) stopped two kidnappers from taking a famous opera singer. Gums (dark blue, red shorts) is claustrophobic, and averts the kidnapping of a schoolgirl when he attacks Shifty Malone and Nasty Bygraves.
When the toyshops stopped stocking WereBears, it appeared that any knowledge of them also disappeared. Hornby were wholly uncooperative when we tried contacting them to try and source the remaining bear. It wasn't until the mid-90s (probably 1996 or 97) that a very few bears started to appear at car boot sales. A complete set of changing WereBears was accrued for about a fiver...and we finally had the long-sought Gums.
A problem with buying WereBears secondhand, though, is that they're rarely complete. Gums and Fang's "nice" side wore hats, and these are often missing. Secondhand bears invariably don't have the story tape with them either. Dammit. Our Gums came without his story tape, but thansk to Ed Hyde (who saw my plea on this website) I've now got a copy of his story. Thanks Ed!
Growler was apparently made by the Baron as a direct response to Witch Hazel (the necessary baddie) and her Terror Teds. These ugly, non-changing, bears are sent to hunt down the WereBears in their story tapes, but invariably the WereBears get the better of them. Hooray!