When Hans Riegel, the founder of Haribo Candies died at age 90 last fall, the world mourned. I took it especially hard. Haribo’s crowning creation–the Gummi Bear–is of course, the most delicious, pleasingly tactile candy on Earth. There’s a reason the Haribo jingle goes “kids and grown-ups love it so.” It is because their appeal is universal. Herr Riegel lived a long, fulfilling life, but he once ruefully admitted to his official biographer that his biggest regret was signing away the television rights to his beloved bears to the American company The Walt Disney Corporation.
To put it bluntly, this corporation took something sacred and defiled it. Gummi Bears were CRYING OUT to be rendered as unimaginably cute Pikachu-like blobs and yet the public was force-fed a bunch of tossed-off “furry” bears that looked like any other run-of-the-mill anthropomorphic animated ursi. In fact, for all we know, their matted coats might have been the remnants of shot and skinned Berenstain Bears. An outrage. It was if the project had been delivered unto the hands of morons and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if that great simpleton Michael Eisner had personally been in charge of developing this program.
Disney had received a real treasure, a franchise that could have conceivably grown into something that would have given that filthy rodent and pantsless duck and all the other grotesque WDC characters a run for their money in media, toys, apparel and beyond. But Disney only owned the rights to this one cartoon. Haribo would have profited from all the rest. So, despite what I said above, it’s entirely possible that Disney was actually being crafty as a fox by purposely making a bad cartoon that they knew nobody would care about. They simply didn’t want the competition. In any case, this cartoon was a failure on every level.
Sidenote: While traveling in Germany I once witnessed a spiky-haired German anarchist spray paint (in English) “Haribo for the people!! Trolli is shit!!!” across the front window of a confectionary in the Sankt Pauli quarter of Hamburg. (Trolli is a Johnny-come-lately candy company that produces inferior, disgusting Haribo knock-offs.) I wanted to marry her on the spot.