Synopsis by Hal Erickson
In the tradition of such Rankin-Bass productions as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy, the TV holiday special The Ballad of Smokey the Bear was made in the stop-motion Animagic process (simplistically described in the TV Guide listings as "animated mechanical puppets"). The story is narrated, and occasionally sung, by no less than James Cagney, here providing the voice of Big Bear. Eight brand new songs, written by Johnny Marks of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" fame, are heard in this saga of Smokey Bear's rise from cub-hood to his emergence as mascot for the US Forest Service's fire-prevention campaign. Curiously, the "official" voice of Smokey, Jackson Weaver, is not heard, though Weaver recorded an LP that was released concurrently with this program. The Ballad of Smokey the Bear made its NBC debut on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1966.