|The Paw Paws
The Paw Paws are a tribe of pocket-sized bears whose behavior somewhat broadly mimicks that of Native Americans. They live in a little village in the forest and help animals that injure themselves and fend off Dark Paw, leader of the Meanos, a nomadic tribe that craves conquest. When the Meanos prove too much for the Paw Paws to handle, the Princess Paw Paw uses her necklace to summon the Totem Bear to life, and the day is saved.
Remember watching Road Runner cartoons and wishing Wile E. Coyote would win once in a while? I've gotten through about half of The Paw Paws and I have yet to not feel that way about Dark Paw. Oh, don't get me wrong, Dark Paw is inept and doesn't deserve to win -- he suffers from an excess of villainous conceit and his henchmen are smarter than he is -- but the Paw Paws are obnoxious. Trembly Paw aside, they all lack any character flaws and they're goody-two-shoes even by the standards of '80s Saturday Morning cartoons, and despite all this, none of the Paw Paws are especially likeable. Also, they're far too dependent on Totem Bear (who, by the way, got more credit than he deserved; when he woke up, the tortoise he sat on and the hawk perched on his shoulders usually did just as much work as he did and nobody ever mentions them by name. I know the Paw Paws are bears and are thus likely to have some kind of species loyalty, but credit where it's due, people). Also, when the bravest warrior in your village swoops in to save the day on a magical flying pony and his backup is a piece of jewelry, it's hard not to think of it as being at least a little fruity.
One thing that throws me about this show is why they chose a Native American model for the Paw Paws, since they never really act like them. They have various technologies that would be unavailable to anyone living in the woods (the opening sequence features a Meano flying a single-seater airplane), the Totem Bear notwithstanding they lack any manner of spiritualism, they have a pet dog and rode horses (both European inventions), and they frequently engaged in a modern activities such as track meets and birthday parties.
Another thing that kind of bugs me is what I percieve as a lack of creativity on the part of the creators. A character being named after his or her dominant character trait worked for the Smurfs, but not so much here. Brave Paw and Mighty Paw the warriors, Trembly Paw the coward, Laughing Paw the... girl? Some establishing shots show that there are other Paw Paws in the village, but we rarely see any of them when anyone's talking. No motivation is given for Dark Paw wanting to rule the Paw Paws or for the Meanos continuing to put up with Dark Paw's cruelty when the Paw Paws have made it clear they'd be welcome to join them.
I suppose the show has its good points, though. Princess Paw Paw is clearly in charge and her predecessor was male, so the Paw Paws are not a strict patriarchy, which is nicely progressive for the early '80s, and the morals of each story tended to be something applicable to real life (for children, at least) despite the fantastic surroundings. Still, a large part of me would like to see Dark Paw bring the entire village crumbling down around a sleeping Totem Bear's feet.
- Michael Albright