Many people assume that the Charmin bears are nothing but an eccentric family living the furry lifestyle 24/7. Having spoken extensively with Blu, the patriarch of the blue clan, I found that nothing could be further from the truth. The reality, I learned, is much more complicated and far, far darker.
Perhaps it would be easiest if I allowed Blu to tell the story in his own words:
“I was born thirty-one years ago in a research facility, located outside LA in southern California. For reasons that will become obvious, I'm not going to give you an exact location, only that the facility was in a fairly desolate, mountainous area. I was the first. A few months later, my “cousin” Redd was born, and awhile after that, Goldie. The girls were born a year or so later.”
Did you realize immediately that you were different?
“I suppose we probably did, but we were children, and we didn't question it. There were people there of different colors, so ours didn't seem so strange. Maybe we thought that we'd shed the fur as we got older? I don't really remember, and it's not as if there were other kids that we could compare ourselves to.”
So when did you find out?
“Starting when we were little, we watched a fair amount of television, but back then it was all cartoons and Disney movies. Talking animals were the norm. One day someone accidentally left the tv tuned to Animal Planet, and they were running a documentary about bears. That's when we started asking questions.”
How were you treated?
Blu paused before he answered, with what I interpreted as a wistful expression crossing his unusual features. “Kindly. I think the scientists—I still think of them as our parents—were initially surprised and perhaps a little dismayed by our intelligence. Once they accepted it, they set about giving us an education. Goldie excelled at languages, Redd is into world history. Azure is a writer, Rose is an artist and Saffron's the mathematician.”
“The sciences. I'm far from the level of our...creators...but I came to understand some of it.”
Can you elaborate?
He let out a sigh. “We're the result of genetic experimentation. What began as black bear DNA, spliced with human genes, and a few other tweaks. For want of a better term, there were three distinct 'lines', each essentially color-coded.”
That means that you and Azure are...?
“For all practical purposes, brother and sister. Most people assume that we are husband and wife, and that the children are ours, but it's not that sort of relationship. The were created the same way we were, genetically modified in the lab. When everything came apart, we—myself and the other adults—debated what to do, and decided that we needed to form family units and raise the kids as our own.”
You mention things, as you say, coming apart?
“We woke up one morning, and everyone was gone. All of the scientists—all the humans. At first, we had no idea of what was going on. Then we found the note. The experimentation they'd done to create us was unsanctioned and probably illegal. One of the scientists had told their spouse about the project, and the spouse had threatened to go to the authorities. The others panicked and cleaned the place out overnight while we slept.”
Leaving you behind. You must have felt betrayed?
“Abandoned might be a better word. It could have been worse. Since then, I have spoken briefly with one of the people involved. There were those involved who wanted to simply eliminate all traces of their work. Including us. Luckily, that faction was voted down.”
What did you do?
“On the bottom of the note that they'd left us, someone had scrawled 'furry convention.' As I mentioned, we watched quite a bit of television, and they'd been running ads for a furry convention that was coming up. We—the bearfolk, I mean—had even been joking about it, and how we could go and no one would be any the wiser. Luckily, the convention was less than a week away. We didn't dare stay at the facility, so we took what supplies we could carry and hid in the woods until the convention started.”
You'd never left the facility before?
“No, and believe me, it was quite an adventure. We'd read books and watched television, so we had a basic understanding of money, traffic, and all the other things people take for granted, but navigating across LA with little more than a map we pulled off the computer and what cash they'd left us, while wearing what people assumed were bear suits...? That was an experience I'd rather not repeat.”
What happened when you got to the convention? Did anyone question you?
“Oh, we got a lot of questions, but they were along the lines of, 'Wow, where'd you get those costumes?' and 'How do you even get into those bear suits?' No one even considered the possibility that we weren't in costume. Goldie came up with the answer that the suits were special order from overseas, and we went with that.”
You must have been worrying about what you'd do once the convention was over.
“Oh yes. It was a great place to blend in temporarily, but there wasn't enough of a furry community for us to just travel from one convention to the next. I'm not sure if it was fate or simply pure luck that the people from Charmin approached us.”
How did that happen?
“They were looking for for a spokesman—or rather, spokespeople—for an advertising campaign for their new product. They'd been scouring the convention looking for ideas, and the product development team saw us. We were hired on the spot.”
Did they know you weren't actually furries?
“Not when they hired us. We asked for a private meeting with the head of marketing, and told him what we actually were. After his initial disbelief and shock, he was surprisingly supportive. He had it written into our contracts that we were required to remain 'in character' and in our bear suits any time we were in public. It made our lives a lot simpler to just be able to point at the contract and say, 'Sorry, it's required.' He also helped us find housing and set up everything else we needed.”
So, why are you going public now, after so many years?
“Sadly, Charmin has decided to go in a different direction with their advertising. Very shortly, we're all going to be out of jobs, so it seemed like a good time to come clean about our true lineage. Plus, I'm hoping that perhaps one of your readers knows of someone who would be interested in hiring a six-foot tall, three-hundred pound bright blue bear?”