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Maya the Bee
Creator Waldemar Bonsels
Original work Books
Print publications
Books The Adventures of Maya the Bee
Films and television
Films
Television series
Games
Video games
  • Maya the Bee & Her Friends (1999)
  • Maya the Bee – Garden Adventures (2000)
  • Maya the Bee and Friends (2006)
  • Maya the Bee: The Great Adventure (2002)
  • Maya the Bee: Sweet Gold (2005)
  • The Bee Game (2007)
  • Maya (2013)
  • Maya the Bee: The Nutty Race (2019)

Maya the Bee (German: Die Biene Maja) is the main character in The Adventures of Maya the Bee, a German book written by Waldemar Bonsels and published in 1912. The book has been published in many other languages and adapted into different media.

The stories revolve around a little bee named Maya and her friends Willy the bee, Flip the grasshopper (referred to as "Maja", "Willi" and "Philip" respectively in some versions), Mrs. Cassandra (Maya's teacher), and many other insects and other creatures. The book depicts Maya's development from an adventurous youngster to a responsible adult member of bee society.

Plot

Bonsels' original book contains fewer than 200 pages. The storyline is centered on the relation of Maya and her many adventures.

Maya is a bee born in a bee hive during internal unrest: the hive is dividing itself into two new colonies. Maya is raised by her teacher, Mrs. Cassandra. Despite Mrs. Cassandra's warnings, Maya wants to explore the wide world and commits the unforgivable crime of leaving the hive. During her adventures, Maya, now in exile, befriends other insects and braves dangers with them. In the climax of the book, Maya is taken prisoner by hornets, the bees' sworn enemies.

Prisoner of the hornets, Maya learns of a hornet plan to attack her native hive. Maya is faced with the decision to either return to hive and suffer her due punishment, saving the hive, or leaving the plan unannounced, saving herself but destroying the hive. After severe pondering, she makes the decision to return. In the hive, she announces the coming attack and is, totally unexpectedly, pardoned. The forewarned bees triumph over the hornet attack force. Maya, now a heroine of the hive, becomes a teacher like Mrs. Cassandra and shares her experiences and wisdom with the future generation.

Main characters

  • Maya – Bee. The series main protagonist. She loves freedom and living in the meadow by herself, unlike other bees who live in the hive. She is good, fair, happy and willing to help everybody.
  • Willy – Bee. Lazy, clumsy, and cowardly, sometimes a showoff, but generally good-natured – not featured in the original Bonsels story, but a major character in all adaptations other than the 1924 film. His relationship to Maya is depicted inconsistently: in most adaptations, he's her best friend, who is secretly in love with her, prone to jealousy when Maya's attentions turn to others. Often reluctantly dragged into adventures by Maya.
  • Flip (or Germany) – Grasshopper. A wise friend of Maya and Willy. Introduced first in the animated series. Whether he is meant to be identical with the unnamed grasshopper of the books is unclear.
  • Alexander (or Aleksander) – mouse. Intellectual, whose level of respect among the other creatures, and close friendship with Maya, often sends Willy into jealous rages. Appears only in the second season of the older animated series (1978).
  • Miss Cassandra – Bee, Teacher at the Bee-School.

Films, anime and television

Crew Television series Feature films
Maya the Honey Bee Maya the Bee Maya the Bee Movie Maya the Bee:
The Honey Games
Maya the Bee: The Golden Orb
1975–1980 2012–2017 2014 2018 2021
Director(s) Seiji Endô and Hiroshi Saitô Daniel Duda and Jérôme Muschadet Alexs Stadermann Noel Cleary and Sergio Delfino Noel Cleary
Producer(s) N/A Barbara Stephen and Thorsten Wegener Tracy Lennon, Brian Rosen and Thorsten Wegener Tracy Lenon and Benjamin Ey
Executive Producer(s) N/A Katell France Jim Ballantine and Patrick Elemendorff Barbara Stephen and Hans-Ulrich Stoef Martin Krieger, Barbara Stephen and Thorsten Wegener
Writer(s) Various Fin Edquist and Marcus Sauermann Story by:
Noel Cleary, Fin Edquist and Alexs Stadermann
Adrian Bickenbach and Fin Edquist
Composer Karel Svoboda Fabrice Aboulker Ute Engelhardt
Editor Marty Murphy Johanna Goldschmidt Adam Rainford
Production company Nippon Animation Studio 100 Animation
ZDF
TF1
  • Screen Australia
  • Studio 100 Animation
  • Flying Bark Productions
  • ZDF
  • Screen NSW
Studio 100 Animation
U.S. Distribution Nickelodeon Sprout Shout! Factory
Released April 1, 1975 (1975-04-01) – September 13, 1980 (1980-09-13) September 5, 2012 (2012-09-05) – August 23, 2017 (2017-08-23) March 8, 2015 (2015-03-08) May 1, 2018 (2018-05-01) January 7, 2021 (2021-01-07)

1924 film

German director Wolfram Junghans made a 1924 silent version ("starring" real insects). The film was lost for a decade until the only original copy of the film was found in Finland. The material was restored in 2005 with a new musical score and released on DVD in 2012, in collaboration with the KAVI and the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, and the film was screened in both Hamburg and Helsinki.

1975 anime

Perhaps the most popular and widely known adaptation of the story is the Japanese anime Maya the Honey Bee (みつばちマーヤの冒険 Mitsubachi Māya no Bōken, "The Adventures of Maya the Honeybee"). Originally aired on Japanese TV in 1975, the anime has been dubbed into 42 languages and screened on television in various territories, including China, South Korea, Australia, Austria, Germany, Ireland, the United States, South Africa, Peru, Portugal, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Croatia, Chile, Israel, Italy, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, Spain, Serbia, Finland, Poland, Ecuador, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon (as Zena) and Iran (as Nikoo (نیکو)). The Japanese TV series was preceded by Tokyo Kodomo Club's musical play based on the short story, presented as Mitsubachi Māya ("Maya the Honeybee"), distributed on a LP album.

The original theme was composed by Karel Svoboda and sung by Karel Gott in the German, Czech and Slovak versions; Zbigniew Wodecki in the Polish version.

2012 TV series

In 2012 Studio 100 Animation produced a 78-episode, 13-minute TV series. The series was rendered in 3D CGI animation. A second 52 episode season aired in 2017.

Film series

A 2014 film adaptation based upon the 2012 series was released. In 2018, a sequel to the 2014 film, titled Maya the Bee: The Honey Games, released on March 1, 2018 in Germany and May 1, 2018 in United States.

Then in 2021, an upcoming third film, titled Maya the Bee 3: The Golden Orb is scheduled to be released on January 7, 2021 in Australia. After it was delayed from its original 2020 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Stage performances

Opera

Maya the Bee also served as the basis for a children's opera written by the Croatian composer Bruno Bjelinski in 1963. In 2008 it was staged in Villach, Austria as part of their Carinthian Summer Music Festival. This performance was distinguished by having the "bees" played by children and not professional opera singers as it is usually the case.

Puppet musical

Singer-songwriter Nancy Harrow created a jazz-musical version of the story, called The Adventures of Maya the Bee, that featured puppets by Zofia Czechlewska. Harrow's adaptation was produced in New York City by The Culture Project in 2000, and was revived in 2012.

Musical

On October 10, 2016, Belgian company Studio 100 (the current owners of the series) created a Flemish stage musical called "Maya en de Pollenbollen" based on the 2012 series that has the people dressed in costumes for the characters from the show. The show contains songs made by Studio 100 with a few news songs created exclusively for the show. The musical centers around Maya alongside Flip and Beatrice celebrating Willy's birthday. The musical later returned in the Spring of 2017.

Since 2016, live actors from the original stage show make numerous appearances at numerous stage shows and special events held by Sanrio 100. Notably Studio 100's annual "De Grote Sinterklaasshow" held from late November till early December featuring Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pieten watching various Studio 100 Characters (including Maya and friends) perform musical numbers on stage. The same actress that portrayed Maya in the musical is also the official Flemish voice of the character and reprised her role for Studio 100's "De Liedjestuin" where Maya is singing various Dutch children's songs and nursery rhymes. In The French and Walloon version "Le Jardin des Refrains", Maya is played by a different actress.

Video games

Developed by Crawfish, published by Acclaim. Originally developed as a South Park themed game before being reskinned.

Developed by Neon Studios, published by Acclaim.

  • Maya the Bee and Friends (mobile – 2006)

Developed by Kiloo and co-published by Plan-B Media.

Developed by Shin'en Multimedia, published by Acclaim.

Developed by Shin'en Multimedia, published by Midway.

The Bee Game is an adventure video game released for Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance, developed by German studio Independent Arts Software. The game lets players experience the adventures of Maya the Bee and her friend Willie as they search for their friends, lost from a strong storm that has blown through Corn Poppy Meadow.

  • Maya (Nintendo DS – 2013)

Developed by Studio 100, published by Bandai Namco Games Europe.

  • Maya the Bee: The Nutty Race (iOS and Android – 2019)

Mobile racing game. Developed by Midnight Pigeon in cooperation with Studio 100.

Merchandising

Many companies contributed worldwide to the success of the character by producing and selling merchandising. Most of them were drawn between 1976 and 1986 by the French licensed characters specialist André Roche. His works have included motifs for textiles, porcelain, books, comics and games, including a campaign for Kinder Surprise Eggs.

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