Germans celebrate 40th birthday of a very cheeky bee

Generations of Germans rejoice as the cartoon character Biene Maya (Maya the Bee) celebrates 40 years as a TV star on Friday.

Germans celebrate 40th birthday of a very cheeky bee
Photo: DPA

The beloved bee was introduced to German TV in 1976 by Josef Göhlen, former head of the children’s and youth department of German public broadcaster ZDF.

Maya has also recently had a 3D-revival under the helm of ZDF-editor Marcus Horn, the rights to which have been sold in over 150 countries.

“The most exceptional thing may be that Maya the bee explores the world in this very playful way,” Horn explains.

“Maybe that's what fascinates kids – that there’s someone who’s allowed to do things that they can’t do.”

Originally though, the show was inspired by a book character that gained popularity during the First World War:

German soldiers were particularly fond of the bee, which first appeared in Waldemar Bonsels' book “Maya the bee and her adventures” in 1912, reports Die Welt.

A Biene Maya fan in costume. Photo: DPA

Years later, the series still revolved around the outspoken Maya and her bold ventures but this time she had a friend at her side – the anxious, nasal-voiced Willy the Bee. He routinely tried to keep Maya from putting herself in danger only to obediently trail after her in the end.

Through the odd couple's journeys, German children also had the chance to fall in love with characters such as Kurt the Dung Beetle, Max the Worm, or Flip the Grasshopper.

ZDF brought out 104 episodes up until 1980 alongside a Japanese production company and American cartoonist Marty Murphy and his team.

Over the years, other broadcasters started showing re-runs of the show, audio plays and comic books followed and in 2014 Maya was buzzing around on the big screen.

Now, the editor in charge Marcus Horn is planning a  second 3D-season with an extra 52 episodes after the success of the first one, which came out in 2013.

The show's ultimate success, though, is also due to its hugely famous theme song. Once the intro kicks in, almost any German will fervently sing along with the chorus:

“And this bee that I’m talking about is called Maya; little, cheeky, foxy bee, Maya…”

Former intro to the Biene Maja show. Youtube

While German pop icon Helene Fischer sings the current theme song, most Germans relate it to the original one by Czech singer Karel Gott, who has also performed side-by-side with German rapper Bushido.

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Macron faces defining moment as he takes on two crises at once

Simultaneously battling the twin crises of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and a resurgence in Islamist attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron faces a defining moment that will determine the success of his presidency and even his chances of reelection.

Macron faces defining moment as he takes on two crises at once
Macron visits the scene of a knife attack in Nice last week. Photo: AFP

Macron came to power in 2017 on a wave of optimism that he was a transformational leader who would bring much-needed reform to France and restore its confidence as a player on the global stage.

But for two years he has been beset by a succession of crises, first, from 2018 to 2019, more than a year of “yellow vests” protests against his reforms, and then a crippling nationwide strike last winter over changes to France's pension system.

And just when the strikes dwindled and Macron began talking confidently about what was to come in the “second act” of his mandate, the world was hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced a nationwide lockdown.

READ MORE: Macron's comments on Mohammed cartoons spark backlash in Islamic world

As France was beginning to recover from the economic hit of that lockdown, the virus surged again, forcing Macron to announce a fresh lockdown last week.

The country is now in shock after the beheading of a teacher and the killing of three people in a church, attacks that have been blamed on Islamist radicals and which have propelled the fight against terror to the top of the agenda. The motives behind the shooting of a priest in Lyon on Saturday are still not clear.

The current period is the toughest for Macron since he came to power, said Bruno Cautres, political researcher for the Paris-based Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF).

When confronted with the “yellow vest” protests, the French leader had the “political capacity” to respond to the demands and came up with a package worth 10 billion euros, he noted.

“This permanent pressure is offering us no respite,” admitted an advisor of Macron's administration, who asked not to be named.

“We have lost the control of the agenda.”

'Succession of crises'

No-one can blame Macron for the emergence of the pandemic but the government is under pressure from critics who accuse it of having failed to prepare for the second wave.

“The virus is circulating in France with a speed that even the most pessimistic forecasts did not anticipate,” the French leader said in an address to the nation announcing the new lockdown, prompting an outcry from medics who had indeed warned of such a scenario.


And while France is united in its outrage over the deadly attacks, there are questions over why security services failed to watch the assailants, and a debate over whether his strategy against Islamist radicalism is too hard or too soft.

For almost two years Macron has been unable to impose his own agenda in the face of fast-changing events, said Cautres.

“The French have the impression of going through a succession of crises that never go away.”

'Worst job in the world'

As France enjoyed a relatively normal summer, unaware of the ferocity of the coronavirus wave that was to follow, Macron hoped to regain the initiative with a 100 billion-euro relaunch plan and a strategy of “living with the virus”.

Since then however, attempts to move forward on an ambitious agenda of green policies, economic change, and the overhaul of France's pension system have been stymied by external factors.

This is a particular concern for a president who has never enjoyed wild popularity – with the latest Ifop survey giving him a 38 percent approval rating — and whose party flopped in local polls earlier this year.

Eyes are already focused on the 2022 presidential election where Macron's most likely challenger will be far-right leader Marine Le Pen. He hopes to avoid the same one-term fate as predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

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But if he wants to emerge victorious, the French leader needs to “finally get results”, said prominent political commentator Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet.

“If the health situation does not improve by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021 it will be truly very difficult for him. He will be held directly responsible.”


“At this anxiety-inducing moment, Emmanuel Macron probably has the worst job in the world.”

But political analyst Pascal Perrineau said that even if a majority of French was “not convinced by the president and the majority then they are even less so by the opposition”.