Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Birthday Bash Bear

That fine animator Will Finn was lamenting the other day that Yogi Bear is less popular these days than some of the other classic Hanna-Barbera characters, since Yogi’s his favourite.

How does he think poor Huckleberry Hound feels?

Huck was the star of the show in 1958 that really put Hanna-Barbera in the public view. Huck became a fad on college campuses and elsewhere, culminating with an Emmy win in 1960. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, to coin a cliché. Featured player Yogi Bear was more brash, more larger-than-life than Huck and, when Warren Foster arrived in 1959 to write for him, was given a codified, definitive format (Boo Boo was made a regular, Ranger Smith replaced generic rangers, Jellystone Park was made a permanent setting). Yogi pretty much eclipsed the gentle, easy-going blue dog who had a different occupation and antagonist every week. When 1961 rolled around, Huck wasn’t the Hanna-Barbera character with his own half-hour-long birthday episode. Yogi Bear was.

That birthday episode took up all three segments of the Yogi half-hour, with Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle giving up their own seven-minute cartoons on the show to appear in an all-star finale that included all the “Kelloggs” Hanna-Barbera characters. That wasn’t the only thing different. The birthday bash was the product of a huge publicity campaign that involved television stations, newspapers, the sponsoring cereal company, and comic books, no doubt coordinated by Screen Gems publicity guru Ed Justin (the man who came up with the Huckleberry Hound presidential run a year earlier). We’re written about it before, but here’s a piece from the Oakland Tribune of October 1, 1961 to give you an idea of the incredible amount of coordination that had to take place to pull it off.
‘Smartest Bear’ Has Birthday Tomorrow
Back in 1958, when the Huckleberry Hound Show came onto the television scene, one of the characters was a mischievous bear with a penchant for picnic baskets. Now three years later, the bear is a TV star and will be feted by all his television friends and 100 live fans at a party tomorrow night at the studios of station KTVU, Channel 2.
The prankish bruin with the rhyming diction who was born in 1958 was Yogi Bear. He proved to be so popular with youngsters and adults alike that he soon became the star of his own show, called, appropriately enough, the Yogi Bear Show.
Besides acquainting youngsters with a mythical, Jellystone Park and the techniques of filching picnic baskets, Yogi has also added to their vocabulary such expressions as "Hey, hey!" and "I'm smarter than the average bear!"
In the year since Yogi became a star in his own right, he has dominated the "children's hour" on station KTVU, Channel 2, every Monday at 6.30 p.m. At times he has even surpassed the popularity of Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw, also seen on Channel 2. Coincidentally, or perhaps not too coincidentally, all three shows are produced by the creative team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Not content with success as a television star, Yogi also invaded the newspaper field. In February of this year, he became a member of the Tribune Sunday Comics family, so the admirers of this "smarter- than-the-average'' bear get twice as much of his mirthful antics.
Naturally, a success story like Yogi’s deserves a reward. Tomorrow, all his friends get together to wish Yogi a "Happy Birthday." And where Yogi’s concerned, that could develop into some pretty humorous events, Tribune readers will remember that, two weeks ago, Yogi had a party in the Sunday comics. The television shenanigans should be just as mirthful.
To help Yogi’s television party become a big success, The Tribune and station KTVU sponsored a Yogi Bear Coloring Contest for Yogi fans 10 years of age and younger. The 100 best artists will be guests at the studio party tomorrow. There win be cake and soft drinks, and each young artist will get a book of children's stories, a box of candy and a statutte [sic] of Yogi or one of his friends. Names of the winners appear today in the main news section." All entrants received a gaily-colored certificate with pictures of Yogi and his friends.
Yogi, Huck and Quick Draw proved so successful for their creators, that Hanna and Barbera have produced another cartoon show. Other producers have gotten onto the bandwagon, too, with the result that kids—and adults —win have about 10 televised cartoon shows to pick from this season.
Other television stations were convinced by Justin (and likely with an assist from Leo Burnett, Kellogg’s ad agency) to throw similar in-studio bashes. This was during an era we will likely never see again, an era where there were such things as live hosts for kids’ after-school, in-house programming, likely the most creative and funniest local shows that appeared on TV sets in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Within a few years, Hanna-Barbera got out of the co-op late-afternoon TV business (shows like The Flintstones were syndicated by Screen Gems without commercial attachments) but plunged into Saturday mornings, turning it into a gold mine for the company. Yogi was revived for several different series and specials, inferior to anything put together in the ‘50s by the likes of George Nicholas and Ed Love, Dan Gordon and Charlie Shows, Bob Gentle and Monty. Of course, these were for network airing, at a time when everyone cow-towed to do-gooder groups, so the studio had to deal with limitations that didn’t exist in the Kellogg’s days.

Maybe Yogi, and by extension, Huck, aren’t in the rarefied realm of popularity as, say, a clumsy Great Dane or a caveman with a Water Buffalo hat. But the pic-a-nic stealing park bear is still well-liked and known by several generations today, and that’s a quite an accomplishment for a character that’s almost 60 years old.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Gerard Baldwin

The animation of your favourite cartoon dog Yowp was entrusted to only four people at Hanna-Barbera. One was the last remaining animator who worked for the studio in the 1950s.

Gerard Baldwin passed away last Wednesday, the 18th, according to the Houston Chronicle. He was 89.

Baldwin started his animation career in 1950 at UPA, as an-betweener I would guess. After a stint in the Korean War, he returned to UPA and then animated commercials at Playhouse Pictures. He arrived at Hanna-Barbera in 1959 and employed his distinctive style on the following cartoons:

Adventure is My Hobby (Snooper and Blabber)
Bare Faced Bear (Yogi Bear)
Bear For Punishment (Yogi Bear)
Big Top Pop (Augie Doggie)
Doggone Prairie Dog (Quick Draw McGraw)
Monkey Wrenched (Snooper and Blabber)
Six-Gun Spook (Quick Draw McGraw)

The backgrounds for five of them were painted by Joe Montell. Both left later in the year for Mexico to work for Jay Ward, with Baldwin directing various cartoons seen on Rocky and His Friends. He returned to Hanna-Barbera from 1979 to 1985 where he directed The Smurfs. Baldwin moved to Houston in 1989.

He had a unique and quirky way of drawing the characters in those ‘50s H-B cartoons. Compare his Yowp to Carlo Vinci’s Yowp (on the left). One of them looks like he’s been chowing down on a lot of duck dinners.

Here’s his Yogi Bear. He drew Yogi with a long neck and with the mouth way up in the snout.

Here’s a take from Doggone Prairie Dog. I understand he did the same swirling-eye thing with Bullwinkle.

He’s partly responsible for a couple of the most un-Hanna-Barbera-looking characters in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Here are the husband and wife in Monkey Wrenched, designed by Bob Givens. I couldn’t tell you how close Baldwin stuck to Givens’ layouts. Wifey badly needs a shave.

Baldwin’s older brother Howard was also in animation, dating back to the 1930s as a writer at Warner Bros.

You can read more about Gerard Baldwin in the Chronicle story and on his web site. We express our sympathies to the Baldwin family on their loss.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Flintstones Weekend Comics, April 1968

Dancing and motoring were the scenarios upon which were hung the stories for the Flintstones’ Sunday newspaper comics 50 years ago this month.

There lots of neat little things in some of the comics. The opening panel of the April 7, 1968 comic has a blue background with characters and settings that are simply lines, kind of like a UPA cartoon. There’s a little dog yapping at Fred in his car and what I guess is a bird stop light. Fred is enjoying a beer (yes, this is the year he was plugging Busch in an industrial film) and a guest appearance at the end by Yogi Bear. Niece Annie, an exclusive character to the comics, who spends most of her time dancing, shows up as well. Note some panels have a solid colour as background.

April 14th has more panels with just a solid buff colour as the background. Hanna-Barbera loved those motorcycle traffic cops, didn’t they?

Pops, Fred’s dad, shows up on April 21st. He’s a real wolf-asaurus, ain’t he? There are no other Flintstones characters in this one (Fred generally appeared unless it was a Pebbles exclusive). I’ve always liked volcanoes that go “poof;” they showed up through the ‘60s in the newspaper comics.

The taxi in the opening panel on the April 28th comic has a great expression. So does the dopey bus at the end. Fred shows athletic abilities he’s never been noted for. I like the set up for the gag at the end. The final panel is well laid-out by Gene Hazelton or whoever.

Once again, Richard Holliss can be thanked for opening his archive and providing these colour versions.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Raindance Bear

Some of the little cartoons between the cartoons on the Yogi Bear Show where a little mild. Here’s a solo effort by Yogi Bear.

He tells the viewing audience he’s going to do a rain dance. Why? Well, for the sake of a gag which you can probably predict.

“When I’m in good form, I dance up a storm,” he tells us before the camera fades out after about 20 seconds.

I won’t venture a guess about the identity of the animator.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The Future of the Past

What does a successful producer do after a failure? Go back to what it was that was a success and put a twist on it.

In 1960, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera took TV sitcom suburbia, put it in the Stone Age and reaped the rewards of prime-time success with The Flintstones. After failing in 1961 with Top Cat, Hanna and Barbera went back to the idea of TV sitcom suburbia and put it in the future. Thus The Jetsons were born in 1962.

I’m not going to get into one of those “which show was better” things that fans like to endlessly debate. But there were several things I liked about The Jetsons, though some of the ideas were expropriated from that Modern Stone Age family. In no particular order:

Astro. He may actually be the most rounded character on the show. He’s devoted, a klutz, a coward, enthusiastic and talks like a dog in an old vaudeville routine. (Comic: “Fido, where are the shingles on my house?” Talking dog: “Rrroof!” Comic: “Roof?” Dog: “Rrrrright!”).
Gadgets. The ones on The Flintstones were living beings so they talked. The ones on The Jetsons were sterile and antiseptic, like you would expect in the future. And they’re logical. They seem like something we would have 100 years from now.
Space Age designs. Buildings of the future? Well, if the future was at the Seattle World’s Fair a few months before The Jetsons debuted in 1962. But who cares. The designs were extremely clever and attractive. And they still look futuristic.
Music. The title theme is better than The Flintstones’ “Rise and Shine,” even though anyone with a good ear can hear the edits in the closing. Still, you can’t beat Pete Candoli’s trumpet. The electronic instruments used in the cue library were fresh for their time. And how many cartoon scores employed a theremin?
Uniblab. The ultimate office suck-up of the future. A terrific satire on workplace politics.
“Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing!” So it’s not original. Fred Flintstone yelled outside his house after problems with a cat during the closing credits, too. But it’s still amusing. I like how Astro and the cat turn their heads, following George’s path on the Treadmill of Forever.

I should probably add the voice work as a factor as well, but it was great in all the Hanna-Barbera series into the ‘60s.

Surprisingly, The Jetsons could have been very much different. We’ve posted some early Ed Benedict designs for the series and, as you may know, Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll were signed as leads only to have their voice tracks scrapped. This story from Variety’s Dave Kaufman called “Jetsons Projects TV Into Next Century” fills us in, and lets readers of the soon-to-debut series know what was in store. It was published August 14, 1962.

BILL HANNA and Joe Barbera, who brought the stone age to tv via "The Flintstones," are reversing their field and going in the other direction with their new animation series, "The Jetsons," which takes place 100 years from now. Debuting this fall on ABC-TV, "Jetsons" should provide something new in a medium not noted for new frontiers (no political connotation there).
Actually, a couple of years ago, after "Flintstones" scored, the idea of a series based in the future was suggested to H-B, and Barbera admits sheepishly it was rejected becauae they thought it too corny an idea. However, with the revolutionary developments in the space age in the past two years, H-B quickly changed their views and came up with the future, so to speak. "If ever anyone is responsive to much thinking, it's now," the partners say.
After working on the project six months, they junked their material and started all over again, because too much of it seemed contemporary, in view of what they learned science researchers in industry already have come up with in planning for the future.
In the super-electronic age of tomorrow, as depicted in the series, there will be such devices as a seeing eye vacuum cleaner which goes beyond the push-button stage; on its own, the probing eye cleaner picks up dirt, even lifts rugs and cleans under them. There is a "Spaceburger," a space station restaurant in which the trays come out on a light beam when the space travelers order.
There is a rock "n" roll idol of the times, Jet Screamer, and he leads his pack in a dance taking place on a degravitized floor, so that tomorrow's teenagers terp not only feet to feet, but head to head.
There is a three-hour work day, and a three-day work week. And if you want to play in all this spare time, you can go to Las Venus, which has among its attractions the Supersonic Sands, the Flamoongo and the Riviera Satellite. The Sands is shaped like huge silver dollars, and each one is a room which comes to you and slides back into the hotel when you check in. Each room has a built-in robot dealer for those too lazy to go to the casino; each also has electronically designed slot machines which urge you to play them.
There is a mother-in-law space car in which she's separated by design from the couple involved, and If she yaks too much anyway, she can be dropped by an ejector seat. They don t wash dishes—they're disintegrated after one use. There's a "Slidewalk," local and express; a "You-Rent-A-Maid" service; a 10-sec hairdo; robot dancers for femmes married to guys who don't like to dance. You go to buy a space car, and sit down as they show you on a huge screen on the ceiling an actual video view of the robots assembling the cars, just how they're made, etc. This last bit was shown an auto exec from Detroit, who was more than somewhat startled, as he revealed his company has developed just such a system (minus robots) and plans to spring it for use in about two years, "We have taken families and their problems and moved them 100 years ahead. All the problems are basic ones. We try to answer everybody's thinking — 'I wonder what it's going to be like 100 years from now'?" remarks Barbera. He adds that "if we get scientific, we're dead. We have to do it with fun."
H-B term a lot of nonsense the feeling that cartoon series put actors out of work, pointing out they use over 230 actors a year. And they use full orchestras and top writers on their shows. They pay top prices on scripts—up to $3,500 for a half-hour show. H-B, who began their operation in 1957 with five on their payroll, now have 230 employes. In terms of footage on the air, "we turn out more animation than any other company," asserts Hanna.
The series even aired in colour, the first to do so on the ABC network, no doubt to compete against Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on NBC. It couldn’t. Uncle Walt won the ratings war and The Jetsons moved after one season into Saturday morning reruns. Despite the single prime-time season, the cartoon show was hardly a failure, considering the number of times it has been rebooted since 1962. And it’s almost mandatory for the commercial media to refer to the series every time there’s a story about the development of a flying car.

Though The Jetsons was about the future, it is still very much a product of the past. Gadgets didn’t work, bosses were loud jerks and freeways were still ridiculously clogged, but the series reflected a sense of progress and optimism about the future. Today, humanity seems completely cynical and pessimistic about the future, reflected in popular culture today as dystopian not utopian. No wonder people happily look back to the future of the past, something you can see when you watch The Jetsons.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

We'll Save a Ringside Seat

Something was missing from the Huckleberry Hound Show and it was a real disappointment. It was Cornelius the rooster.

Cornelius was the spokes-cockadoodler for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. He appeared in the opening and closing of the Huck show, and fluttered down from the air and knocked on Huck’s dressing room door before the first cartoon. That was in 1958. When the show was syndicated in the mid-‘60s, Kellogg’s wasn’t the sponsor any more. It seems to me Cornelius still knocked on the door but he was cut out of the opening and closing animation. (My fuzzy memory tells me the Canadian version of Huck didn’t have Cornelius, either, but it’s so long ago, I’m not sure).

When the Huck show came out on DVD, I was sure happy to see that roostered animation again. And I sang along with the closing theme, just like I did 55 or so years ago.

Kellogg’s or the Leo Burnett agency employed two of my favourite announcers on Hanna-Barbera series. Dick Tufeld announced the “brought to you by....” on The Jetsons. (Come to think of it, Bill Baldwin did the same thing on The Flintstones and I like him, too). And the great Art Gilmore gave the closing billboard over top of the animation—in the first season only—at the closing of the Huck show, as Cornelius and his jalopy rip a circle after Huck puts his head through it.

The box of Corn Flakes somehow vanished from the car soon after the start.

What?!! Hitchhiking? Doesn’t that teach kids to jump in with perfect strangers?! Boy, you’d never see this on TV any more.

Below, Cornelius turns around the old Tin Lizzie. I love his expressions.

Tony! You’re teaching your kid to hitchhike. What kind of parent are you??

There’s Smacksy the seal. He sold Sugar Smacks. And Sugar Pops Pete. Tony pushed Sugar Frosted Flakes. Someone once observed that you can’t say “sugar” any more because that promotes obesity, yet since the word was taken off the cereal boxes, kids are fatter than they were way-back-when.

Here are the first season (1958-59) titles. Only three animators. Oddly, Bob Gentle’s name is missing from the background list and there’s only one layout artist. Perhaps Mike Lah was working for Hanna-Barbera on a freelance basis. Ed Benedict’s name is missing, too. So is Walt Clinton’s. I couldn’t tell you if there were gang credits for the full season.

Tony Junior bops his head and Huck comes back to rescue him. Because someone will mention it if I don’t, when the series was syndicated in the mid-‘60s, Yakky Doodle was the one whose head got clobbered.

The original animated ending closed with a cut to a Screen Gems title card. The DVD versions don’t. They just stop the tape on this title card.

The animation would have been in colour but Earl Kress told me he couldn’t find it in the Hanna-Barbera archive. I suspect this is from someone’s VHS dub of a 16 millimetre black-and-white print that was sent to one of the TV stations in 1958.